Mickey Hargitay: Jayne Mansfield's Mr. Universe And Love Of Her Life
Left: Mickey Hargitay on the cover of a bodybuilding magazine. Right: Jayne Mansfield and Hargitay in 1956 at the Makeup Artist Ball in Los Angeles. Sources: Worthpoint.com; Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Fact: Mickey Hargitay was Jayne Mansfield's husband and father of Law & Order: SVU actress Mariska Hargitay. We can't tell Mickey's story without bringing up his famous wife -- Hargitay was an acclaimed bodybuilder and acrobat, and minor celebrity in his own right, but when you're married to Jayne Mansfield that becomes your claim to fame. Together, Mickey Hargitay and Jayne Mansfield were a Hollywood Tarzan and Jane, flexing in skimpy leopard-skin patterned outfits and performing feats of physical prowess, and, later, gazing lovingly into each other's eyes as they fawned over their children for the magazine photographers or paparazzi who followed them. They were beautiful people, always of interest to American celebrity-watchers in the late '50s and early '60s.
From Euro-Bodybuilder To Stateside Star
There is an unlikely yet familiar story of a European Mr. Universe turned actor but, in this case, we're not talking about the guy who became governor of California. Long before Arnold Schwarzenegger went from musclehead to Terminator to politician, another completely ripped European made the transition from male eye candy to silver screen sensation. The original Mr. Universe turned actor, Mickey Hargitay, even caught the eye of one of Hollywood’s uber-sex symbols of the time, Jayne Mansfield.
From Budapest With Love
Born Miklos Hargitay, the six-foot two-inch Hungarian earned his mass of muscles working as an adagio acrobatic act. That entailed lifting his lean female partner and hoisting her around the stage in slow balletic movements. Hargitay also fought the Nazis with the Hungarian resistance during WWII, creating quite the double act of soldier and strongman stage performer. In 1947, he came to America and continued his lady lifting act with his first wife, Mary Birge.
Love At First Lunge
After a few years of working as a jacked acrobat and other odd jobs, Hargitay began training for the Mr. Universe competition after seeing Steve Reeves on the cover of a magazine. The hunky Hungarian won the 1955 Mr. Universe, divorced his wife and moved to New York City. Winning the Mr. Universe title put him on the map.
According to columnist Walter Winchell, "what [President] Eisenhower did for golf, Mickey Hargitay did for bodybuilding, because he brought it to the forefront.” Arnold Schwarzenegger called Hargitay, an “inspirational force.”
There he joined Mae West’s muscleman Revue in the Latin Quarter nightclub of NYC. While he performed, Jayne Mansfield just so happened to show up for dinner. When asked what she’d like to eat she responded, “I’ll have a steak and the man on the left.”
Hollywood’s Power Couple
Naturally, what Jayne Mansfield wanted, Jayne Mansfield got. Not too long after Marilyn Monroe’s “King Sized” successor laid eyes on the mountain of a man, Mickey Hargitay, they married. Together they formed one of the most visually stunning power couples that ever graced Tinsel Town.
The pair of blindingly beautiful people made a series of movies as co-leads. The films included The Loves of Hercules (1960), Promises! Promises! (1963), and Primitive Love (1964). Despite the personal and professional success, Hargitay kept a cool head, “I enjoyed my career,” Hargitay once said. “I never wanted to be any more than what I was, and I had fun doing it.”
John Balik, the publisher of Iron Man magazine, told the Los Angeles Times that Hargitay “was the epitome of the word ‘gentleman.’ The kind of feeling you got from him was just a really genuine guy. ... He had a lot of accolades and success in his life, but you never felt that.”
Beauty Plus Beauty Equals More Beauty
Despite appearing to have the perfect Hollywood romance, Hargitay and Mansfield had their difficulties, and they divorced in 1964. Three years later, Mansfield died in a car accident.
Mickey and Jayne had three children together including a daughter you've undoubtedly seen many times, even if you didn’t realize it. Mariska Hargitay, Law And Order: SVU superstar, is the famous offspring of the power duo. Winner of multiple awards, including a primetime Emmy and Golden Globe, Mariska Hargitay owns the beauty and work ethic passed down from her Groovy Era parents.
Before his death in 2006, Mickey Hargitay shared the screen with daughter Mariska on a 2003 episode of Law And Order: SVU.
Tags: Jayne Mansfield | Mickey Hargitay
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