×

Young Jayne Mansfield: A Pinup, A Starlet, A Mother -- And A Tragedy

Icons | January 10, 2018

Left: Jayne Mansfield circa 1956 (source: Getty/Bettmann). Right: Mansfield on the poster for 'The Girl Can't Help It,' 1956 (source: IMDB).

Beautiful blonde actress Jayne Mansfield was a sex symbol and a mother, and was seen as the "next" Marilyn Monroe. She was known for her risque performances and was the first major American actress to have a nude scene. 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. 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's famous and ground-breaking nude scene came in the 1963 film Promises! Promises!, and only intensified her notoriety and appeal.

Jayne Mansfield Commanded Attention

Mansfield had a nose for publicity, and even pioneered what we now call a wardrobe malfunction. 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.

She Was Thought To Be A New Monroe

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.

Jayne Mansfield, Wife And Mother

Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay performing; the couple on the poster of the European film 'The Loves Of Hercules;' the couple with two of their children. Source: Wikimedia Commons

An early marriage to Paul Mansfield yielded a daughter, Jayne Marie, but ended in a long divorce. In 1956, while still waiting for the divorce to go through, Mansfield met Mickey Hargitay, an actor and bodybuilder. They were married in 1957, and Hargitay seemed to be the love of her life. The couple were beautiful and fun; Hargitay threw her around during her stage show and co-starred with her in a couple of European movies. Together, Jayne and Mickey had three children. But during the early '60s, the marriage went sour, and Jane engaged in some very public infidelities. A third marriage, to Matt Cimber, lasted just two years and yielded a son. 

A Tragic And Sudden Ending

Unfortunately, Jayne Mansfield’s life was on track to follow in Marilyn Monroe’s footsteps, but not in a good way. In 1967, 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.

Mariska Hargitay Is Jayne Mansfield's Daughter

Sadly, Jayne Mansfield had lost her life at the young age of 34. One of the children in the car who lived was Mariska Hargitay, who would grow up to be a successful actress on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Hargitay was just three years old when her mother died. Fortunately, she reportedly has no memory of the accident.

Jayne Mansfield's Legacy

A 'Jayne Mansfield For President' pin-up book from 1964; Jayne in a studio portrait; Jayne on the cover of Pitcuregoer magazine. Source: Reddit, IMDB, eBay.

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. 

Tags: Celebrities When They Were Young | Jayne Mansfield | RIP (Famous Deaths) | Then And Now

Like it? Share with your friends!

Share On Facebook

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.