Jayne Mansfield (April 19, 1933 – June 29, 1967) was an American actress and sex symbol. She was born Vera Jane Palmer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, the only child of Herbert William Palmer (1904-1936) and Vera Jeffrey Palmer (1903-2000).

It is not clear if her parents, both Palmers, were distant cousins. The maiden name of Jayne's maternal grandmother was Jeffrey. When Jayne was three years old, her father, a lawyer, suddenly died of a heart attack. After his death, Jayne's mother worked as a school teacher to support them. In 1939, Vera married Harry Lawrence "Tex" Peers (1916-1997), and the family moved to Dallas, Texas. Jayne could play the violin by the time she was seven, and would stand in the driveway of her home playing for passersby. She also enjoyed singing, and would give enthusiastic performances. After discovering fan magazines, she cut out the glamorous photographs of movie stars and hung them in her bedroom.

Jayne attended Highland Park High School in Dallas. Then, at seventeen, she married her first husband, Paul Mansfield, and moved to Austin. She studied dramatics at Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas. While attending the University of Texas, she won several beauty contests, with titles that included "Miss Photoflash," "Miss Magnesium Lamp" and "Miss Fire Prevention Week." In 1954, they moved to Los Angeles and she studied dramatics at UCLA.

With tunnel vision, Mansfield wanted to be a movie star. She won several more beauty contests. The only title she ever turned down was Miss Roquefort Cheese, because she believed that it "just didn't sound right." For her efforts, she was rewarded with walk-ons on television. She was always willing to make appearances and do practically anything for publicity. She was rumored to have gotten her first TV job by slipping a note to the producer that read "36, 22, 35."

Her movie career started with bit parts. She had a small role in The Female Jungle (1955). She then went to Warner Bros. and did a small role in Pete Kelly's Blues starring Jack Webb, which brought her favorable attention. In January 1955, she was part of a publicity drive for Howard Hughes' RKO movie Underwater! starring Jane Russell. In February 1955, Mansfield was "Playmate of the Month" in Playboy, a men's magazine she would pose for several times over the ensuing years.

After two more movies at Warners, she went to New York and starred in the role of siren Rita Marlowe in the Broadway production of George Axelrod's comedy Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1955). Wearing only a towel, she would rise to answer the telephone, flaunting as much of her big breasted, voluptuous physique as she could. The part brought her a great deal of attention and she rode the waves of stardom on The Great White Way. She received the Theatre World Award of 1956 for her performance.

Back on the West Coast, she appeared on TV game shows and played her scene-stealing role of Jerri Jordan in the movie The Girl Can't Help It (1956). And on May 3, 1956, she signed a long-term contract with 20th Century Fox. After a couple more movies, she reprised her role of Rita Marlowe in the 1957 movie version of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? co-starring Tony Randall.

Mansfield won a Golden Globe in 1957 for Most Promising Newcomer - Female, along with Carroll Baker and Natalie Wood. And she won a Golden Laurel in 1959 for Top Female Musical Performance for the comedy western The Sheriff Of Fractured Jaw (1958).

She formed Jayne Mansfield Productions. But she became mired in the breathless, prototypical dumb blonde with sexy high-pitched squeals and was rarely able to shake the stereotype. She would play similar roles throughout the remainder of her career. She was invariably compared, usually with disfavor, to Marilyn Monroe, the most famous blonde sex symbol of the era.

Her marriage to Paul faltered when she began a romance with muscleman and Mr. Universe of 1955, Mickey Hargitay, who was then in a nightclub act starring Mae West and married himself. West angrily held a press conference on June 6, 1956, to announce Hargitay's dismissal. Hargitay, however, showed up early, to quit prior to being fired, and got into a fight with another strong man in the act, who gave Hargitay a black eye. Mansfield and Hargitay were married the same day her divorce became final.

Mansfield had three husbands, Paul Mansfield (married May 10, 1950-divorced 1958), actor and bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay (married January 13, 1958-divorced 1964) and director Matt Cimber (married September 24, 1964-divorced 1966).

She and Paul had one child, Jayne-Marie Mansfield (born November 8, 1950); she and Mickey had three children, Miklós Jeffrey Hargitay (born December 21, 1958), Zoltan Anthony Hargitay (born August 1, 1960) and Mariska Magdolna Hargitay (born January 24, 1964); and she and Matt had one child, Antonio Raphael Ottaviano Cimber (or Anthony Richard) (born October 18, 1965).

One biographer quotes Jayne as saying that Paul was not Jayne-Marie's father, but that she married him rather than getting an abortion as she was personally opposed to it. Actor Nelson Sardelli claims to have fathered Mariska. But Hargitay apparently never questioned the girl's paternity and raised her as his own.

Jayne-Marie was a Playboy centerfold in July 1976; and Mariska has become an actress with a list of movie and TV credits that would undoubtedly make her mother proud.

In October 1957, Mansfield went on a sixteen-country-tour of Europe for 20th Century Fox. She was presented to Queen Elizabeth on November 4. "You are so beautiful," she said to the Queen, who replied, "So are you."

After they married, she and Hargitay bought a 40-room Mediterranean-style mansion formerly owned by Rudy Vallee at 10100 Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills for $75,000. Mansfield turned it into her famous "Pink Palace." It was painted pink, had pink decorations, a bed with heart-shaped canopy and marble cupids above the bedstead that was surrounded by pink fluorescent lights, pink fur on the floors of the bathrooms, a pink heart-shaped bathtub, a fountain spurting pink champagne, and a large pink heart-shaped swimming pool, hand-built by Hargitay.

Singer Engelbert Humperdinck bought the Pink Palace in the 1970's. In 2002, he sold it for about $4,000,000 to developers and it was torn down in November of that year.

Mansfield also headlined in Las Vegas with her own nightclub act, toured military bases with Bob Hope for the USO and released a live album titled Jayne Mansfield Busts Up Las Vegas. She did a number of guest spots on television, which included cameo appearances on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Jack Benny Show, The Steve Allen Show and Burke's Law.

Despite the monumental publicity she received as a sex symbol, by the mid-1960s her movie career was in steep decline. She appeared in low-budget productions, mostly in Europe, often opposite Hargitay. It is said that she turned down the role of Ginger Grant in the TV sitcom Gilligan's Island.

When her marriage to Hargitay broke up, she married Matt Cimber, who had directed her in a stage production of Bus Stop In Yonkers, New York. Cimber took over the management of her career during their brief marriage.

In San Francisco for the 1966 Film Festival, Mansfield visited the Church of Satan with Sam Brody (her lawyer and boyfriend) to meet Anton LaVey, the church's founder. LaVey awarded Mansfield a medallion and the title "High Priestess of San Francisco's Church of Satan", and put a death curse on Brody because he "desecrated" the Church. The Church of Satan proclaimed Jayne a pledged member, and she displayed a framed membership certification in her pink bedroom. The media enthusiastically covered the meeting and the events surrounding it, identifying her as a Satanist and romantically involved with LaVey. That meeting remained a much-publicized and oft-quoted event of her life, as well as the history of the Church of Satan. Additionally, Karla LaVey confirmed in a 1992 interview with Joan Rivers that Mansfield was indeed a practicing Satanist and that she had a romantic relationship with Anton LaVey. Her funeral ceremony was conducted by a Methodist minister.

In Biloxi, Mississippi, for an engagement at the Gus Stevens Supper Club, Mansfield stayed at the Cabana Courtyard Apartments near the club. After an evening appearance on June 28, 1967, Mansfield, her lover Sam Brody, their driver, Ronnie Harrison and three of her children – Miklós, Zoltán and Mariska – set out in Stevens' 1966 Buick Electra 225 for New Orleans where Mansfield was scheduled to appear for an early-morning television interview. Before leaving Biloxi, the party made a stop at the home of Rupert and Edna O'Neal (a family who lived nearby). After a late dinner with the O'Neals (during which Mansfield's last photographs were taken), the party set out for New Orleans. On June 29 at approximately 02:25, on U.S. Highway 90, east of the Rigolets Bridge, the car crashed into the rear of a tractor-trailer that had slowed for a truck that was spraying mosquito fogger. The car struck the rear of the trailer and went under it. The three adults in the front seat were killed instantly; the children, in the rear, survived with minor injuries.

Allegations that Mansfield was decapitated are untrue, although she suffered severe head trauma. The urban legend was spawned by the appearance in police photographs of a crashed car with its top virtually sheared off, and what resembled a blonde-haired head tangled in the car's smashed windshield. However, this was probably either a wig Mansfield was wearing or her actual hair and scalp. The death certificate stated that the immediate cause of Mansfield's death was a "crushed skull with avulsion of cranium and brain". After her death, the NHTSA began requiring an underride guard (a strong bar made of steel tubing) on all tractor-trailers. This bar is known as a Mansfield bar, or an ICC bar.

Mansfield's funeral took place on July 3 in Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania.

From Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.

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