In the 1950s, Mamie Van Doren was a member of an elite club that the press dubbed ‘The Three M’s’. The other members of this trio were Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield.
Monroe was unarguably the biggest star of the trifecta, but Van Doren and Mansfield were also exceptionally popular blonde bombshells of their time who appeared in many feature films.
As of December 2022, Mamie Van Doren is the only surviving ‘M’ at the age of 91.
Van Doren rose to fame in the ’50s appearing in films such as Teacher’s Pet starring alongside Doris Day and Clark Gable and All American with the late-great Tony Curtis. She’s also remembered for many appearances in teenage rebellion movies like Untamed Youth, High School Confidential, and Girls Town.
Throughout the 1960s, well into the ’70s, Van Doren continued to act, although she did begin to slow down and eventually left Hollywood to focus on her family. Keep watching to learn what Van Doren has been up to lately and how she’s been enjoying her nineties so far. We’ll also be doing a little recap of her acting career, so don’t go anywhere!
Facts Verse Presents: Mamie Van Doren is the Last Surviving Bombshell – See Her Now
Van Doren’s Early Success
Van Doren was born on the sixth of February, 1931, in the small town of Rowena, South Dakota. She’s the daughter of Warner Olander and Lucille Bennett.
When she was a teenager, Van Doren’s family moved to Sioux City, Iowa, and then later to Los Angeles in 1942. In 1946, Van Doren started working as an usher at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. A little under a year later, she was offered a bit part in an early TV series. After that, she briefly sang with Ted Flo Rito’s band while competing also in a number of beauty contests.
When she was 17, Van Doren eloped with Jack Newman in Santa Barbara, California. But things took a sudden and unexpected turn for the young love birds shortly after tying the knot when Newman’s abusive nature reared it’s ugly head. Within months, Van Doren and Newman’s marriage was dissolved.
In 1948, at the age of 18, Van Doren won the titles of Miss Palm Springs and Miss Eight Ball. She then got engaged to a heavyweight boxing champion named Jack Dempsey – ever hear of him? Well, once again, things quickly soured in their relationship, and Van Doren ended up breaking off the engagement shortly after signing a lucrative picture deal with Universal.
Wingnut producer Howard Hughes was the one who discovered Van Doren after she was crowned Miss Palm Springs earlier that summer. Van Doren and the eccentric aviator/filmmaker even ended up dating for a few years, but then again, who didn’t he date?
During that time, he helped launch her acting career by placing her in several RKO pictures.
In 1950, Hughes gave Van Doren a bit part in his film Jet Pilot. After making her film debut, she posed for renowned pin-up artist Alberto Vargas.
Van Doren continued to enjoy bit parts in several RKO features, including 1951s His Kind of Woman. She then started doing some stage work as a showgirl in New York City at Monte Proser’s Billion Dollar Baby nightclub
That’s when songwriter Jimmy McHugh discovered her and started casting her in his musicals. While appearing in Come Back, Little Sheeba, Van Doren was seen by the casting director of Universal International, Phil Benjamin.
This development led to her signing a contract with Universal in 1953. The studio had high hopes for their newest addition. They intended for her to bring the same level of success that Marilyn Monroe had brought to 20th Century Fox.
Universal first cast Van Doren in a small role in the film Forbidden which starred Tony Curtis. They then cast her in 1953s The All American, which incidentally also starred Curtis. In that film, Van Doren enjoyed her first major role playing a wayward girl named Susie Ward.
She followed that feature up with a role as a slave girl in 1954s Yankee Pasha, sharing the screen with Rhonda Fleming and Jeff Chandler. From there, she enjoyed roles in films such as Ain’t Misbehavin in 1955 and Star in the Dust in 1956 – the latter of which saw her starring opposite a young and relatively unknown at the time Clint Eastwood.
By this time, Van Doren had grown quite tired of Universal and wanted to move on to bigger and better roles with another studio.
She Was The Perfect ‘Bad Girl’
Van Doren went on to star in several film noir flicks that later became cult films. She also was featured in a few of the first rock and roll feature films. The combination of her ‘bad girl’ roles and her presence in movies all about the ‘devil’s music’ led to her developing a reputation for being rebellious. Around this time, she even made a few rock records to help cement that reputation.
In the following decade, Van Doren appeared in some of her most noteworthy films, including 1958s Teacher’s Pet, 1958s Born Reckless, and 1959s The Beat Generation. She also appeared in provocative roles in flicks like 1959s Girls Town, which portrayed her as a prison inmate. That movie ended drawing the ire of the censors due to scene in which she was seen naked from the back in the shower.
Likewise, in 1960s The Private Lives of Adam and Eve, Van Doren raised eyebrows when she wore just fig leaves, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what films like 1960s Sex Kittens Go to College, and Vice Raid were all about.
The majority of Van Doren’s film roles showed off her voluptuous curves, and her wardrobe typically consisted of low-cut blouses, tight sweaters, form-fitting dresses, and skimpy bathing suits.
After Universal declined to renew her contract in ’59, Van Doren became a free agent and struggled to find decent film roles. Many of her later films were foreign-language and Indie productions which did very little to keep her in the spotlight. Many of these later productions were exploitative B-movies which have since gained a large cult following for their campiness.
After appearing in 1960s Sex Kittens Go To College, Van Doren starred in the Argentinian film The Blonde of Buenos Aires, which hit limited theaters in 1961. She followed that up with appearances in 1964s The Candidate and Freddy in the Wild West.
In the next decade, Van Doren appeared in films such 1968s Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, 1970s The Arizona Kid, and 1975s That Girl From Boston. Since then, she’s appeared in only a handful of cameo roles in low-budget films. Her last film appearance was in the direct-to-video 2013 drama film The American Tetralogy.
She Decided To Focus On Family Life
Van Doren has been married five times and had a son named Perry Ray Anthony with her second husband, bandleader Ray Anthony, in 1957.
A couple of years ago, Van Doren admitted to Closer that the ‘days of the blondes started coming to an end’ after the deaths of Marilyn and Mansfield. Since she was the only one of the ‘Three M’s’ that was left and she didn’t want to raise her son in a seedy drug-infested environment like Hollywood, she ultimately made the decision to put her acting career on the back-burner to instead focus on raising her kid.
Van Doren has been married to her fifth husband, Thomas Dixon, since 1979. The two live in Newport Beach, California, where they love soaking in the fresh ocean air. When Perry was young, Van Doren used to take him down to go see the boats. It was actually on one of those wholesome outings that she ended up meeting Dixon. Sparks immediately flew, and they’ve been happily married ever since.
She Wrote A Memoir
Van Doren’s first memoir, which she titled Playing the Field hit store shelves in 1987. In that work, she details her time in Hollywood, including dating many of Tinsel Town’s most eligible bachelors, including Frank Sinatra and Johnny Carson. Recently, Van Doren announced that she had completed work on her second book. The follow-up to her first memoir, China & Me: Wind Flapping, Feather Pulling, and Love on the Wing, which is about her pet parrot China, was published in September 2022.
In 2020, she told Fox News that a lot has happened in her life since 1987. This time around, she wanted to write about what it’s like growing older and appreciating life as it comes. She also wanted to discuss how you end up getting smarter the older you get. What we ended up getting with her most recent release not only covered those topics, but it also showed us how her relationship with China has helped guide her through some of the most challenging chapters of her life.
Van Doren also writes about politics and current events on her blog. So if you’re interested in getting her take on topics like that, you should check it out! She and her husband maintain her website where various short films starring herself and the merchandise are available.
She Firmly Believes That Age Is Just A Number
In an interview that she gave with Bust in 2021, Van Doren discussed what it was like being in her nineties. In that candid interview, she gave the readers a bit of wise advice by stating her belief that one’s age all depends on their attitude.
After saying that we should all try our best to forget how old we are, Van Doren stated that “life doesn’t even start until 40”.
We could all stand to take Van Doren’s advice and not let our age hold us back from doing the things that we love. After all, you only live once. You might as well make the most of it.
On that note, we’ll go ahead and wind this video down. It’s lovely to see that Mamie Van Doren is still alive and well. At 91, you would think that she would be weighed down by her advancing age and the litany of health issues that go along with that, but actually she seems to be just as feisty as she ever was.
Mamie Van Doren’s acting career may never have taken her to the same heights as Marilyn Monroe, but seeing as how she’s the last surviving blonde bombshell of Hollywood’s golden age, she’s got good reason to celebrate. Not only is she happily married to the love of her life, but she’s also got that pet Parakeet, China, to keep her company!
Anyway, before you go, take a moment to show us a little support by dropping us a line in the comments. What’s your favorite Mamie Van Doren film, and how do you think she stacks up against the other blonde bombshells of her day, Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield?