Jayne Mansfield is as vintage as they come! She was an actress, primarily in film but also television and theater. She sang as a nightclub entertainer as well. Did you know? She was one of the first Playboy Playmates! She had Hollywood (and the rest of America for that matter) wrapped around her finger. A talent as big as her aura, Mansfield was a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment world.
You’re about to see the best photos of Jayne Mansfield, as well as learn some interesting facts about the legendary actress. Her untimely death came in 1967, in New Orleans, Louisiana. But we will get to the heartbreaking stuff later. For now, lets start at the beginning: Jayne Mansfield was born on April 19, 1933. Her birth name is Vera Jayne Palmer and she was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Her family moved to Dallas when she was three. This is where she laid the foundation that led her to become the iconic Jayne Mansfield.
Jayne took to music at a very young age. When she was 7 years old, she learned the violin and enjoyed performing concerts for the neighborhood in her driveway.
At 13 years old her mother took her on a trip to Hollywood. They dined at the famous Hollywood Brown Derby and she spotted one of her favorite national radio stars. After getting his autograph she exclaimed to her mother, one day people would be asking me for mine.
Mansfield has 5 children, and gave birth to her first child when she was only 17. Many of her kids are in show business, including Law and Order SVU Emmy Winner Mariska Hargitay.
She studied drama at the University of Dallas and the University of Texas at Austin. In 1952, she moved to Georgia with her husband Paul Mansfield where she spent a year at Camp Gordon– he was deployed to fight in the Korean war.
In 1954, she studied acting under Baruch Lumet, the founder of the Dallas Institute of Performing Arts. He gave her private lessons and eventually landed her first audition with Paramount Studios.
Paul was very supportive of Jayne’s ambition. Upon returning from the war, he fulfilled his promise and moved his family back to LA at the end of 1954, so Jayne could pursue acting.
Jayne didn’t land an acting job immediately after moving to LA– She held many odd jobs. She sold candy at the Stanley Warner Theater, taught dance and took photos for the Esther Williams Trail’s Restaurant to name a few!
Not only an actress, Miss Mansfield was a model and entered a number of pageants. Among her accolades are several pageantry crowns including, Miss Photoflash, Miss Magnesium Lamp, and Miss Fire Prevention Week.
Jayne’s big break came in 1955 posing for the famed Playboy magazine. She would appear in the magazine a total of 30 times throughout her life.
In 1958, a young 25 years old, Jayne inherited a significant sum of money from her grandparents. The Palmer’s passed down $126,000, adjusted for inflation in 2020, is over 1 million dollars!
In 1955 she landed her first big movie contract with the Warner Brothers studio. Wasting no time in her 6 month contract, they immediately started filming her first production, “A Female Jungle” (1955).
Mansfield became notorious in Hollywood for being a prankster. She famously crashed a Sophia Loren shoot by staging, what we know today as, a wardrobe malfunction and photo-bomb.
A lesser known fact, Jayne was unapologetically intelligent and boasted a significant vernacular. She possessed a 163 I.Q. and could speak five languages fluently.
In 1955 she broke onto the Broadway scene with co-star Walter Matthau. She enjoyed success in “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?”(1955) and was later hired to reprise the role for film in 1957.
Following her Broadway fame, Jayne signed a 6 year contract with 20th Century Fox. Some industry folks believe it was a slight toward Marilyn Monroe– Scandalous!
Mansfield’s first film with Fox was “The Girl Can’t Help It”(1956), which had a significant influence on, of all people, Paul McCartney. Following the film, McCartney played “Twenty Flight Rock” for John Lennon who then invited him to join his group The Quarrymen.
“The Wayward Bus”(1957) is considered to be the best performance of Mansfield’s career. She later took home a Golden Globe for “New Star of the Year– Actress” for her performance, over newcomers Carroll Baker and Natalie Wood.
With her new found fame, Jayne purchased a 40 room mansion, once owned by Rudy Vallee. She painted the outside pink, outfitted the inside with pink lights, pink fur in the bathroom, a heart shaped bathtub and fountain that spouted pink champagne.
Despite her limited vocal range, as movie roles became scarce, she launched a career performing at The Dunes in Las Vegas. The show was a wild success, and fueled Fox to record and release an album “Jayne Mansfield Busts Up Las Vegas”(1961).
Her music career extended beyond that, releasing a novelty album “Shakespeare, Tchaikovsky, and Me”(1963). This consisted of Mansfield reciting various sonnets with the Russian composer’s music in the background.
Have you heard of Jimi Hendrix? Fun fact: Pre-Stardom Jimi played bass on two Mansfield tracks recorded in 1965. “As the Clouds Drift” and “Suey” were released in 1966 by London Records.
Mansfield dabbled in the television industry as well, appearing on several TV shows including “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (1962). She was offered the role of Ginger on “Gilligan’s Island”, however turned down the role because she felt it fueled stereotypes she was trying to distance herself from.
Jayne dreamed of becoming an actress from an young age and gained early inspiration from the most popular child actress at the time, Shirley Temple. Throughout her education she learned to dance, play the viola, violin and piano, invaluable skills in the industry.
A lover of animals, Mansfield kept an array of them in her Los Angeles flat long before her stardom. This menagerie consisted of three cats, four dogs and a rabbit.
In 1957, Mansfield starred alongside Cary Grant in the film “Kiss Them for Me”(1957). Gaining notoriety for it’s comic relief, Mansfield took the crowd by storm with her fourth release from Fox studios.
Mansfield had an extremely notable stage career. Between 1955-1956 she appeared in over 425 shows– an average of at least 1 show a day!
In 1958 Jayne made her way to Vegas to perform at the Tropicana Las Vegas. That year she received a weekly salary of $25,000 and by 1960 was making $35,000 per week. In 2020 dollars, that is $222,000 and $302,000, per week, respectively– Wow!!
Her career between 1958 and 1960 became inspiration for documentaries, musicals and films. 20th Century Fox released Too Hot to Handle (1960) as an ode to her career during that time period.
By 1960 Mansfield spent less time performing and more time making appearances and giving product endorsements. You too could get Jayne Mansfield to make a personal appearance at your grocery store for a cool $10,000 per appearance! ($86,000 in 2020).
She made several television appearances on variety shows including “The Jack Benny Program” and “The Steve Allen Show”. Being a proficient musician, she often would play violin or piano!
An ode to her life, “The Jayne Mansfield Story”(1980) aired on CBS and starred Loni Anderson and Arnold Schwarzenegger. To this day Mansfield remains one of the biggest television draws, having several documentaries about her amazing life
In 1958 Mansfield planned to appear in a live orchestral performance for the Academy Awards. Alongside Dick Powell, Jack Benny, Robert Mitchum and Fred Astaire, Mansfield joined in the ensemble on violin.
Ed Chapin, the producing recorder of Mansfield’s singles “As the Clouds Drift”(1966) and “Suey”(1966), claims Mansfield played all the instruments on the singles except for bass, which was done by Jimi Hendrix. This was because Hendrix and Jayne shared the same manager.
Mansfield was an avid connoisseur of all things pink. She had a bright pink, sequenced, wedding gown with a 30 yd flounce of pink tulle manufactured by a 20th Century Fox Designer.
In 1968, Mansfield became a published author with the release of her autobiography. She co-wrote this with Hargitay to depict the crazy life she had lived so far, and named the book “Jayne Mansfield’s Wild, Wild World”(1968).
Mansfield’s drive for publicity was among the most notable in Hollywood history– zero privacy, a true open door policy. In 1954 Mansfield presented James Byron a gift as an invitation to oversee her publicity, which he ran until 1961.
As a result of Mansfield’s media blitz, and unparalleled guidance by her publicist Byron, she quickly became a household name. 1960 she topped more press polls for ‘words in print’ than anyone in the world, and made more personal appearances than any political candidate. Her untimely death is a tragedy and affected the population greatly. She was destined to be a star until a fatal car crash derailed everything. But we celebrate the life, not mourn the death! Thanks for the years, Jayne Mansfield.