Thanks to the iconic Jayne Mansfield, parents never needed to give their young boys “the talk”. The Playboy Playmate-turned-actress made headlines in more ways than one, such as her run-in with Sophia Loren and her ongoing rivalry with Marilyn Monroe, and for a handful of years the world couldn’t look away. But darker truths about Jayne Mansfield bubbled below the surface. With the help of these iconic photos of the blonde starlet, we explore her life and her motivations — and expose some surprising truths (and strange rituals) in the process.
Jayne Had A High IQ
Legendary actress Jayne Mansfield’s story begins in Dallas, Texas, where she spent her childhood with her mother Vera, a schoolteacher who raised her alone. Jayne had been born Vera Jayne Palmer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and her mother took her from New Jersey to Texas at the tender age of six. This was no ordinary child — young Jayne was something of a genius.
With a whopping IQ of 163, Jayne constantly pushed herself intellectually, even learning to speak five different languages. She also took singing, violin, and dance lessons, and made it a habit to perform on her front porch, serenading people as they passed by on the sidewalk. Clearly Jayne was a natural performer from the very start. And she was soon to get a glimpse of what her future could look like.
Jayne Mansfield Predicted She’d Become Famous
When she was only at the mere age of 13, Jayne Mansfield already had it in her head that she’d be at the center of the world’s spotlight. Her mother took Jayne on an adventure, flying her daughter all the way out to Hollywood. When they arrived, they attended the Hollywood Brown Derby, where they dined comfortably.
But then Jayne went positively starstruck when she saw one of her most beloved national radio stars. She was so excited to go ask for his autograph — but when she got it, she told her mother something she never forgot: “One day people would be asking me for mine.” However, her journey to adulthood would be a long one, with more than a few twists.
Married At 17
Jayne was just 16 when she met her future husband. She had been hanging out at a Christmas party when her eyes fell upon the 20-year-old Paul Mansfield. She was absolutely smitten right then and there, and one year later the pair were hitched. Jayne was a bride at 17, and what’s more, she hadn’t even graduated high school yet.
It seemed these two young lovebirds were destined for a lifetime of romance. Barely half a year into their marriage, the pair had a child together, whom they named Jayne Marie. However, although Jayne loved Paul dearly, there were many internal issues she needed to work out.
Behind that sweet smile we so often see Jayne Mansfield wearing, there’s actually a deep well of pain and sadness. When she was only three years old, she went through a terrible tragedy that would stay with her forever. It happened in New Jersey, when her father Herbert, who was an attorney and a musician, was driving a car with Jayne and her mother inside.
All of a sudden, Herbert suffered a fatal heart attack. Jayne later recalled how heartbreaking this moment was, saying, “Something went out of my life. My earliest memories are the best. I always try to remember the good times when Daddy was alive.” This early trauma would soon come to show itself in ways even she didn’t expect.
Working As A Nude Art Model
Not long after they got married, Jayne and Paul moved to Austin, Texas, where Jayne studied drama at the University of Texas. However, she also worked a handful of odds jobs to make ends meet for her young family — and one of those odd jobs was nude modeling. If this wasn’t foreshadowing as to what her career would one day be, we’re not sure what is.
On a less glamorous note, she also worked as a door-to-door saleswoman, as well as being a receptionist for a dance studio. However, there were other things she accomplished during this time that really boosted her confidence, giving her a good hint of what she could one day become.
Jayne Won Multiple Beauty Pageants
Jayne Mansfield had maintained when she was a child that she’d be famous. But it wasn’t until she entered beauty pageants that a small fraction of America began noticing her. While she and Paul were still living in Austin, Jayne won a handful of local beauty pageants. Some of the titles she won had some quirky names, such as Miss Magnesium Lamp, Miss Photoflash, and Miss Fire Prevention Week.
She actually rejected two beauty pageant victories because the titles sounded ridiculous: Miss Roquefort Cheese and Miss Prime Rib! Regardless, Jayne knew her future career lay elsewhere. So, she managed to convince her husband Paul that they ought to move to Los Angeles. However, Tinseltown was about to offer yet another hot mess of problems.
Lost In Hollywood
Like most beginning stars who try to make it big in Hollywood, Jayne Mansfield fell flat on her face a number of times. She had a number of auditions lined up with studios like Paramount and Warner Brothers, but she was rejected time after time. While she struggled to succeed, she took employment wherever she could get it, even working as a candy girl at the local movie theater.
All of this was also starting to put a strain on her marriage with Paul, and the way forward wasn’t clear. But why didn’t the casting directors want to hire her? Was she not talented enough? It turns out that there was something else going on that Jayne could never have anticipated.
She Lost A Gig For The Strangest Reason
There are a number of reasons people fail to make it big in Hollywood, but the reason Jayne Mansfield was initially being held back certainly takes the cake. It began when she had been given a modeling job to participate in a photoshoot for General Electric. Naturally, this excited her quite a bit.
She was clawing her way to the top any way she could, and this gig seemed like a great way to get her image out there. However, they fired her during the photoshoot. As mind-boggling as it sounds, their reason was that she looked “too sexy” for an innocent 1954 audience. However, as one might expect, this strange “problem” ended up helping her out eventually.
Common Wardrobe ‘Malfunctions’
Jayne Mansfield wasn’t a star yet, but she had a plan. In an interview from years later, she explained how she finally got people’s attention: “Shock,” she declared, “And shocking things got me to where I am today. That’s why I am a star.” At an industry event with plenty of Hollywood journalists watching, Jayne’s top “mysteriously” fell into the pool.
This kind of incident was common with her, and it’s what led to her becoming famous. Jayne added, “No one wants to see or read about a dull subject. I don’t consider myself to be a dull subject.” Her wild side was coming out, and this didn’t do her marriage any favors.
The Hollywood Lifestyle Takes Its Toll
The more parties Jayne Mansfield would attend, and the more tabloids headlines she would make, the more strained Jayne’s marriage to Paul became. Jayne had a strong confidence within her, and she had a good idea what it would take in order for her to succeed in the movie business.
But her debaucherous lifestyle was too much for a traditional marriage to be able to support, and in 1955, Jayne and her childhood sweetheart finally split ways, although she did keep his last name. At last, the blonde rising star was free to do as she pleased — and some of the things she did were quite off the beaten path.
She Became A Broadway Star
Not everyone knows that Jayne Mansfield was actually a Broadway star right before her stint in movies began. At the time, people knew her for her appearances in the tabloids, but casting directors still weren’t sure how good of an actress she could be.
In the same year that she divorced her husband, she signed a contract with Warner Brothers. Then, later that same year, she starred as Rita Marlowe in the hit Broadway show, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? The production ran for an impressive 444 performances, which was a lot of time for experts to witness and recognize Jayne’s acting prowess. The door to ultimate superstardom was at her feet, and she was knocking.
A Full-Blown Movie Star
After her successful Broadway stint, Jayne Mansfield became more respected as an actress, and not just a blonde who appeared in the tabloids because of “wardrobe malfunctions”. The late ’50s was the time period when Jayne had her greatest success as a Hollywood actress, taking the screen by storm in classic films such as The Girl Can’t Help It, Kiss Them For Me, The Wayward Bus, and It Takes a Thief.
To this day, The Wayward Bus is considered by many expert movie critics to be a display of Jayne Mansfield’s best work as an actress. However, her acting was nothing compared to the attention she was receiving from another industry.
Posing For Playboy Magazine
The truth is that much of Jayne’s fame was sparked after she appeared in Playboy magazine. Two years after Hugh Hefner started publishing the magazine, Jayne Mansfield was the Playmate Of The Month for the February 1955 edition — which, of course, was the same year her acting career really took off.
Jayne would eventually go on to appear in Playboy a total of 30 times! Her ex-husband Paul wasn’t too happy about it, and fought in court with her for custody of their daughter, claiming that she was unfit to be a mother due to her appearing nude in a magazine. But that’s not the only place that her picture was getting shown.
2,500 Newspaper Appearances In One Year
After Jayne had already been a famous actress for a couple of years, her popularity was at an all-time high. She was killing it on the silver screen, enchanting men with her Playboy photos, and of course making tabloids for her “accidental” exposures. In fact, there was one year where she appeared in the newspaper over 2,500 times!
This amazing stat happened in under nine months, because literally everyone wanted a piece of this woman. Well, perhaps not everyone: there was another particular actress — and a very famous one at that — who actually was far from thrilled by all the attention Mansfield was getting.
The Marilyn Monroe Rivalry
It’s not hard to look at Jayne Mansfield and think of Marilyn Monroe. Not only did they resemble one another, but they were also both iconic, blonde bombshell sex symbols for their generation. However, instead of playing nice, Monroe felt that Jayne was deliberately copying her.
“I know it’s supposed to be flattering to be imitated,” Monroe said, “But she does it so grossly, so vulgarly. I wish I had some legal means to sue her.” While Monroe may have had a point there, Jayne was quite unique in her own right. Interestingly enough, Monroe wasn’t the only actress from back then who we often associate with Jayne Mansfield.
Sophia Loren Is Still Mad At Jayne Mansfield
Perhaps one of Jayne Mansfield’s most well-known photos today is one where she’s sitting near fellow actress, the Oscar-winning Italian import Sophia Loren. In the photo, Loren is caught candidly giving Jayne the “side-eye”, and checking out her, shall we say, exposed “situation”. Decades later, Loren reflected how she was legitimately concerned at the time about what was about to “pop out”.
As Loren stated, “Paramount had organized a party for me…And then comes in Jayne Mansfield…She came right for my table. She knew everyone was watching.” Loren didn’t appreciate Jayne stealing her spotlight, and to this day she refuses to autograph that infamous photograph when people ask her. Jayne was certainly unpredictable — but this next part of her legacy is as sinister as it comes.
Jayne Mansfield Was A Member Of A Cult
Yes, there is indeed such a thing as the Church of Satan — and Jayne Mansfield was a part of it. Its founder, Anton LaVey, actually awarded Jayne with the apparently prestigious title of “High Priestess of San Francisco’s Church of Satan.”
To further solidify this fact that Jayne Mansfield was indeed involved in this cult, LaVey’s daughter confirmed it in a 1992 interview as well. She maintained that not only was Jayne a practicing Satanist, but that she also had a relationship with Anton LaVey himself. With all that considered, perhaps this is what made it so easy for her to make yet another bold career decision.
Jayne Mansfield Made History In A Risqué Way
In the early ’60s, Jayne Mansfield’s career was showing signs of possibly fizzling out. Eager to remain at the top, Jayne made yet another shocking career decision. She made headlines by becoming the first ever American actress to appear nude in a movie.
The movie was called Promises! Promises!, and Jayne had hoped the shock value of her decision would prove to the world that she was still the Queen. However, this movie ended up getting banned in certain U.S. cities — and therefore it failed to become a major hit. Jayne’s career revival plan wasn’t working, so she resorted to other, more modest measures.
Becoming A Las Vegas Performer
With her movie roles dwindling, Jayne Mansfield was able to find temporary success as a performer in Las Vegas. Her act combined song, comedy, and impromptu banter with the audience. The show ended up being a massive success, and it even caused Fox to decide to make an album out of it!
Not long after, Jayne Mansfield Busts Up Las Vegas was recorded and released, offering people outside of the City of Sin an opportunity to experience the action for themselves. It seemed that Jayne had found a new lucrative niche for herself. However, she was still being helped out financially by another unlikely source.
She Inherited A Fortune Of Cash
When Jayne was only 25 years old, she actually inherited a gargantuan lump of cash from her grandparents. She received from them $126,000, which, after being adjusted for inflation, is actually worth the 2020 equivalent of over $1 million. Not too shabby!
When you add that to all the money she had been making from her movies, Playboy appearances, Broadway shows, and everything else, it’s safe to say that she was doing pretty well for herself. So how did she decide to spend her millions? Instead of keeping all of her funds safely growing in a bank somewhere, it turns out that Jayne Mansfield wasn’t exactly one for saving money.
Everything Jayne Mansfield Owned Was Pink
With her massive fortune, Jayne Mansfield didn’t hold back with the frivolous spending. In a series of statement decisions, she had her entire house painted pink (calling it “the Pink Palace”), bought a pink car, a heart-shaped bathtub, and a fountain that flowed with pink champagne.
Jayne was clearly an empowered woman who knew precisely what she wanted, and wasn’t afraid to enjoy the little things in life — even if all that pink champagne was probably going to waste anyway. With such a radiant energy, fans may wonder where all the men in her life were throughout all of this. The better question to ask is: which one?
Jayne’s Different Families
Jayne Mansfield’s romantic life often overshadowed her acting career. In 1958, she married the Hungarian immigrant and Mr. Universe Competition winner Mickey Hargitay, with whom she had three children (one of those children was future Law & Order star Mariska Hargitay). She eventually divorced Hargitay as well, before marrying divorce lawyer Matt Cimber.
After having a child with Cimber, they ended things as a couple as well, before Mansfield struck up another relationship with Sam Brody, her new divorce lawyer! It was clear, if ironic, that she had a thing for divorce attorneys. However, out of all the crazy things that had happened in Jayne’s life, Brody would be the one to be present during the most devastating of them all.
Jayne Mansfield’s Tragic Death Created A New Law
The now-famous car crash that took Jayne Mansfield’s life happened on June 29, 1967. Her three children with Hargitay had been sitting in the backseat, and although they miraculously survived, their mother Jayne, her boyfriend Sam Brody, and the hired driver passed away instantly.
In a sick twist of fate, it seems that Jayne’s children had witnessed her die the same way she had witnessed her own father die — in the backseat of a car. Their Buick had crashed into a tractor trailer up ahead. Since then, all tractor trailers are required to have a rear guard installed, now known as the “Mansfield Bar”. As heartbreaking an event as this was, fans got a bit preoccupied with another aspect of it.
The Car That Crashed Became A Huge Deal
Fans have a tendency to go a bit overboard when it comes to paying tribute to their beloved stars. In the case of Jayne Mansfield, she had legions of diehard fans, so after she passed, the Buick that she was riding in was actually bought by a devoted fan years later.
The weirdest thing about it, however, was that the Buick was bought in the same exact wrecked state it was when it had gotten totaled. This owner would go on to present it at various car shows, ultimately selling it for $8,000 at a 1999 auction. And speaking of auctions, one of Jayne Mansfield’s children stepped up big time for her mother decades later.
Buying Back Her Mother’s Jewelry
Mariska Hargitay was only three years old when she witnessed her mother’s tragic death. At the time, the choice was made for many of Jayne’s belongings to be sold at various auctions. But decades later, once Hargitay had become a TV star in her own right, she was at last financially well-off enough to actually hunt for all of her late mother’s old belongings, and buy them back.
One of these items was actually a bracelet that had been engraved with her own name on it. Mariska likely had to pay a fortune to acquire it all, but considering she never really got to know her mother properly, these items were surely priceless to her.
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