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26 August 2015

Imported from the USA: Jayne Mansfield

Some Hollywood stars were much more popular in Europe than at home. A fabulous example is sweet Jayne Mansfield (1933-1967), one of Hollywood's original platinum blonde bombshells. Although most of her American films did not do much at the European box offices, Jayne herself was a sensation whenever she came to Europe to promote her films. During the 1960s when Hollywood had lost its interest in her, Jayne continued to appear cheerfully in several European films.

Jayne Mansfield
German postcard by ISV, no. A 60. Photo: 20th Century Fox. Publicity still for The Girl Can't Help It (Frank Tashlin, 1956).

Jayne Mansfield
German postcard by Filmbilder-Vertrieb Ernst Freihoff, Essen. Retail price: 10 Pfg. Photo: Centfox. Publicity still for The Girl Can't Help It (Frank Tashlin, 1956).

Mickey Hargitay and Jayne Mansfield
With Mickey Hargitey. Dutch postcard by Uitgeverij Takken, no. 3674. Photo: 20th Century Fox.

Bill Ramsey, Jayne Mansfield
With Bill Ramsey. German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/219. Photo: Bernard of Hollywood (credited on the postcard). Possibly made for Heimweh nach St. Pauli (Werner Jacobs, 1963) in which Mansfield and Ramsey played supporting parts. However, IMDb credits Lothar Winkler as the stills photographer of this Schlager film in which Mansfield sings the classic Snicksnack Snucklechen.

Jayne Mansfield
German postcard by Krüger, no. 900/78. Photo: Bernard of Hollywood.

Shocking The Nation


In 1957 Jayne Mansfield did a legendary promotional visit to the Netherlands. The film she promoted, Kiss Them for Me (Stanley Donen, 1957), was quickly forgotten, but forty years later her visit was dearly remembered with an exhibition, a book and a TV documentary.

Obviously, Jayne shocked the nation while showing her voluptuous figure in a tight sweater and doing her interviews with her lisp, breathless voice. During her visit, photographers went wild. With the photo and film coverage you can easily reconstruct now her complete trip. And with all the cameras around her, Jayne kept on smiling and posing.

We can see her glorious entrance at the stairs of the KLM airplane, Jayne drinking champagne from a wooden clog, posing on a table at the offices of the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, surrounded by dozens of marines on a war ship, at the premiere of her film in cinemas in Amsterdam and The Hague, interviewed on TV by Dutch celebrity Wim Sonneveld, kissing DOS goal keeper and one time film star Frans de Munck before a soccer match, posing sweetly in a Volendam costume, and finally Jayne waving from the airplane that flew her to another country, her next stop of the promo tour.

Jayne was a phenomenon - all over Europe.

10-10-1957_14730a Jayne Mansfield
Jayne Mansfield, Arriving at Schiphol, 10 October 1957. Photo: Ben van Meerendonk / AHF. Collection: IISG, Amsterdam (Flickr).

10-10-1957_14730b Jayne Mansfield
Jayne with her dog Powderpuff, Press Conference at Schiphol, 10 October 1957. Photo: Ben van Meerendonk / AHF. Collection: IISG, Amsterdam (Flickr).

10-10-1957_14731_01a Jayne Mansfield
Jayne Mansfield visits the offices of De Telegraaf, 10 October 1957. Photo: Ben van Meerendonk / AHF. Collection: IISG, Amsterdam (Flickr).

10-10-1957_14731_02c Jayne Mansfield
Jayne Mansfield visits the printers of De Telegraaf, 10 October 1957. Photo: Ben van Meerendonk / AHF. Collection: IISG, Amsterdam (Flickr).

10-10-1957_14731_01b Jayne Mansfield
Jayne Mansfield on the editors table during her visit at the De Telegraaf, 10 October 1957. Photo: Ben van Meerendonk / AHF. Collection: IISG, Amsterdam (Flickr).

Prominent, Problematic Breasts


Jayne Mansfield was born Vera Jayne Palmer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania in 1933. She was the only child of Herbert William, a successful attorney of German ancestry, and Vera Jeffrey Palmer of English descent. While attending the University of Texas at Austin, Mansfield won several beauty contests. However her prominent breasts were considered problematic, and led to her losing her first professional assignment—an advertising campaign for General Electric.

A natural brunette, Mansfield had her hair bleached and coloured platinum blonde when she moved to Los Angeles. She posed nude for the February 1955 issue of Playboy, modelling in pyjamas raised so that the bottoms of her breasts showed. This helped launch Mansfield's career, and that year, she became a major Broadway star as Marilyn Monroe-like actress Rita Marlowe in the Broadway version of George Axelrod's play Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

This role won her a contract at 20th Century Fox. The following year, she reprised the role in the film version, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (Frank Tashlin, 1957), with Tony Randall, and became a major Hollywood star. She showcased her comedic skills in The Girl Can't Help It (Frank Tashlin, 1956), and her dramatic assets in The Wayward Bus (Victor Vicas, 1957) opposite Joan Collins.

Hal Erickson at AllMovie: “Despite good dramatic performances in such films as The Wayward Bus (1957), Kiss Them for Me (1957), and The Burglar (1957), Mansfield was forever typed as a parody Marilyn Monroe.” By the late 1950s, with the decrease of the demand for big-breasted blonde bombshells and the increase in the negative backlash against her over-publicity, she became a box-office has-been.

Jayne Mansfield
Italian postcard by Rotalcolor, no. 3.

Jayne Mansfield
German postcard by ISV, Sort IV/6.

Jayne Mansfield
Big German postcard by ISV, no. PX 5.

Jayne Mansfield
French postcard by Huit, Paris / ISV, no. D 25. Photo: Film-Press.

Jayne Mansfield
German postcard by ISV, no. A 60. Photo: 20th Century Fox. Publicity still for The Girl Can't Help It.

Bernard of Hollywood


While Hollywood studios lost interest in her, Jayne Mansfield’s film career continued in Europe with films in the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, and Greece. 20th Century Fox loaned her out for the British neo-noir thriller Too Hot to Handle/Playgirl After Dark (Terence Young, 1960). Jayne played a nightclub dancer opposite Leo Genn, Karlheinz Böhm and Christopher Lee. In Britain, she also appeared The Challenge/It Takes a Thief (John Gilling, 1960) with Anthony Quayle and Carl Möhner.

Hollywood then sent her to Italy for Gli amori di Ercole/The Loves of Hercules (Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, 1960) opposite muscleman and husband Mickey Hargitey. Bruce Eder at AllMovie: “a fairly lavishly produced but otherwise relatively undistinguished sword-and-sandal adventure.”

After her contract with 20th Century Fox ended, she made in Germany Heimweh nach St. Pauli/Homesick for St. Pauli (Werner Jacobs, 1963) starring Schlager star Freddy Quinn, and Einer frisst den anderen/Dog Eat Dog (Gustav Gavrin, 1964).

Mark Deming at AllMovie describes the latter as an “offbeat but stylish crime drama”. At the time, she was photographed in Germany by legendary glamour photographer Bernard of Hollywood (a.k.a. Bruno Bernard) , which resulted in a series of very sexy and popular postcards. Jayne moved on to Italy for the comedies L'Amore Primitivo/Primitive Love (Luigi Scattini, 1964), and Panic Button (George Sherman, Giuliano Carnimeo, 1964) with Maurice Chevalier.

During the 1960s, Mansfield remained a highly visible celebrity, through her publicity antics and her daring performances in international nightclubs. In early 1967, she filmed her last screen role: a cameo in A Guide for the Married Man (Gene Kelly, 1967), a comedy starring Walter Matthau.

Mansfield had taken her professional name from her first husband, public relations professional Paul Mansfield, with whom she married in 1950 at age 16, and with whom she had a daughter. She was the mother of three children from her second marriage to actor–bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay (1958-1964). She married her third husband, Italian-born film director Matt Cimber/Matteo Ottaviano in 1964, and separated from him in 1966. Mansfield and Cimber had a son.

In 1967, while driving to a club engagement in New Orleans, Jayne Mansfield died in a car accident. She was only 34 years old at the time. Her fourth child, Mariska Hargitay, would later become a well-known TV actress.

Jayne Mansfield
German postcard by Krüger, no. 900/78. Photo: Bernard of Hollywood.

Jayne Mansfield
German postcard by Krüger, no. 900/78. Photo: Bernard of Hollywood.

Jayne Mansfield
German postcard by Krüger, no. 900/78. Photo: Bernard of Hollywood.

Jayne Mansfield
German postcard by Krüger, no. 900/78. Photo: Bernard of Hollywood.

Jayne Mansfield
German postcard by Krüger, no. 900/78. Photo: Bernard of Hollywood.

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Herman Selier (De terugkeer van Jayne Mansfield in Nederland) (Dutch), Joel Nickerson (IMDb), Mark Deming (AllMovie), Bruce Eder (AllMovie), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

1 comment:

Bunched Undies said...

Yes Jayne was quite the deal in those days :)