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The Rise and Fall of Jayne Mansfield

Icons | January 10, 2018

Overhead shot of American actress Jayne Mansfield (Vera Jane Palmer, 1932-1967), leaning on a railing with a crowd of spectators behind her. Undated photograph. (Photo by John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Actress, Jayne Mansfield, was one of those sexy dynamos that never failed to sweep her audiences off their feet. Mansfield was not only a film and television actress but also performed as a singer on the nightclub circuit.

Mansfield was well recognized as a major sex symbol in Hollywood during the 1950s and early 1960s. All you had to do was look at her and no explanation for that distinction was necessary. She was a very public figure (in more ways than one) and didn’t mind the attention she received as a result of her looks. Playboy magazine was only too happy to feature Mansfield in one its earlier issues. Mansfield was also the first well known American actress to star in a Hollywood film, Promises! Promises!, in nude scenes. As you can imagine, that only intensified her notoriety and appeal.

Publicity stunts, well-planned wardrobe malfunctions and being in the right place at the right (or wrong) time are all things that Jayne Mansfield was very deliberate about. It was no wonder she enjoyed the notoriety that she did. Unfortunately, demand for her “type” in Hollywood had declined by the early 1960s. Nevertheless, Mansfield continued in the public spotlight performing in nightclubs and abroad.

After Marilyn Monroe died tragically in 1962, Jayne Mansfield was poised to be the next platinum blond bombshell and follow in her footsteps. Much like Monroe, she was known to have been intimately involved with many men, including a couple of the Kennedy boys. By 1967, she had been married and divorced three times and had a total of five children.

Unfortunately, Jayne Mansfield’s life was on track to follow in Marilyn Monroe’s footsteps, but not in a good way. Mansfield, her live-in companion, Sam Brody, her driver and three of her five children had been traveling to New Orleans for a nightclub performance. Tragically, the driver was temporarily blinded by heavy fog from a machine spraying for mosquitoes and collided with a tractor-trailer, killing all three adults in the car. Fortunately, all three children survived the devastating accident.

Sadly, Jayne Mansfield had lost her life at the young age of 34. One of the children in the car, that was spared her life, was Mariska Hargitay of the well known show, Law and Order. Hargitay was just three years old when her mother died. Fortunately, she reportedly has no memory of the accident.

In the end, Jayne Mansfield, for all of her efforts, never got to realize her dream fully come true. Because of her declining film appearances at the end of her short career, the legacy she left for her children was one of huge debt. Despite that, her early films remain popular today. She is widely regarded for the contribution she made to Hollywood and was awarded her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Mansfield was not the first or last film star to suffer a tragic ending. Celebrity or not, no one is immune to tragedy. 

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.