Jayne Mansfield, April 19, 1933 – June 29, 1967, born Jayne Palmer.|
Jayne was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, of German and English ancestry. She spent her early childhood in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, and was the only child of Herbet William and Vera Palmer. When she was three years old, her father died of a heart attack. Her mother then worked as a school teacher. In 1939, Vera remarried and moved to Dallas, Texas, with the family. Wanting to become an actress since an early age, Mansfield studied drama and physics after high school, at the Southern Methodist University.
In 1950, Jayne Palmer and Paul Mansfield got married. When her first child, Jayne Marie Mansfield was born on November 8 1950, she put on hold her acting aspirations. In parallel of her mother’s obligations, she pursued her studies at the University of Teas at Austin, then spent a year at Camp Gordon, where her husband was on service in the United States Army. In 1953, she attended UCLA for a while then went back to Texas, at the Southern Methodist University. In Dallas, she meets Brauch Lumet, actor and father of director Sidney Lumet. He founded the Dallas Institute of the Performing Arts and Jayne became his student. In 1953, she appears on stage for the first time in Death of a Salesman, produced by Arthur Miller.
Mansfield was also a winner of several beauty contests, even the one of Miss Roquefort Cheese, that she turned down because it didn’t sound right. It is taken for a fact that she had a very high IQ, one of 163. she spoke five languages, and played piano and violin. She knew that her public was “more interested in 140-21-35” as she said than in her brain.
She is still considered as one of the leading blond sex symbols along with Marilyn Monroe. She made the cover of a Playboy magazine in 1955. She won the Theatre World Award, Golden Globe and Golden Laurel. Although in the 60’s the demand for hot blonds decreased, she remained a popular celebrity but was relegated to low-budget melodramas and comedies.
In 1954 Jayne and her husband Paul moved to Los Angeles, to help further her career. Although her husband had first hoped the birth of their child would discourage her interest in acting he accepted to move later to help her. Mansfield studied drama at UCLA, between a variety of odd jobs such as candy vendor in a movie theatre. It is with Warner Brothers that her career began. After one of the talent scouts of the studios discovered her in a production at the Paqsadena Playhouse, he got her to sign with the studios. She then had a small role in Female Jungle in 1954, and Pete Kelly’s Blues in 1955 in which she co-starred with Jack Webb.
In 1955, she played the role of Gladden in The Burglar by Paul Wendkos, the adaptation of David Goodie’s Novel. It was made in a film noir style and Dan Duryea and Martha Vickers also appeared in it. It was released two years later. Jayne’s fame was at its peak. She was successful in the dramatic role she had, but later, all her roles would be more comic or concentrating on her sex-appeal. In 1955, she appeared in Illegal as Angel O’Hara with Edward G. Robinson.
In 1955 she also starred in the Broadway production of Frank Tahslin’s camp comic film, The Girl Can’t Help it.
In 1956, she signed a long term contract with 20th Century Fox. In 1957, she plays a part in The Wayward Bus. With this straight dramatic role she tried to move away from the dumb-blond image, and tried to establish herself as a serious actress.
She won a Golden Globe for New Star of The Year- Actress for this film.
In 1957, she reprised her role of Rita Marlow in the movie version of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, co-starring Tony Randall and Joan Blondell.
In 1957, she appears in Kiss them For Me, her fourth starring role in Hollywood, also starring Cary Grant. The film turned out to be a box-office disappointment and would be her final starring in a mainstream Hollywood studio film. She had to turn down an offer to play a part opposite Jack Lemmon in Bell, Book, And Candle because she was pregnant again.
After 1959, her career seemed to slow down and good roles dired up for her. She kept busy mostly in Europe in low-budget films.
In 1960, she played in Too Hot to Handle and The Challenge two English independent gangster thrillers movies. The first one was directed by Terrence Young.
Jayne then played in It Happened in Athens, that wad filmed in Greece and would only be released n 1962.
In 1963, she was convinced by Tommy Noonan, to become the first mainstream American actress to appear nude. So she appeared in Promises!Promises! some photographs of her naked appeared in Playboy. In one notorious set of images, Mansfield stares at one of her breasts, as does her male secretary and a hair stylist, then grasps it in one hand and lifts it high. The sold-out issue resulted in an obscenity charge for Hugh Hefner, which was later dropped. Promises! Promises! was banned in Cleveland, but it enjoyed box office success elsewhere. As a result of the film's success, Mansfield landed on the Top 10 list of Box Office Attractions for that year.
Right after the film, the autobiographical book she wrote with Mickey Hargitay, who would later be her husband, was published. The book, Jayne Mansfield’s Wild, Wild World, contains 32 pages of black and white glossy photographs from the film.
In 1963, Mansfield co-starred with Austrian singer Freddy Quinn in a German low budget movie: Homesick For St Pauli. She played Evelyn, a sexy American singer, traveling to Hamburg y ship and is followed by an Elvis-like American pop-star (Freddy Quinn). She sang to German songs in the film, though her speaking voice was dubbed.
Later, Mansfield announced she wanted to study acting in New-York, just like Marilyn Monroe who was part of the Acting Studio. In 1962, Fox didn’t renew its contract with her. The reliance on the racy publicity that had set her path to fame would also prove to be her downfall. She had begun to generate bad publicity due to her repeated successful attempts to expose her breasts in carefully staged public “accidents”.
Mansfield wasn’t just a movie actress. She appeared on stage as well. Gentlmen Pefer Blondes and Bus Stop are only two examples. She was also a singer, and in addition to singing in English and German in certain films, she released a novelty album entitled Jayne Mansfield: Shakespeare, Tchaikovsky and Me. On the album, she recited poems and sonnets by Shakespeare and others on a Tchaikovsky musical background.
On a personal level, Mansfield was married three times and had five children.
Mansfield died in a car accident aged 34. She was with one of her husbands and her three kids Miklos, Zoltan and Mariska, and their driver. The adults were killed and the kids injured. The day of the death was june 29 1967. she is buried in Pen Argyll, in the Fairview Cemetery.