In a time when film censorship was rampant, Jayne Mansfield loved to push the limits of decency. Making great use of her buxom figure, Mansfield was not only a well-known actress, but she was also one of the most vivacious sex symbols of her age—until it all ended in one of the most shocking tragedies Hollywood had ever seen. Here are 50 titillating facts about Jayne Mansfield, the naughty blonde.
Jayne Mansfield Facts
1. The Peeler Pioneer
Fittingly for a woman nicknamed “The Cleavage Queen,” the buxom Mansfield was the first American actress to appear nude in a big American sound film. 1963’s Promises… Promises! made good on its threats and showed Mansfield in her birthday suit. Of course, it was then promptly banned in several American cities.
2. Blonde on Blonde
Mansfield’s career was infamously fuelled by a rivalry with fellow bombshell Marilyn Monroe. Studios often typecast both women into roles as ditzy blondes with voluptuous bodies, and Fox Studios even tried to bait Monroe into coming back and completing her contract with them by calling Mansfield “Marilyn Monroe king-sized.”
The canny Mansfield was the master of the “wardrobe malfunction.” Somehow, her (nip)slip-ups always happened at the perfect time for cameras to take pictures. One of the most infamous examples happened in 1955, when Mansfield attended a pool party while wearing an itsy-bitsy red bikini. When she dove into the pool, her top predictably came off.
4. A Naked Woman! Call the Police!
After filming Promises…Promises! Mansfield’s scandal was just getting started. In order to promote the steamy film, she disrobed again, this time for Playboy magazine. Except the spread had grave consequences. The public was so outraged, police even arrested Playboy honcho Hugh Hefner for the first—and only—time.
5. A Starlet Is Born
Mansfield was born Vera Jane Palmer on April 19, 1933 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. She was the beloved only child of Herbert and Vera Palmer—and no, that “Jane” isn’t a typo. For one reason or another, Mansfield’s parents started spelling her middle name with a “y” sometime after 1940, when she was still just a girl.
6. Meet Cute
On Christmas Eve 1949, the teenaged Mansfield went to a party where she met Paul Mansfield, a handsome man three years her senior. On the surface at least, it was a match made in high school heaven: The two hotties were both popular members of their class.
7. Lies, All Lies
Despite gaining fame as a platinum blonde, Mansfield was naturally brunette.
8. Teen Mom
Jayne was no stranger to scandal even from a young age. When she was just 17 years old, she married Paul Mansfield on May 6, 1950. But as she stood at the altar, she was hiding a dark secret. The teen girl was about three months pregnant, and she and Paul had a little daughter six months later in November of 1950.
9. Bros in Different Area Codes
Mansfield was infamous for her extra-marital affairs, and her little black book reportedly had some pretty juicy names in it, including American royals Robert Kennedy and John F. Kennedy.
10. No One Looks at You But Me
Paul was a controlling and jealous husband. He and Jayne both enrolled in university and took acting classes, but that wasn’t enough for him—and things got even worse. Paul made sure to never let Jayne out of his sight, and even when she entered the Miss California pageant contest in secret, he quickly found out and forced her to drop out.
11. The Brood
Over the course of her life, Mansfield had five children with three different men.
12. A Shrine to Temple
Mansfield had dreams of becoming an actress since childhood. Her main source of inspiration for this career was Shirley Temple, who was the most famous child actress of the 1930s. Throughout her teen years, Mansfield learned to dance and play the viola, piano, and violin, skills that proved useful when she pursued a career in entertainment.
13. Dr. Doolitle
From an early age, Mansfield loved animals. She even kept a menagerie of them in her small Los Angeles apartment before her career as an actress ever kicked off. This menagerie consisted of three cats, four dogs, and a rabbit.
14. First World Problems
For a time in the late 1950s, the media started attacking Mansfield as a poor little rich girl. To be fair, it was kind of her fault. Her husband at the time ran out of money, and Mansfield claimed that things got so “bad” that she couldn’t buy any furniture, was forced to cut back on spoiling her daughter, and had to—gasp—sleep on her mansion floor.
15. Taken Too Young
Mansfield was only three years old when unimaginable tragedy struck. Her father, Herbert William Palmer, died of a heart attack. Three years later, Mansfield’s mother re-married and they left New Jersey for Texas. Mansfield then took the surname Peers in honor of her stepfather, Harry Lawrence Peers.
16. One for One
Though today we see Mansfield as a bubbly, ditzy blonde, she did have acting chops. In 1957, she even won a Golden Globe Award for “Most Promising Newcomer.” She won it for her performance in The Girl Can’t Help It.
17. Cracks in the Foundation
Jayne and Paul Mansfield’s marriage came to a heartbreaking end. Paul had never been very supportive of his young wife’s ambitions of stardom, but there were even worse problems. Their relationship was plagued with infidelity, and Paul despised how many animals they kept around the house. Eventually, they divorced in 1958.
18. The Bitter End
In many ways, Mansfield’s divorce was even more dramatic than her dysfunctional marriage. It took three long years to complete it, and when Paul filed his papers, he cited “mental cruelty.” He also battled Mansfield for custody of their daughter Jayne Marie—and when he lost the suit, he dropped out of their lives entirely.
19. The Show Must Go on
One important aspect of Mansfield’s career was her work in nightclubs. Beginning in 1958, Mansfield embarked on lucrative shows in Las Vegas where she performed steamy striptease and burlesque acts. Her wardrobe at these shows was often very sheer and extra shiny, leading people to describe her performances as “Jayne Mansfield and a few sequins.”
20. Round Two
In 1956, while Mansfield was still embroiled in her first divorce, she met bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay at a nightclub. Now, Hargitay wasn’t just any bodybuilder: He’d actually just won Mr. Universe the year before, and he was performing in Mae West‘s chorus line when Mansfield spotted him. Apparently, the moment they locked eyes, Mansfield went gaga.
21. A Clash of Titans
One person was certainly no fan of Mansfield’s crush on Hargitay: Mae West. The Hollywood starlet was enraged and jealous at Mansfield’s advances on her Adonis-like employee—and a legendary cat fight ensued. That same night, the two blondes quarrelled, and the fight ended with fellow chorus member Mr. California beating Hargitay up and getting himself arrested.
Well, that’s one way to do a meet-cute.
22. Don’t Quit Your Day Job
Mansfield’s first appearance in a feature film was in the 1955 drama Female Jungle. She got the equivalent of a cool $1,000 for the role, but she still had a long way to go to make it in Hollywood for real. In fact, after her work on set was done, she went back to her full-time job selling popcorn in a movie theater.
23. Do Re Me
Mansfield actually started out on stage in her first entertainment roles and only later made the leap to film. A true Broadway baby, she was an accomplished singer and often really sang for the soundtracks of her films.
There was one thing Mansfield kept from her first marriage: her famous last name.
25. Your Cheating Heart
Mansfield and Hargitay married in 1958, just after Mansfield’s divorce went through. But it was far from happily ever after. Though the couple had a popular entertainment career together, Mansfield engaged in several very high-profile affairs while married to Hargitay, including with successful producer Enrico Bomba.
26. Not Just a Pretty Face
Don’t be fooled by Mansfield’s reputation as an air-headed blonde. Her IQ was notably high, she was fluent in no fewer than five different languages, and many called her “the smartest dumb blonde.” However, she often complained that the public didn’t care about her intellect, saying, “They’re more interested in 40–21–35″—her chest, waist, and hip measurements.
27. Let’s Not Be Friends
Like her first marriage, Mansfield’s second try at love ended in bitter, dramatic divorce. In fact, when she and Hargitay went down to Juarez, Mexico to push through a quickie split, Mansfield cruelly brought along her new lover, the crooner Nelson Sardelli. Except that wasn’t even the worst part. In a ploy to get more money, Mansfield also accused Hargitay of kidnapping one of her kids.
Much later, Mansfield apologized to Hargitay on television for everything she’d put him through.
28. No Thanks
Mansfield famously turned down the role of the bodacious Ginger Grant on Gilligan’s Island; she didn’t want to keep being typecast as a ditzy babe.
29. Play It Cool
Although Mansfield’s wardrobe malfunctions certainly garnered her a lot of attention, the public soon soured on her antics, particularly as her attempts became more desperate and less believable. Her own agent once sniped that during this period, “She became a freak.”
30. I’m Ready for My Closeup
Mansfield lived her life like one of her movies, so it’s no surprise that when she married Hargitay, she actually wore the same wedding dress she’d worn as a costume for The Girl Can’t Help It.
31. Me Tarzan, You Jayne
When Mansfield and Hargitay toured together as a celebrity couple, they became famous for their iconic, matching leopard print bathing suits and their Tarzan and Jane act. The press called Mansfield “the girl in the leopard-print bikini”—and she made sure to stir up scandal. Ever the show-woman, she took shopping trips, went to parties, and even strolled down Hollywood Boulevard in the barely-there getup.
32. The Apple Didn’t Fall Far
Arguably the most well-known of Mansfield’s children is Mariska Hargitay, who is now famous for her role as Olivia Benson in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame right next to her mother’s.
33. No Contest
Before her film career kicked off, Mansfield participated in a number of beauty contests, not all of them that illustrious. She won titles like Miss Magnesium Lamp and Miss Fire Prevention Week. Still, the budding actress turned down the chance to carry the titles Miss Roquefort Cheese and Miss Prime Rib. I mean, she had some standards.
34. The Battle for Top Billing
While shooting the film The Loves of Hercules, Mansfield got herself embroiled in a ruthless feud. Her Italian co-star Moira Orfei felt that she should have gotten the lead role instead of Mansfield—and she plotted a bitter revenge. Not content to merely be cruel to Mansfield on set, Orfei went one step further and got the bombshell’s name removed from all Italian promotional materials.
35. Third Time Ain’t the Charm
In 1964, Mansfield married Italian director Matt Cimber—but it was her most tragic union of all. Cimber steered her into trashier and trashier films, and Mansfield began abusing alcohol and engaging in a spate of desperate affairs. It didn’t help when she confessed that she had only ever been happy with former flame Nelson Sardelli. The marriage only lasted until 1966.
36. Cat Fight
Mansfield considered fellow sexpot starlet Mamie Van Doren her true Hollywood nemesis, and snarled that Van Doren was “the drive-in’s answer to Marilyn Monroe.”
37. The Original Side-Eye
One of the most notorious pictures of Mansfield features a young Sophia Loren giving the actress some serious side-eye while Mansfield grins and poses for a picture in a (naturally) very low cut dress. People have wondered about the true meaning behind Loren’s look for years, and the Italian actress finally revealed the whole story.
Delightfully, it’s exactly what you think. The party that evening was supposed to be Loren’s official welcoming into Hollywood, but Mansfield apparently sauntered in late, sat down beside her, and tried to steal the spotlight with her, er, assets. As Loren explains it, “[In the photo] I’m so frightened that everything in her dress is going to blow—BOOM!—and spill all over the table.”
38. Can You Put the Past Away?
Despite any dislike that Loren might have had toward Mansfield for hijacking her big debut, she maintains there was never any long-lasting grudge between them. Indeed, for many years after Mansfield’s death, people repeatedly came up to Loren with the infamous photo and asked her to sign it—and, out of respect, she refused every single time.
39. The Gospel According to Jayne
The media was so obsessed with Mansfield, they frequently published her measurements for their thirsty readers. As Evangelist Billy Graham once disapprovingly commented, “This country knows more about Jayne Mansfield’s statistics than the Second Commandment.”
40. A Swift Decline
By 1966, Mansfield was living with her attorney, Sam Brody, and devolving quickly. She sunk into a life of alcohol and drunken fights, and was making most of her money through tawdry burlesque shows. During this time, her daughter Jayne Marie even accused Brody of physically abusing her while her mother encouraged him—but it was about to get a whole lot worse.
41. Bitter Winter
On November 26, 1966, tragedy struck Mansfield. She and her children were visiting Jungleland USA in California when a lion savagely attacked her young son Zoltan, biting him in the neck. The attack was so severe that Zoltan underwent brain surgery and, rubbing salt in the wound, also contracted meningitis after the procedure.
Thankfully, he eventually pulled through and the family sued the theme park, helping to permanently close it.
42. Final Fantasy
During December 1966, while her son Zoltan was still recovering from the lion attack, Mansfield filmed a steamy two-minute cameo appearance in the Walter Matthau sex comedy A Guide for the Married Man. It was the very last time that she acted in front of a film camera.
43. A Deal With the Devil
Was the blonde bombshell of the devil’s party? In 1966, Mansfield met with the infamous Anton LaVey, the head of the Church of Satan. The rendez-vous caused a media sensation, and soon outlets claimed that Mansfield was a practicing Satanist. LaVey even awarded Mansfield the title “High Priestess of San Francisco’s Church of Satan.” Hey, all publicity is good publicity.
44. Think Pink
A true girl’s girl, Mansfield was obsessed with the color pink. She dyed her poodle pink, drove around in a pink Cadillac, and she often drank pink champagne. But everything was not as it seemed. This was actually a cunning business move: Mansfield had chosen her “signature color” as a branding act. In fact, she’d initially chosen purple—before realizing it was too close to actress Kim Novak’s trademark lavender.
45. The Pink Palace
In another smart branding move, Mansfield created her very own custom-made “Pink Palace” with her husband Mickey Hargitay. The actress decked the mansion out with pink cupids, furs, and bathtubs. She even put in a fountain flowing with pink champagne and installed a pink, heart-shaped swimming pool. Do we need to add that the whole house was also painted pink?
46. It Takes Two
Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe’s hourglass figures almost single-handedly started the “breast fetish” in America; tastes before them leant toward slimmer and straighter women. In fact, Mansfield’s chest was so popular in the public conscious, talk show host Jack Parr once introduced her onto The Tonight Show by saying, “Here they are, Jayne Mansfield.”
47. This Is the End
In the early morning hours of June 29, 1967, the last tragedy of Mansfield’s short life occurred. She was on her way to New Orleans with her driver, her attorney, and her children Miklos, Zoltan, and Mariska. At 2:25 am, their Buick slammed into the back of a tractor-trailer, killing the three adults instantly. Mansfield was only 34 years old.
48. Leaving Scars
All of Mansfield’s children miraculously survived the horrific crash, but they didn’t escape unscathed. Though Mariska was only three at the time and has no memory of the incident, she still carries a zig-zag scar on the side of her head from the collision.
49. Gory Details
When news broke of Mansfield’s tragic, violent death, wild rumors started flying. Legend had it that the actress was decapitated in the crash, with many pointing out that photos of the wreck showed her signature blonde hair pressed into the windshield. However, Mansfield actually died from typical head trauma—the blonde object was her wig.
50. Strange Fixation
After her death, Mansfield’s Buick became an object of macabre fascination. One of her superfans bought the car and kept it perfectly preserved in his garage for years; reportedly, the vehicle even still had bloodstains on the seats from that fateful night. While it’s doubtful that even attention-seeking Jayne would enjoy this tribute, it seems like some people are into that: The car sold for $8,000 at a 1999 auction.