*Includes Mansfield's quotes about her own life and career.
*Includes a bibliography for further reading.
“I don't know why you people like to compare me to Marilyn or that girl, what's her name, Kim Novak. Cleavage, of course, helped me a lot to get where I am. I don't know how they got there.” – Jayne Mansfield
A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history’s most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors’ American Legends series, readers can get caught up to speed on the lives of America’s most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
Although she came of age in an era when Hollywood studios were looking for blonde bombshells like Marilyn Monroe, and she followed that path to instant stardom, Jayne Mansfield had one of the most unique Hollywood careers in the 1950s and 1960s. After getting her start on Broadway, Mansfield shot to fame in Hollywood during the late ‘50s with her platinum blonde hair and picturesque body, and her life became equal parts movie star and celebrity, with her appearances on film more than matched by her appearances in tabloids and Playboy.
Naturally, Mansfield was a rival of Marilyn Monroe who was used by 20th Century Fox to play the same kind of ditzy blonde roles that had made Marilyn one of the biggest stars in America, which had the effect of making her famous but not exactly critically acclaimed. It was an ironic predicament for a woman who had been a Broadway actress, and she struggled to break out of being pigeonholed as a dumb blonde, the kind of stereotype many in her position had struggled with as far back as Jean Harlow and Carole Lombard. No matter how hard she tried, the peak of her career was gone before it had practically started, and by 1960, her parent studio was looking for ways to loan her out rather than use her in its own films. As a result, Mansfield remains famous today more as a pop culture phenom and sex symbol than for her acting career.
Of course, one of the other reasons Jayne Mansfield is remembered so vividly today is the grisly nature of her tragic death. Even without movies, Mansfield was constantly in the public eye through various publicity stunts and other special performances, such as a striptease revue, and she was still just 34 years old when she was killed in a car crash. In that accident, Mansfield, her lover, and her driver were all killed in the front when their car rear-ended a truck and slid under it. Thankfully, her children, sitting in the back, suffered only minor injuries. One of her surviving children, Mariska Hargitay, has since gone on to be a well-known actress herself, including a starring role as a detective in Law & Order, Special Victims Unit.
American Legends: The Life of Jayne Mansfield examines the notorious life and death of one of America’s biggest pop culture stars of the 1950s and 1960s. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about Jayne Mansfield like never before, in no time at all.
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