Who Were The Three Ms Of Hollywood's Golden Age?

Historians often date Hollywood's so-called Golden Age as occurring between the years 1930 and 1945. During those years, around 80 million Americans visited a movie theater per week (via History). Some films that are still considered to be the greatest films of all time were released during those years, such as "Citizen Kane," "Casablanca," and "Gone With the Wind." However, others consider The Golden Age as spanning from 1915 to the early 1960s. Regardless, the popular consensus as to why the era ended is the advent of television, which reduced the need for people to go to a theater for entertainment. The driving forces behind this era pre-television were large influential studios like Paramount, MGM, and Universal.

The famous faces of the era, like actors Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, and Charlie Chaplin, remain household names to this day. Their names are forever etched on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. Despite the lack of gender equality of the era, there were quite a number of iconic actresses during those times as well — especially those referred to as "the three Ms." Each of these women — Mamie Van Doren, Jayne Mansfield, and Marilyn Monroe — epitomized the blonde sex symbol image during the era.

Mamie Van Doren is the only remaining member of the three Ms

Mamie Van Doren (above) found fame through Universal Studios in the 1950s. With films like "Teacher's Pet" in 1958, she rubbed elbows with the likes of Clark Gable and Doris Day. Her usual on-screen depiction was similar to that of Marilyn Monroe: blonde, attractive, and irresistible. Off-screen, she performed in a nightclub act that traveled all over the United States (per Desert Sun).

IMDb states that Van Doren was born as Joan Lucille Olander in 1931. She chose the name Mamie after first lady Mamie Eisenhower. Her public persona as a sex symbol was quite accurate to her real life — if her biographies are truthful, that is. In the 1960s she released the books "My Naughty, Naughty Life" and "My Wild Love Experiences," chronicling her life. She posed for Playboy in the 1960s as well.

As of 2022, Van Doren is 91 years old. She did less acting by the 1960s and 1970s in order to focus on family life, hoping to keep her son away from Hollywood's ills. Her last film appearance was in "Slackers" in 2002 (per Best Life).

Jayne Mansfield was the first actress to appear nude on film

Born as Vera Jayne Palmer, Jayne Mansfield wanted to be a performer even when she was only a toddler. After starting a life with husband Paul Mansfield, they move to Hollywood to allow Jayne to pursue her dreams. She began modeling and got attention from newspaper writers. Jayne was not originally blonde. She dyed her hair in order to compete with Marilyn Monroe in 1954. Soon after, she landed a photoshoot with Playboy magazine (via Harper's Bazaar).

Her website's biography explains that after divorcing Paul, she fell for Mickey Hargitay, who was performing with Mae West in Paris when they met. Her breakout film was "A Girl Can't Help It" in 1956, which also starred big names in rock music like Little Richard and Fats Domino. Later on, she performed at the Tropicana in Las Vegas and was paid $25,000 per week.

Jayne Mansfield received negative publicity in 1963 for her role in "Promises, Promises," wherein she became the first actress to appear nude on film. But as the saying goes: all publicity is good publicity. Tragically, she died in a car crash four years later, in 1967. Her three children in the back seat survived. Mansfield was just 34 years old.

Marilyn Monroe was no dumb blonde

The third "M" of Hollywood's Golden Age hardly needs an introduction. According to History of Yesterday, Marilyn Monroe was Playboy Magazine's very first cover star in 1952. But aside from being a blonde bombshell remembered for rumored affairs with the likes of President John F. Kennedy, she paved the way for women in Hollywood by negotiating her contracts with Twentieth Century Fox. She grew tired of her roles in films such as "Gentleman Prefer Blondes," always depicting her as nothing more than a ditzy blonde. She went to Fox executive Darryl F. Zanuck and asked for more meaningful roles. He said no.

In 1955, Monroe starred in the hit film "The Seven Year Itch," making Fox more inclined to meet her demands upon their attempts to draw up another contract for her. The new contract gave her the freedom to choose roles and directors to work with and gave her a pay increase of $100,000 (per How Stuff Works).

Despite her untimely death in 1962 at the age of 36, Monroe is still an A-lister, appearing on anything from t-shirts to home décor. Kim Kardashian wore one of Monroe's dresses at the 2022 Met Gala, much to the dismay of its original designer, who intended for the dress to be worn only by Monroe herself.