Reel Reviews

The Death of Jayne Mansfield

Jayne MansfieldThe Most Publicized Sex Queen and Movie Star Killed in Car Crash

Although already attached to such fair-haired sexpots as Alice Faye, Betty Grable, and Marilyn Monroe, the term Blond Bombshell wouldn't become fully defined until the arrival of Jayne Mansfield on the Hollywood scene in the late '50s. Though she fluently spoke five languages and boasted of an I.Q. of 163, even the voluptuous Mansfield would admit her public didn't care about her brains. "They're more interested in 40-21-35," she said.

Vera Jayne Palmer was born on April 19, 1933 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania to an attorney and an elementary school teacher. Her father would die when she was but 3 years-old. Jayne and her mother were riding in the family car, when her father, who was driving, would suffer a fatal heart attack and crash. Young Jayne and her mother were lucky to survive the accident.

In 1939, Jayne's mother would remarry and move the family from Pennsylvania to Dallas, Texas where the future actress would meet, and eventually fall in love with fellow student Paul Mansfield. The couple would be secretly married on January 28, 1950, but when it was discovered that Jayne had become pregnant, they held a public ceremony. On November 8 of that year, Jayne Marie would be born to the 17-year-old Vera Jayne and her husband Paul Mansfield.

When Paul was called up by the military for active duty during the Korean War, the star-struck Jayne would leave her infant daughter with her mother and high-tail it to California... to become a movie star.

Swimming Pools, Movie Stars
While there, Jayne would enroll at UCLA in the Fall of 1953, and get one small bit part in a movie called Prehistoric Women before eventually returning to Texas where she would enroll at Southern Methodist University to study acting. With her husband now home from Korea, Jayne held him to his promise that he would take her to Hollywood. So, they loaded up the truck and they moved to Beverly.

Between such odd jobs as movie theater candy vendor and the like, Jayne continued to press forward with her desire to be in the movies. Her persistence would soon begin to pay off as Warner Bros. noticed her "talents" and began giving her bit parts. She was eventually signed to the studio when a talent scout discovered her in a production at the Pasadena Playhouse. With her hair now dyed blonde and her career on the upswing, Paul would begin to grow increasingly dissatisfied with the "new" Jayne. He would eventually leave her behind and return to Texas, their divorce becoming final in January of 1958.

The Famous Nipple-Slip Incident
Jayne Mansfield Nipple SlipWith her career now beginning to heat up, Jayne Mansfield would hire an aggressive new agent who stopped at nothing to get the actress in front of the press. At one particular event, Jayne's ample bosom would become the featured attraction when Jayne, seated next to Sophia Loren and wearing a low cut dress, would be photographed with Loren's eyes enviously affixed to the blonde star's cleavage where one of her nipples had accidentally taken a peek. Despite the photograph becoming an international sensation, the world media was quick to condemn Jayne's stunts as cheap publicity-seeking of the highest order. Nothing seemed too outrageous as Jayne began to find more and more ways of exposing her assets. In fact, eventually Jayne would pose as the 1955 Playboy Playmate of the Month, which garnered her more of the attention she so craved, but was looked upon negatively by those in charge of her career direction. When dropped from her studio contract, Jayne would move on to garner the lead in a Broadway sex comedy called Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter. As long as she was showing her breasts, the star seemed unstoppable.

Another Marriage, Hargitay, and Playboy
Playboy Jayne MansfieldOn January 13, 1958 Jayne Mansfield would marry Hungarian-born bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay who left Mae West's act to join Jayne on stage. It was shortly before marrying Hargitay that Mansfield would build her lavish pink Spanish-style mansion with the now famous heart-shaped swimming pool at 10100 Sunset Boulevard. Shortly thereafter, 20th Century Fox would sign Mansfield as a hopeful replacement for the increasingly troubled Marilyn Monroe. Mansfield's first picture, The Girl Can't Help it, with 20th Century would turn out to be one of her best. With her husband Hargitay, Mansfield would have three children, Miklos Jr., Zoltan, and Mariska. Mansfield's exhibitionistic ways would eventually catch up with her however, when she appeared in the sleazy sexploitation movie Promises, Promises followed by another nude appearance in Playboy. The studio dropped her contract and her husband kicked her to the curb. Her sexy stunts were no longer working.

She Could Have Been Ginger!
In 1964, Jayne Mansfield would marry director Matt Cimber and the two would have a son, Anthony, in 1965. Depressed with her now slumping acting career, Mansfield would eventually look for comfort in the bottle. In a move that thoroughly illustrated the direction her career was now headed, Mansfield, at the advice of her new husband, would reject the role of Ginger (later accepted by Tina Louise) in TV's Gilligan's Island. Instead, Mansfield would go on to toil in low-rent B-movies and the occasional appearance in a respectable production. Jayne Mansfield's talents were no longer paying their way. And neither were her breasts.

In 1966, Matt Cimber would divorce the heavy-drinking Jayne and into the love picture would move San Francisco attorney Samuel S. Brody. Now, excessively overweight and almost always drunk, Mansfield could only garner press recognition when she became involved in another drunken brawl with Brody or when she would be named in a messy divorce suit with Brody's ailing wife. The once glamorous Jayne Mansfield was now being reduced to a Hollywood laughing stock.

A Date with an Insecticide Truck
Jayne Mansfield Car crashIn June of 1967, Jayne Mansfield was staying at the Cabana Courtyard Apartments while performing at the Gus Stevens Supper Club in Biloxi, Mississippi. Billed as "The Most Publicized SEX QUEEN and Movie Star with Bob Sweeney "The Schoolmaster' who masters in comedy" Mansfield was performing two nightly shows, at 9 and at 11pm. After a June 28th evening engagement, Mansfield would head out at 2:30 am the next morning (June 29) for an early New Orleans TV show interview. Her hardtop 1966 Buick Electra 225 was packed with passengers Brody, and Jayne's children Miklos, Zoltan, Mariska... and four Chihuahuas. Driving the car would be Ron Harrison, a college student who worked for club owner Stevens. The speeding Buick "deuce and a quarter" would fly down a winding, narrow stretch of US Hwy 90, just west of the Rigolets bridge. Some estimates have the car's speed as high as 80 m.p.h. The car plowed into the rear of a tractor-trailer rig, which had halted behind a city vehicle spraying the Louisiana swamps with bug spray. As their vehicle hit the rear of the truck, it underrode the trailer and the roof was virtually sheared off. Peeled back like an accordian. Visit here to pinpoint the exact location of the crash.

Passengers in the front, including Brody, Mansfield and Harrison, would be killed almost instantaneously. But the three Mansfield children in the rear were spared with only minor injuries - cuts, bruises, a few broken bones and the like. The sudden violence of the crash threw Jayne's blonde wig to the dashboard. It is believed that photographs showing the tussled wig in the car's windshield gave rise to the disproven rumors that Jayne Mansfield was decapitated in the accident. The autopsy report would indicate that her death was from a "crushed skull and avulsion of cranium and brain." Jayne Mansfield was dead at 34 years of age.

The Aftermath

Jayne Mansfield Grave Marker
Jayne Mansfield's Grave Marker at the family plot in Penn Argyl, Pennsylvania.

After a Beverly Hills memorial service, Jayne's body was sent to Pen Argyle, Pennsylvania to be buried in the family plot. During the service, a distraught Hargitay would throw himself on top of the rose-covered coffin. Mansfield's body is now interred in Fairview Cemetery not far from Pen Argyle. Some 20 years after her death, a pink granite gravestone was installed with the inscription, "we live to love you more each day." In July of 2003, a glamorous color portrait was added to the marker.

Most of Jayne Mansfield's $500,000 estate would be swallowed up by creditor's bills and lawyer's fees. Her children would each receive less than $2,000 from the will. The children would be raised by Mickey Hargitay and his third wife, Ellen Siano.

Jayne Mansfield's pink palace would later be sold and its subsequent owners have included such luminaries as Ringo Starr, Mama Cass Elliot, and Englebert Humperdink who sold the house to developers in 2002. The house was demolished in November of that year.

One of Jayne Mansfield's children, Mariska Hargitay, has gone on to a successful movie and television career, including a co-starring role in the TV series Law and Order; Special Victims Unit.


See some Jayne Mansfield car crash site and some nudie shots. But be forewarned, they are very gruesome and should only be viewed by those who can handle such things. And btw, nsfw. If you don't want to see them, don't look!

Update: The Following comes from Morbidly Hollywood friend Dave from Slidell who posted in the Death of Jayne Mansfield Discussion Forum:
"By the way, the car was never driven on Old Spanish Trail, as some sites have reported. There was no need to do so, unless Jayne and her party detoured off Hwy 90 and drove into Slidell. Every indication shows that they stayed on Hwy 90, from the gulf coast all the way to the crash site. Yes, they may have stopped at the old White Kitchen restaurant, but even it was located on 90, on the edge of Slidell."


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More Jayne Mansfield Stuff:

Jayne Mansfield House
Mansfield's famous Pink Palace at 10100 Sunset Boulevard. Look closely and you'll see "J" and "M" in the wrought iron gate.

 

Jayne Mansfield Swimming Pool
Mansfield's heart-shaped swimming pool which she demanded from Hargitay before she would marry him. By the way, you can buy a tile from the long-since-destroyed pool.

 

Jayne Mansfield
She loved her Chihuahuas!

 

Jayne Mansfield casket

 

Jayne Mansfield
Jayne Mansfield circa 1959.

 

Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay
Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay.

 

Rigolets Bridge
Jayne Mansfield and her traveling party had just passed over the "Rigolets" waterway. Her autopsy report says accident occurred about 1 mile further up the road in this direction.

 

Jayne Mansfield Death Spot
Thanks to Morbidly Hollywood friend, Jerry, we have what is believed to be the curve (crash site) where Jayne Mansfield was killed in a car accident. Jerry says, "I went to the site a couple of days ago. I first went to the Hwy 90 hwy. 190 intersection. I wanted to take a picture of the old White Kitchen restaurant sign. The restaurant itself burned down many years ago. Traveling East, it would be on the right side of hwy. 90 just past the intersection. White Kitchen was a popular place in the 60's and anyone traveling from New Orleans to Mississippi would stop here. This, according to eyewitnesses was the last place Jayne Mansfield and company stopped before that fateful night. Anyhow, I turned around, crossed the Rigolets. Using my hand held GPS, I traveled exactly 6.3 miles and took a photo of the curve I believe where the accident took place. Right near the Zone 2 sign."

 

Jayne Mansfield Death Spot
The red "X" marks the spot on the map where Jayne Mansfield's car crashed.

 

Thanks to Morbidly Hollywood friend, John, we have a video of the Jayne Mansfield crash site, including some footage of the make-shift marker that has been recently constructed on the site.

 

History channel video on the life and death of Jayne Mansfield, including footage of the death car.

 

Jayne Mansfield's Glove
Jayne Mansfield's blood-stained silver lamé glove, which she reportedly wore on the night of her accident, was sold recently in an auction. Minimum opening bid was $2,500. The glove eventually sold for $25,000. Included was a letter of provenance from Officer Prendergast, who was at the scene of the accident.

 

See some photos of Jayne Mansfield's car crash, the crash site, and a few nudie shots. But be forewarned, they are very gruesome and should only be viewed by those who can handle such things. And btw, nsfw. If you don't want to see them, don't look!

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