There were many Marilyn Monroe types thrown at filmgoers in the 1950s. And they all had some success. There was Jayne Mansfield. There was Sheree North.
And then there was Mamie Van Doren.
The former Joan Lucille Olander, who remains very much with us at age 84, is a veteran of the age old pathway to Hollywood — a big win at a beauty contest, a powerful mentor-lover and a studio contract (at Universal Pictures). The mentor in this case is none other than Howard Hughes, who observed Mamie’s triumph as an 18-year-old Miss Palm Springs, and was impressed with what he saw.
Hughes promptly shoehorned Van Doren into the entertaining 1951 thriller, His Kind of Woman, costarring the combustible Jane Russell and Robert Mitchum. (Mamie had a miniscule part as a bar fly.) It was the first of her five movies at Hughes-owned RKO.
She went on to log more than 50 credits in films and tv, largely fueled by her status as an ersatz Monroe. Later in the Fifties, she appeared in Teacher’s Pet costarring Clark Gable and Doris Day. In mid-decade, she married the second of her five husbands, popular bandleader Ray Anthony (it lasted near six years).
In the Sixties, it was outings such as Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women and The Navy vs. The Night Monster. And let’s not forget Francis Joins The Wacs, the popular Universal series about the title talking mule paired with sidekick Donald O’Connor.
Mamie has more recently appeared in an occasional foreign productions, including a German-made western and a Philipino Road movie. In 1975, she made That Girl From Boston, an independent production directed by Matt Cimber — who happened to have been Jayne Mansfield’s third and final husband.
After performing at a Biloxi, Mississippi supper club engagement in 1967, Jayne Mansfield took her last drive (her car careened into the back of a trailer truck some 20 miles outside New Orleans). The collision all but decapitated her, and killed two passengers. Mansfield was just 34.
Van Doren says that she came to Hollywood in the footsteps of Jean Harlow but was determined not to die young. My hope was to endure. And endure I have.