Jayne Mansfield : The Blonde Bombshell Beyond the Silver Screen

Jayne Mansfield : The Blonde Bombshell Beyond the Silver Screen

Jayne Mansfield, born Vera Jayne Palmer, on April 19, 1933, is an American actress, singer and cabaret artist. She had a prosperous career in the 1950s-1960s, like another sex symbol of the time: Marilyn Monroe.


Often compared to the latter, Mansfield became an iconic symbol of Hollywood glamour and a cultural icon of the time. However, her life was not all about glitter and fame. A loving mother, devoted wife and avant-garde entrepreneur, she left a lasting impact on the entertainment industry and the world in general.

Moreover, contrary to what her dumb blonde roles might suggest, Mansfield was a highly intelligent and educated woman. She spoke five languages, was a classical pianist and violinist, and had an Intelligence Quotient of 163 (for comparison, the average IQ is between 85 and 115, and Albert Einstein's was 160).


Born to a lawyer father and a schoolteacher mother, she dreamed of only one thing: becoming a star. From the age of 12, she took ballroom dancing and music lessons and participated in local theater productions.

In 1950, she married her first husband, Paul Mansfield, with whom she had a daughter named Jayne Marie. Despite the responsibilities of motherhood, imposed on women at the time, she pursued her dream of becoming an actress. She attended drama school in Dallas, then studied theater and psychology at the University of Georgia. She also took classes with Baruch Lumet, an American actor of Polish origin. Meanwhile, she won numerous beauty contests and, in 1954, decided to move to Los Angeles to pursue her career. Her family followed suit.


In 1955, she became one of the first "playmates" for Playboy magazine. Still unknown at that time, she tries her luck in Hollywood, and gets a small role in the film "Female Jungle". She soon caught the attention of Hollywood producers and quickly signed a contract with Warner Bros. The directors, who want to highlight her sculptural measurements, confine her in caricatural characters that earned her the nickname of "Blonde bombshell" or "Busty".

In 1956, she signed a 7-year contract at 20th Century Fox, the same studio that had previously worked with Marilyn Monroe. Deliberately prepared to become Monroe's rival, the media perpetuated this image by nicknaming her the " Working Man's Monroe".


Mansfield quickly rose to fame with roles in films such as "The Girl Can't Help It" (1956), "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter" (1957), "The Way of Rock Hunter" (1957) and "The Wayward Bus" (1957).

In 1957, she received the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year, thus consolidating her status as a Hollywood starlet. Although known for her voluptuous figure and blonde bombshell personality, Mansfield was also a talented actress, capable of impressive range and depth in her portrayals. Moreover, she didn't limit herself to comedy. In 1957, she proved to be equally excellent in dramatic roles, with her performance in the film "The Burglar", and excelled as a singer. She released several singles, "Too Hot to Handle", "Suey" and "You Were Made for Me", and performed in nightclubs around the country, captivating audiences with her sultry voice and magnetic stage presence.


Mansfield also built a career as a cabaret artist. In 1958, the Tropicana Las Vegas launched her strip show "The Tropicana Holiday". The opening night raised $20,000 (dollars of the time) for March of Dimes, a U.S. organization that works to improve the health of mothers and babies. In 1960, the Dunes Hotel and Casino launched a new Mansfield revue called "The House of Love".

Beginning in 1963, she performed in clubs outside of Las Vegas, then returned to the city in 1966. Her last show, "French Dressing", took place in New York's Latin Quarter that same year. It was a modified version of the Tropicana show, which ran for six weeks with a certain success.


Her cabaret career inspired several films and documentaries, as well as a musical album. Most notably, 20th Century Fox Records recorded "The House of Love" in 1962 for an album entitled "Jayne Mansfield Busts Up Las Vegas". Mansfield played roles as a burlesque performer and show girl in "Midnight Franklin in Too Hot to Handle" (1960) and "The Las Vegas Hillbillys" (1966). In 1967 an independent documentary, "Spree" (or "Las Vegas by Night"), about the antics of Las Vegas entertainers, was released. The film features Mansfield, Hargitay, Constance Moore and Clara Ward as guest stars. Mansfield strips down and sings "Promise Her Anything" from the film "Promises! Promises!", but a court ruling prohibits the use of the guest stars to promote the film.


Despite her glamorous image, her personal life was tumultuous. Married and divorced three times, she had three children with her second husband, the Hungarian bodybuilder and actor Mickey Hargitay: Miklós, Zoltán and Mariska. The latter also became an actress, and met with success thanks to her role as Olivia Benson in the series "Law & Order".

She also ends up being dropped by 20th Century Fox, which no longer believes in her. The studio "lends" her for foreign productions and eventually fired her in 1959 to recover Marilyn Monroe. Her career declines, but she remains very popular with the public.


She was also known for her human rights activities. An early supporter of the Civil Rights movement, she made headlines in 1963 when she attended a fundraiser at a racially integrated club in Birmingham, Alabama, despite bomb threats and protests. Her action was applauded by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and she was praised for her courage and determination to fight racial segregation.


By the end of her career, Mansfield was busier on the stage, performing in nightclubs, with club engagements and touring shows. By 1960, she was making personal appearances for everything from supermarket promotions to drug store openings.


Her life was tragically cut short on June 29, 1967, due to a car accident. She was only 34.

Despite her untimely death, her influence on the entertainment industry and American popular culture remains undeniable. Mansfield was a pioneer for women in the entertainment industry, using her intelligence and business skills to create opportunities for herself and others. She was also a pioneer in branding. Her ability to sell herself and her image paved the way for future stars to take advantage of their celebrity and create successful businesses.

Her support for Civil Rights and her refusal to give in to societal pressures are proof of her strong sense of justice and commitment to social change. She stood up for her beliefs, even when they were unpopular, and her actions inspired many to follow her example.


In recent years, Jayne Mansfield's life and career have received renewed attention. Documentaries, biographies and retrospectives have been created to showcase her work and the impact she had on the entertainment industry. Her daughter, Mariska Hargitay, has also worked to keep her mother's memory alive, often speaking of the influence she had on her life and career.


Much more than a blonde bombshell, Jayne Mansfield was a diamond in the rough. Her versatile talent broke barriers in the entertainment industry and beyond. Her career as an actress and singer, coupled with her activism for human rights, left an indelible mark on American popular culture.

In remembering Jayne Mansfield, we not only celebrate her glamorous image, but also honor her intelligence, tenacity and courage, qualities that continue to inspire generations to come.