Jayne Mansfield, one of Hollywood’s blonde bombshells, led a storied life and remains talked-about in death. Rumors about the actress’ fatal car crash have persisted in popular culture. Her career as one of the fair-haired women initially hired to be a Marilyn Monroe copy-cat was recently explored by one of our favorite podcasts You Must Remember This. Host Karina Longworth raises the subject of Mansfield’s encounter with Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey; that relationship, and the legend of Mansfield’s death, is explored in an upcoming documentary from P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes of Room 237 fame. From Dangerous Minds: “Ebersole and Hughes’ Mansfield 66/67: A True Story Based on Rumor and Hearsay focuses on the actress’s relationship with the Black Pope of the Church of Satan, Anton LaVey, and the tale that sorcery caused her fatal car crash. She is portrayed by ‘over fifty actors and dancers.’” The film opens at Laemmle’s Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre on October 27. Until then, here are several facts you might not know about the actress.
Jayne wasn’t beheaded in the car crash that took her life. “Her head was attached as much as mine is,” Jim Roberts, the undertaker who cared for Mansfield after the accident, said in a 1997 interview with the New York Times.
Mansfield, “Hollywood’s smartest dumb blonde,” spoke five languages: English, French, Spanish, German, and Italian. It’s believed her IQ was 163.
The actress was a classically training pianist and violinist.
Mansfield’s beauty pageant titles included: Miss Photoflash, Miss Magnesium Lamp, Miss Fire Prevention Week, Gas Station Queen, Miss Analgesin, Cherry Blossom Queen, Miss Third Platoon, Miss Blues Bonnet of Austin, Miss Direct Mail, Miss Electric Switch, Miss Fill-er-up, Miss Negligee, Nylon Sweater Queen, Miss One for the Road, Miss Freeway, Hot Dog Ambassador, Miss Geiger Counter, Best Dressed Woman of Theater, Miss 100% Pure Maple Syrup, Miss July Fourth, Miss Texas Tomato, Miss Standard Foods, Miss Orchid, Miss Potato Soup, Miss Lobster, Miss United Dairies, Miss Chihuahua Show, and Miss Roquefort Cheese (but she turned it down, because obviously).
While living in Dallas, Mansfield studied acting under Baruch Lumet, father of the acclaimed filmmaker Sidney Lumet.
While trying to get her big acting break, Mansfield worked as a candy girl in movie theaters.
Mansfield’s first press stunt was staged to get the attention of agents while trying to make a name for herself in Hollywood. From Playboy:
In January 1955 she crashed a press junket in Florida for Underwater, a massive Howard Hughes film that took three years and $3 million dollars to make and starred a swimsuit-clad Jane Russell, a voluptuous screen siren with her feet firmly planted on the A-list. With dozens of photographers and reporters from Los Angeles and New York in plain view, Mansfield stole the limelight by way of a perfectly-planned nip slip. Forget the star of the film. Suddenly, the papers were reporting on a “Hollywood unknown named Jayne Mansfield …a blonde who fits into a bikini like a sausage skin and with bumps where they should be the mostest,” who “accidentally” lost her top in the pool. “How she got on the junket from LA, nobody knows but she proved her weight in cheesecake to the affair,” read one newspaper report.
Mansfield posed nude for the February 1955 issue of Playboy, which helped elevate her career. She appeared in the magazine numerous times. In 1963, well into her acting career, Mansfield appeared in the film Promises! Promises! nude. Playboy promised its readers a pictorial boasting the “nudest Mansfield yet.” This led to publisher Hugh Hefner’s arrest for obscenity.
Mansfield lived in a mansion known as the “Pink Palace,” which had 40 rooms, a heart-shaped pool, and a fountain that flowed with pink champagne. She also owned a pink Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible.
Mariska Hargitay, famous for her role as Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, is Mansfield’s daughter with Mickey Hargitay.
Always at home in the spotlight, Mansfield was part of a publicity stunt to “borrow” some of the attention around Sophia Loren. At a party for the Italian actress, Mansfield was photographed leaning over a table next to the star, exposing a nipple. There were multiple photos snapped that night, but the most famous image is of the women sitting at a table together while Loren side-eyes Mansfield’s generous bosom. But the look is not as grouchy as it seems. From Loren herself in a later interview:
Paramount had organized a party for me. All of cinema was there, it was incredible. And then comes in Jayne Mansfield, the last one to come. For me, that was when it got amazing.” She continued, “She came right for my table. She knew everyone was watching. She sat down. And now, she was barely… Listen. Look at the picture. Where are my eyes? I’m staring at her nipples because I am afraid they are about to come onto my plate. In my face you can see the fear. I’m so frightened that everything in her dress is going to blow — BOOM! — and spill all over the table.”