At first glance a cut-rate Hollywood version of Marilyn Monroe, she has confounded Hollywood watchers in recent years because she was a surprisingly skilled thespian (doubters should check out her earliest movies).
She was also pretty good at pitching herself as a sexpot.
Jayne Mansfield made a big imprint in Hollywood during the Fifties and Sixties, the dying days of the old studio system. She famously held court in Beverly Hills, in a pink, Spanish-style mansion complete with heart-shaped pool and master bed. Media were invited non-stop.
Alas, the goal of “improving herself” was elusive. Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox both explored her career potential and found it wanting. Mansfield was reduced to making exploitation pictures in Europe. Her end came much too soon.
How much did you actually know about this fascinating Hollywood comet? Let’s take a look at the answers to our Monday Quiz, and find out.
1) Question: What was Jayne Mansfield’s real name? a) Vera Palmer; b) Emma Matzo; c) Virginia McMath; or d) Betty Perske.
1) Answer: Mansfield’s real name was a) Vera Palmer. Jayne was her middle name. Emma Matzo was Lizabeth Scott’s original monicker; Virginia McMath was Ginger Rogers’; and Bette Perske belonged to Lauren Bacall.
2) Question: Which of Mansfield’s husbands was a bodybuilder who adorned Mae West’s muscleman Las Vegas act? a) Matt Cimber; b) Mickey Hargitay; c) Paul Mansfield; or d) Sam Brody.
2) Answer: b) Mickey Hargitay (above).
3) Question: Which one of the following film noir titles is said to have launched Mansfield’s acting career? a) The Killers; b) The Burglar; c) Nightmare Alley; or d) The Night Runner.
3) Answer: b) Columbia Pictures’ tidy 1957 film noir, The Burglar, has a less-flashy Mansfield portraying a somewhat innocent young woman under the protection of hardened criminal Dan Duryea. The picture proved Mansfield could act and landed her a studio contract. The picture itself wasn’t so lucky. It had a troubled releasing history and didn’t hit theaters until a full two years after its completion. It’s still worth checking out.
4) Question: Mansfield famously showcased her generous cleavage at a Hollywood soiree scandalizing which one of the following attendees? a) Gene Kelly; b) Barbara Stanwyck; c) Fred Astaire; or d) Sophia Loren.
4) Answer: d) Sophia Loren, who had just arrived in Hollywood and was being feted at Romanoff’s restaurant in 1957. Loren later recalled: A tipsy Mansfield sat next to her at a table and started talking — it was like a volcano erupting. As she got more and more worked up, suddenly I found one of her breasts on my plate. I looked up at her, terrified. She barely noticed, regained her composure, and left. One especially quick reporter took a picture of the scene, and the image went around the world.
5) Question: Mansfield played the dumb blonde with such fidelity because she really was dumb, that is, not very intelligent offscreen. a) True; or b) False?
5) Answer: b) False. Mansfield was no dummy. She supposedly possessed an 163 I.Q. and could speak foreign languages.
6) Question: Mansfield was signed by 20th Century Fox in order to continue a line of famous female studio actresses with broad box office appeal. Which one of the following does NOT fit that description. a) Anne Baxter; b) Betty Grable; c) Alice Faye; or d) Marilyn Monroe.
6) Answer: a) Anne Baxter.
7) Question: Mansfield was one of the few big studio actresses of her time to pose nude for Playboy magazine. a) True; or b) False?
7) Answer: a) True. Mansfield posed nude for Playboy at least twice.
8) Question: Mansfield’s 1957 movie, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter, was based on a Broadway play by George Axelrod. Who played Mansfield’s role in the original stage version?
8) Answer: Yup, Mansfield did. She co-starred in both the 1955 stage version and 1957 film adaptation of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter.
9) Question: After substituting for a name female personality at a Biloxi, Mississippi supper club engagement, Mansfield took her last drive (her car careened into the back of a trailer truck some 20 miles outside New Orleans). The question is: who was Mansfield substituting for on that fateful occasion? a) Diana Dors; b) Mamie Van Doren; c) Marilyn Maxwell; or d) Cleo Moore.
9) Answer: b) Mansfield’s friend and sister sexpot, Mamie Van Doren.
10) Question: Can you name Mansfield’s famous offspring, who has a regular role on the NBC crime drama Law & order: Special Victims Unit?
10) Answer: Actress Mariska Hargitay, Mansfield’s fourth offspring courtesy of second husband, Mickey Hargitay.