Jayne Mansfield started her career as a pretty brunette but her film career began only after she imitated Marilyn Monroe, dying her hair platinum and speaking in a breathy voice. Amazing what a little hair dye can do. In 1955, Jayne was signed by Warner Brothers as it’s answer to 20th Century Fox’s Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn made Fox millions and Warner hoped Jayne would do the same (see my blog Marilyn Monroe ) In 1955, Jayne starred as Gladden in The Burglar. Jayne played one of her finest roles however the film was a flop.
She made one more movie with Warner in Illegal (must have been referring to her measurements…Sophia Loren seems to think so) but it was another flop and Warner dropped her on her curvy bottom. Ouch. In 1956, Jayne signed a six-year contract with 20th Century Fox who molded Jayne as a Marilyn Monroe second to threaten their star when she got out of line. The studio touted Jayne as “Marilyn Monroe King Sized”. Ouch. Not my idea of a compliment.
video: Jayne Mansfield in Cannes
video: Jayne Mansfield in Vegas 1958
video: Marilyn Monroe vs Jayne Mansfield
Fox soon realized that Jayne was no Marilyn. Jayne starred in The Wayward Bus in 1957. It was no coincidence that around this time Marilyn starred in Bus Stop. Whatever Marilyn did, Jayne mirrored it. Marilyn had the last laugh when Bus Stop made them millions and The Wayward Bus was only a mediocre success. So there. If possible Jayne was made into a bigger joke than Marilyn (you’ll see why when you watch her videos). The media wrote scathing comments such as, “we are amused when Miss Mansfield strains to pull in her stomach to fill out her bikini better.” By the late 1950s, Jayne received more negative publicity from exposing her breasts in staged “accidents” (we call them wardrobe malfunctions nowadays), a trick she copied from, who else, Marilyn.
video: Never Before Seen Jayne Mansfield
video: Jayne Mansfield in song and dance clip **warning: painful**
video: Mae West Sues Jayne Mansfield: calls Marilyn Monroe an impersonator
Jayne’s next flop was Kiss Them for Me (1957). The movie was described as “vapid” and “ill-advised”. Ouch. It was the last attempt Fox made to promote its unsuccessful Marilyn wannabe. That’s when Jayne’s career took a serious nosedive. Sucks to be you Jayne. She was demoted to low-budget films until Fox tried to cast her in a comedy, Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boy!, but the part went to Joan Collins. Ouch again. In a vain attempt to revitalize her career Jayne appeared nude in a mainstream film. In 1963, Playboy displayed the pictures, which closely resembled the style and background of Marilyn’s photographs taken by Bert Stein in 1962. That same year Playboy published Marilyn’s nude photos posthumously and the edition sold far more copies than Jayne’s. Jayne would never escape the spectre of Marilyn Monroe.
video: Jayne Mansfield What’s My Line (probably “I wanna be Marilyn Monroe”)
video: Jayne Mansfield That Makes It!
video: CBC Archives: Jayne Mansfield on Tabloid 1957
By 1964 Jayne’s film was in the toilet. In her last film Single Room Furnished, Jayne gave up the Marilyn thing and appeared without make up and wore a black wig. The film wasn’t released until after her death in a car accident. Due to graphic photographs depicting the roof of the car pinned beneath a truck and clearly visible mangled blonde hair, the rumour circulated that Jayne was decapitated although this was later confirmed to be false. The hair was a wig Jayne wore at the time of death. The death certificate stated the immediate cause of Mansfield’s death was a “crushed skull with avulsion of cranium and brain.” Gory, yes, but not severed. Jayne, like Marilyn (of course) died in her 30s at the age of 34.
video: Jayne Mansfield: It Happened in Athens
video: Loni Anderson The Jayne Mansfield Story