The 1950’s and 60’s were graced by several prominent bombshells, who lit up the silver screen, and became hugely famous not only for their talent, but for their beauty as well. Sadly, many of them had tragic ends, far too young. Join Facts Verse, as we present: Old Hollywood Bombshells Who Died Tragically Young
While Joi Lansing’s name might not rise to the top of the list of bombshells in the 50’s and 60’s, she was certainly a famous and successful figure. And she was one who tragically died far too young. Like the notorious “3 M’s” – aka Marilyn Monroe, Mammie Van Doren, and Jayne Mansfield, Joi was admired for her curvy figure, blond tresses, and overall beauty. She started out early, signing with MGM when she was only 14. Her big break can when she landed the role of Shirley Swanson on the show, “Love That Bob.” It was a long running gig for Joi, as she stayed on the show for 125 episodes over the course of five years. From there, she was able to use her fame to continue getting work in TV, film, and on stage. She was even a staple of nightclub performances, at a time when this type of performance was much more common. She starred in films like “Who Was That Lady?” “Klondike, and “Marriage on the Rocks,” before landing what would be the other big role in her career: her part as the wife of Lester Flatt in “The Beverly Hillbillies” She was on that hit show from 1965 to 68. Throughout her career, she was always utilized as a “glamour girl” who shined on screen due to her looks. But she hated the moniker, saying it ultimately held her back creatively, and career wise. It also meant that she felt immense pressure to keep up her youthful and gorgeous looks. She reportedly took many different supplements in an attempt to keep her young looks, and there were rumors that she got breast augmentation surgery to be even more busty.
Sadly, Joi died in 1972, at age 44, of breast and ovarian cancer. She had reportedly undergone cancer treatment surgery two years prior as well, and she also had severe anemia. There have been some who posited the notion that her cancers were caused by her various cosmetic injections and hormonal treatments to try to retain her youthful long and elongate her career. If this is true, it’s certainly a tragic twist on her sad story.
Jayne Mansfield is perhaps the second most well known of the blonde bombshells from this era, with Marilyn Monroe taking the top slot. Still, Jayne was a gorgeous and famous star who was able to make a career off of her curves. She found a later start than many young stars, heading to Hollywood only after she was 21, and already married. She also already had a child. Her success came, in large part, because of the success Monroe was already having. Every studio wanted to find their answer to Monroe, to cash in on the craze of the blonde bombshell. Since Mansfield was already a voluptuous version of Monroe, it seemed natural that she’d be put up as a Monroe alternative. And her version of Monroe was even curvier, and slightly naughtier, an image that Mansfield was happy to play up. Monroe certainly took notice, and wasn’t exactly flattered by the imitation. She once remarked that the imitations were an insult to both of them. She added that while imitation is supposed to be considered flattery, she found Mansfield’s take on her look to be vulgar and gross.
Mansfield played into the rivalry, and wasn’t shy about her image or her body. She reportedly started secretly seeing President Kennedy after Monroe had, remarking that Marilyn must have been pissed to find out about it. She posed nude in Playboy, and was known for flashing photographers on the street. She was even the first actress in America to be fully naked on screen. This happened in the movie Promises, Promises, in 1963. Mansfield was known for movies like The Girl Can’t Help It, and Too Hot to Handle. It seemed as if she’d have a long and healthy career. Sadly, Mansfield tragically lost her life in a car accident in 1967. She was travelling with her 3 children, her boyfriend at the time, as well as a driver, en route to New Orleans. She’d come from a performance in Biloxi, Mississippi that night. Their car smashed into the back of a trailer truck. The three adults in the front seat, and their family dog, were all killed instantly. Amazingly, the children in the back seat managed to survive the ordeal. Mansfield was wearing a wig in the car, which was thrown off her head upon impact. Photographs of it were mistakenly identified as her head, and thus the rumor began that she’d been decapitated. While that wasn’t true, she did die of severe head trauma from the accident.
There’s no more famous blonde bombshell than the inimitable Marilyn Monroe. Born in 1926 in Los Angeles, Norma Jeane Mortenson grew up under the care of various foster parents and an orphanage. She managed to climb her way to the top of the world though, becoming perhaps the biggest starlet in the world, and of all time. When she was 18, she changed her name to Marilyn Monroe, and began a modeling career. Two years later, she got a contract with 20th Century Fox, and began her foray into the acting world. In the early 50’s studio, critics, and audiences began to pay attention to young Marilyn, as she appeared in small parts in movies like All About Eve, and The Asphalt Jungle. She was so compelling on screen that she was able to parlay those roles into a string of acting successes. Over the course of the 50’s she rose to the biggest star in Hollywood, on the backs of both her modeling, as well as movies like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Seven-Year Itch, and Some Like It Hot. She became a favorite of tabloid publications, who followed her every move. She famously married baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, and she had a marriage to playwright Arthur Miller too. And while she brilliantly played up the image of the beautiful, but not so bright, starlet, in reality Monroe was incredibly smart and well read. She preferred staying at home and reading books on philosophy and poetry to going to Hollywood parties. But she knew how to play the Hollywood game as well.
Sadly, Monroe’s life came to an early and tragic end on August 5th, 1962. She was found in her home in LA, having overdosed on sedatives. There were empty pill bottle strewn around the room, and the police ruled it as a suicide. However, in the years since, there have been many unconfirmed theories put forth, some of which claiming she was murdered, others claiming the overdose was an accident. Regardless, the world lost this bright star far too soon.
Natalie Wood wasn’t a blonde bombshell, but she was certainly a bombshell. She was also an incredibly talented actress who left behind a body of work that rivaled any actress of her era. She started out as a child actress, scoring a part in her first movie at age 4, and finding huge success from her role in Miracle on 34th Street. And unlike many child stars, she was able to transition into adulthood with grace and without burning out. She received her first Oscar nomination for her performance in Rebel Without a Cause, alongside James Dean. She sadly had to find out about her friend and costar’s death of a car crash, and she was tremendously distraught. It was an eerie foreshadowing to her own untimely death. Those hers didn’t come at the hands of a car accident – it was aboard a boat. But before that, she starred in movies like West Side Story, Love with the Proper Stranger, and Splendor in the Grass. She got two more Oscar nominations for the latter two of those.
She was married to actor Richard Wagner two times, having divorced from him for around a decade, then marrying him again. It was while she was still married to him that she was killed in a boating accident. She reportedly fell overboard in the waters off the shore of Catalina Island in California. For years, the people aboard the boat, which included Wagner and Christopher Walken, were not charged with being involved in her death, which was ruled an accident. But more recently the investigation was reopened, and her cause of death was changed to, “drowning and other undetermined factors.” A few years later, in 2018, Wagner was newly named as a person of interest in the case, though he has yet to be charged with anything.
Grace Kelly managed to make the incredible transitions from ordinary girl, to huge movie star, to literal princess. And she managed to pack all of that into only a little bit of life, as hers was cut tragically short in 1982. Born in Philly, Grace found success at age 22 when she was cast in her first movie, Fourteen Hours. She popped on screen in a major way, with her flawless features and stunning physique. She was able to parlay that success to more roles in prominent films such as Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, and The Country Girl, the latter of which she won an Oscar for Best Actress. At the height of her Hollywood fame, she fell in love with Prince Rainier of Monaco. They got married, making her the Princess of Monaco. That position had many demands, not least of which was that she was required to give up her acting career. But she said yes, in the name of love. Sadly, she suffered a stroke while behind the wheel of her car on Sept 13th, 1982. The car went down the side of a steep mountain and fell into a ravine. Amazingly she and her daughter survived the initial crash. And while her daughter, Stephanie, recovered from the crash eventually, Grace died the next day in the hospital.
Now it’s time to hear from you. Which of these bombshells from the ‘50s and ‘60s is your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below!