The Untold Truth Of Jayne Mansfield

Besides Marilyn Monroe, was there any other blonde bombshell that turned heads as much as Jayne Mansfield in the 1950s? However, while many are quick to rattle off some of Monroe's finest roles, Mansfield was more known for her publicity stunts than her acting prowess. As Roger Ebert once wrote on his website, Mansfield wasn't as talented as Monroe, yet the image that she crafted was what had viewers coming back. Simply put, "She didn't have to act. She only had to stand there."

The "Too Hot to Handle" star was well aware of what it took to make an impact in Tinseltown. "The real stars are not good actors or actresses," she once declared, per "Jayne Mansfield: The Girl Couldn't Help It," adding, "They're personalities." And while Mansfield truly made much of herself accessible to the public, she was also wary of revealing who she truly was. As Roger Ebert noted, while many fans knew the exact measurements of Mansfield's voluptuous figure, details of her personal life that she chose to keep private remained that way.

"She was entirely different than what people write about her," Mansfield's second husband, ​​Mickey Hargitay, once declared (via Closer Weekly). Here to set the record straight on this Hollywood icon of the '50s and '60s, this is the untold truth of Jayne Mansfield.

Jayne Mansfield wanted to act since she was a young girl

Jayne Mansfield was always attracted to Hollywood's bright lights, but some may be shocked to find out just exactly who this blonde bombshell initially sought inspiration from. Per Biography, Vera Jayne Palmer was born on April 19, 1933, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania; her father was a lawyer and musician, while her mother was a teacher. According to "Jayne Mansfield: A Bio-bibliography," the aspiring performer initially fell in love with acting thanks to her childhood idol, Shirley Temple.

Temple, who was a triple-threat with her acting, dancing, and singing talents, must have left quite the mark on a young Mansfield, as her parents swiftly enrolled her in "voice, dance and violin lessons," while also allowing her to play the violin in their driveway for neighbors and those on the sidewalk (via Biography).

Not just a performer, however, Mansfield also displayed an interest in linguistics, and it's perhaps due to her mother's background in teaching, coupled with her own desire for language-learning, that Mansfield eventually ended up speaking an impressive five languages, which she'd later flaunt in her career, such as German.

Jayne Mansfield balanced motherhood while pursuing her dream

Jayne Mansfield's teenage years were cut short at 16 when she met 20-year-old Paul Mansfield and subsequently became pregnant, as revealed by Biography. A mere few months before she graduated high school, she married Paul, and the couple then welcomed their daughter, Jayne Marie.

From there, the family moved to Austin, Texas, where Jayne participated in local plays, focused on drama classes at the Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas, and in 1954, she finally persuaded Paul to move their brood to Los Angeles so she could fully focus on her passion. According to Biography, Jayne didn't have any sort of overnight success, and while she went to auditions, she also sold "candy at a movie theater."

Success finally came in the form of Playboy when the budding star snagged her big break as Playmate of the Month for the magazine's 1955 issue. As TCM notes, this move is what started her career — but it came with a price. According to The Hollywood Reporter, this same year Paul filed for divorce after realizing "he would always be second choice" when it came to Jayne's quest for fame. Although he filed for full custody of their daughter, Jayne won after she "claimed Paul was jealous of her Chihuahua."

She shot to the A-list thanks to a publicity stunt

While some may say that Kim Kardashian or even Paris Hilton pioneered the modern wave of reality stars who are "famous for being famous," one could argue that it was Jayne Mansfield who started the movement herself. In fact, as The Hollywood Reporter boldly writes, "if it weren't for Mansfield then, there would likely be no Kardashians today."

The blonde star made her big-screen Hollywood debut in 1955, appearing in three films: "Female Jungle," "Pete Kelly's Blues," and "Illegal." While the roles were definitely smaller, according to Biography, she knew she had to get the media's attention a different way. In January of 1955, Mansfield was invited to an event for Howard Hughes' "Underwater," per The Hollywood Reporter. While sporting a red bathing suit that didn't leave much to the imagination, Mansfield jumped into the pool (which had photographers and journalists conveniently standing right next to it) and, according to some reports, "had the genius to permit her bathing suit to split open."

"Ever since 'Underwater,' the press just adopted her," explained Mansfield's former press secretary, Ray Strait, to The Hollywood Reporter, noting that it helped that the young actor looked like Marilyn Monroe — except she welcomed the paparazzi with open arms. Unfortunately, this availability was Mansfield's downfall, as well, and it led Fox to loan her out to other studios as punishment, causing the "quality of her films" to worsen slowly.

Jayne Mansfield had quite the high I.Q.

While Jayne Mansfield may have built an image of a "dumb blonde" or a Marilyn Monroe copy, she was actually highly intelligent. In fact, according to "Jayne Mansfield: A Biography," her I.Q. is believed to have been 163, yet she stuck to her public persona that brought in legions of fans. As Roger Ebert noted, during an appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," the host boldly declared in front of his guest, "Nobody with an I.Q. of 160 can be that stupid," yet Mansfield remained composed, pretending "she didn't understand" Carson's probing.

Yet, digging through other interviews shows the "Too Hot to Handle" star as being surprisingly eloquent, such as the time BBC4 asked Mansfield to describe what "sex appeal" meant to her. "It comes only from inside; it's nothing that's manufactured. It has nothing to do with measurements or lipstick color," the blonde star cooed.

Interestingly enough, that same BBC4 interview shines a light on a different path Mansfield may have perhaps taken. As it turns out, while the actor was fresh out of university, she performed a soliloquy from "Joan of Arc" for Milton Lewis, the head of casting at Paramount Studios. As she explained, after her audition, he told her she was "wasting" her "obvious talents." It was Lewis who changed her image into the voluptuous icon she would be remembered as.

Was she responsible for Sophia Loren's disdain of Hollywood?

To modern audiences at least, Jayne Mansfield will forever be remembered for her now-legendary photo seated next to Sophia Loren — the one with the Italian screen star giving what appears to be the most judgemental side-eye in existence aimed at the sultry blonde's cleavage. As the story goes, Loren was invited to a dinner "in her honor" at Romanoff's restaurant in Beverly Hills, per Vanity Fair. "[Mansfield] came right for my table. She knew everyone was watching," Loren recalled years later to ABC News. Explaining that while Mansfield began talking to her, Loren could only focus on one thing. "I'm staring at her nipples because I am afraid they are about to come onto my plate," the Italian legend recounted.

The spectacle, explains Vanity Fair, was allegedly responsible for Loren's disdain of Hollywood. Yet, as the years went on, the "Boy on a Dolphin" star wishes the moment would stay in the past, particularly after Mansfield's untimely death in 1967. As she told Entertainment Weekly, whenever she's asked to sign an autograph for the photo, she refuses "out of respect for Jayne Mansfield."

For her own part, Mansfield always maintained that she never enjoyed such showy publicity. As she told CBC in the early '60s, "As far as actually enjoying it, I don't think anyone actually enjoys it."

She had the first nude scene in modern Hollywood

There's a reason why the Golden Age of Hollywood was known for being consistently wholesome and glamorous: it simply had to be. According to Vulture, in the mid-1930s, a set of guidelines in the Production Code ruled over Tinseltown film studios, not allowing any on-screen nudity. This code reigned supreme until 1968 — yet some actors still pushed the boundaries by the time the early '60s came along.

Of course, overseas, foreign stars were already baring all, such as French icon Brigitte Bardot's buff debut in 1956's "And God Created Woman," which put her on the international map, per Chicago Tribune. Across the pond, Jayne Mansfield takes the title for appearing in the first modern nude scene in Hollywood, going topless in 1963's "Promises! Promises!" According to Vulture, the blonde's career was heading towards a standstill, her studio growing impatient that her last box office success was in 1957 with "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" Going back to the basics of what made her a breakout star originally, Mansfield did what she did best: turning "Promises! Promises!" into a successful publicity stunt.

Although the sexploitation flick certainly made money thanks to Mansfield's nude appearance, it wasn't enough to reignite the actor's career, with critics panning it. It was also a nerve-wracking experience for Mansfield herself, who, according to "Here They Are Jayne Mansfield," allegedly drank a "magnum of champagne" so she could get the courage to bare it all on camera.

Why did Marilyn Monroe hate Jayne Mansfield?

Jayne Mansfield made a career out of mimicking the blonde sex symbol stereotype put forward by fellow A-listers such as Marilyn Monroe. In fact, according to The Vintage News, some people dubbed Mansfield as the "working man's Monroe." This similarity didn't go unnoticed by the "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" actor, who even wanted to sue her counterpart for copying her so much. As Lawrence J. Quirk, author of "The Kennedys in Hollywood" recalled in a conversation he once had with Monroe, she snapped, "All she does is imitate me — but her imitations are an insult to her as well as to myself" (via The Washington Post).

But did Monroe have another reason to hate Mansfield? As Quirk notes, Mansfield "envied" Monroe for her affair with John F. Kennedy in the mid-1950s, and by the time the next decade rolled around, she was determined to steal the spotlight yet again. With the help of JFK's brother-in-law, Peter Lawford, Mansfield embarked on her own affair with Kennedy, and when Lawford warned her to perhaps be a bit more discreet, the actor shot back, "Everyone in Hollywood and Washington knows about it anyway, and I like it that way! And I'll bet Marilyn's pissed as all get out!"

Interestingly enough, after Marilyn Monroe's death in 1962 (and the subsequent conspiracy theories that the Kennedys were involved somehow), Mansfield grew increasingly paranoid that she would meet the same fate. Per "The Kennedys in Hollywood," she frightfully declared to her friend, Jerry Asher, "Maybe I'll be next!"

She lived in The Pink Palace

Jayne Mansfield understood that to make it in Hollywood, she had to craft a totally manufactured version of herself to stand out in the sea of wannabe A-listers. According to Biography, she "made pink her trademark color" and even went as far as to ensure that she would be seen in her pink car, decked out in pink clothing. However, her biggest commitment to her bubble gum lifestyle was her house, dubbed The Pink Palace.

In 1958, the newly married Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay found their ideal abode that wholly represented "their love," per AD. The result was a mansion on 10100 Sunset Boulevard, which consisted of 25 rooms and 11 bathrooms that its new owners then repainted in pink and "quartz grains." If that's not all, Mansfield also ensured that the outside would fully represent her, as well, making a stone wall that encompassed the compound also in her trademark color. "All my life, I've dreamed of a place full of cupids and angels and hearts," Mansfield once revealed (via AD), and as such, she made sure that her home was filled with cupid motifs throughout, from statues to even painted cherubs on the walls of her bedroom.

But what was perhaps the most elaborate add-on of The Pink Palace was the swimming pool (above), which Hargitay built himself into a heart shape, installing on the bottom a gold mosaic which read, "I love you Jaynie" (via AD).

The Church of Satan connection

By the time the late 1960s rolled around in America, the youth of the country were rebelling against "organized religion and the puritanical sexual mores of the '50," as revealed by SFGate. As such, Hollywood took note as well, and the image that Jayne Mansfield had capitalized on needed a revamp, as well. As director of "Mansfield 66/67," P. David Ebersole explained to Interview, the blonde's "larger-than-life" persona wasn't popular anymore, and so she yet again embarked on a quest for even more widespread publicity.

Cue the Church of Satan founder, Anton LaVey. As SFGate points out, LaVey actually rejected the concept of any religion in a theological sense, yet his blend of "​​pagan hedonism and hucksterism" was enough to make him a household name in the late '60s. Mansfield and LaVey's paths finally crossed in 1966, after an encounter at the San Francisco Film Festival, where she ended up visiting his home as he showed off his various "black magic trinkets" (via SFGate).

From there, Mansfield and LaVey were photographed together multiple times. He performed a "Satanic" ritual in his home with the actor in attendance, per History Collection, and he even visited her in her Pink Palace, taking photos "by her heart-shaped pool" (via Interview). Although Mansfield denied ever being a Satanist, Interview notes that she openly declared LaVey "a genius."

There's a myth surrounding her death

Jayne Mansfield died on June 29, 1967, in a car accident on Route 90 on her way to New Orleans from Biloxi, Mississippi. According to History, Mansfield was in the car with her "companion," Samuel S. Brody, along with a driver and the actor's three children. While her kids survived, all three adults died instantly when the vehicle "hit the trailer-truck from behind."

After Mansfield's death made headlines, an urban legend began circulating that she was decapitated in the tragedy. 'Her head was attached as much as mine is,” declared Jim Roberts, a mortician at the New Orleans funeral home, to The New York Times. ”People always figured wrong about Jayne,” he added, alluding to the star's highly manufactured persona, noting, "'About the way she lived and the way she died.”

Sure enough, a glimpse at Mansfield's death certificate proves Roberts' claim, listing "crushed skull with avulsion of cranium and brain" as the cause of death. Nevertheless, the actor's death was still gristly. According to the mortician, both Mansfield's body and face were "as bad as you get in this business." Roberts, who worked on the blonde's face for the funeral, said he used the makeup Mansfield was carrying on her during her final moments.

Her daughter has also had an incredibly successful career in Hollywood

Jayne Mansfield was mother of five children, and one of her kids has successfully followed in her mother's footsteps when it comes to having an A-list Hollywood career. Mariska Hargitay, daughter of Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay, is synonymous with her "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" character, Olivia Benson, whom she's played since 1999. Unlike her mother, Mariska has primarily stuck to the small screen, yet her face is instantly recognizable.

Having survived the car accident that took her mother's life, Mariska has said she had a "relatively normal childhood," yet as she told Glamour in 2021, the actor has spent her life dealing with the subsequent trauma. "I've spent ... 54 years sort of trying to figure out what happened and why, and what am I supposed to do with it?"

Nevertheless, Mariska credits her mother for instilling positive values that she's taken with her into adulthood, from being a mother to her professional career. "She was an inspiration, she had this appetite for life," the TV icon poignantly told Closer, adding that Mansfield is "still with [her]."