Jayne Mansfield’s story is a fascinating one, to say the least. Her tale, as many of our longtime viewers already know, ended in tragedy and throughout her career, she experienced several high and low points, but that doesn’t make her any less of a legend.
Mansfield was one of the biggest sex symbols of the 1950s and early 1960s. She was a member of a very exclusive club of blonde bombshells that the press often dubbed The Three M’s – the other two members of this outfit being Marilyn Monroe and Mamie Van Doren.
While Mansfield is best remembered for her film work, appearing in movies like The Girl Can’t Help It, The Wayward Bus, Promises! Promises! and Too Hot To Handle, she also performed on Broadway, most notably in 1955s Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
She got her start modeling for Playboy magazine, although prior to that, she won several beauty contests while attending the University of Texas At Austin, including Miss Photoflash, Miss Fire Prevention Week, and Miss Magnesium Lamp.
As her film career began to wane, Mansfield transitioned over to television for a while before taking some time away from the spotlight to focus on her family. She was mother of five after all. Eventually, however, her love for entertaining led her to make a second career out of performing in Las Vegas and later at nightclubs and burlesque shows.
In this video, we’ll be honing in on Jayne Mansfield’s latter years performing stripteases and doing burlesque. We’ll also take some time to discuss a few of the more controversial moments of her storied career. From her Playboy days to becoming one of the first American actresses to perform in a Hollywood nude scene to the publicity stunts that helped give her career a boost when she really needed it, this is the untold behind-the-scenes story of Jayne Mansfield that most of you probably haven’t heard before. Just be advised, this is one video that’s not suitable for younger viewers.
Facts Verse Presents: Photos of Jayne Mansfield’s Burlesque Days Show More Than We Bargained For
From Hollywood To Vegas
Known for her curvaceous figure and over-the-top personality, Jayne Mansfield was a successful film star, burlesque performer, and tabloid personality that 20th Century Fox once called “Marilyn Monroe King Sized”
In the 50s and 60s, Mansfield starred on both the stage and screen. At first, Hollywood was reluctant to work with her due to her very prominent bust, but after she posed for Playboy magazine in 1955, Mansfield became a much sought-after star.
In 1958, she married Mr. Universe, Mickey Hargitay. The two met at one of Mae West’s stage shows, where Hargitay used to perform in the chorus. Immediately after meeting, Mickey and Jayne became completely infatuated with each other – much to the dismay of West.
Eventually, the two love birds got married and had three children together, one of whom is the lovely Mariska Hargitay, best known for starring in Law & Order: SVU. Brief side note, Mansfield also had two other children from other marriages.
After getting pregnant back to back to back, Hollywood began to lose interest in Mansfield – an actress who at one point was poised to fill the shoes of Marilyn Monroe.
Instead of returning to Hollywood, Mansfield’s career eventually experienced a second wind with her stage performances in Vegas. In February of 1968, she launched a striptease revue called The Tropicana Holiday at the Tropicana Las Vegas hotel and casino.
The revue was produced by Monte Proser and Mickey Hargitay served as Jayne’s co-star. The show was initially given a four-week contract but following it’s initial success, was extended to eight. Opening night raised $20,000 for the non-profit March of Dimes, which in today’s dollars is about $188,000.
Mansfield earned $25,000 a week for her portrayal of Trixie Divoon in the show. At the same time, her contract with 20th Century Fox was still paying her $2,500 a week. So, she was doing quite for herself.
And just in case Hargitay accidentally dropped her while he twirled her around during the show, Mansfield had a million-dollar policy with the insurance agency Lloyd’s of London.
The following year, Jayne returned to the Tropicana, making $30,000 a week. Once again, her show filled seats, so she ended getting her contract extended not once but twice.
In 1960, Vegas’s Dunes Hotel and Casino launched The House Of Love – another revue dreamed up by Mansfield and Hargitay. For that show, she received $35,000 a week – the highest salary of her career.
At the shows both at the Tropicana and Dunes, Mansfield donned a wardrobe that featured a gold mesh dress adorned with sequins to cover up her chest and pubic region. The outfit proved to be quite controversial, with the media referring to it as ‘Jayne Manfield and a few sequins”.
Outside Of Vegas
In early 1963, Jayne Mansfield performed her first club show outside of Vegas, at the Plantation Supper Club in Greensboro, North Carolina. In one week, she earned $23,000. After that, she performed at Iroquois Gardens in Louisville, Kentucky, banking a similar amount of cash.
After touring around the country for a bit, Jayne returned to Las Vegas in 1966, but this time around her show was held on Fremont Street, blocks away from the Strip where the Dunes and Tropicana were. Her final nightclub act, French Dressing, was staged at the Latin Quarter in New York City in 1966. That performance was repeated at the Tropicana in a modified form that ran for six weeks.
Mansfield’s nightclub career inspired several films, documentaries, and even a musical album. In 1962, Fox released a recording of her revue ‘The House of Love’ in the form of an album Jayne Mansfield Busts Up Las Vegas.
In 1960s Too Hot To Handle, Mansfield played a burlesque entertainer named Midnight Franklin. Several years later, she played a Sin City showgirl named Tawni Downs in 1968s The Las Vegas Hillbillys.
In 1967, Manfield and Hargitay, as well as Constance Moore and Clara Ward, were guest stars in the independent documentary film Spree which served as a travelogue of Juliet Prowse and Vic Damone. In the film, Mansfield is seen stripping and singing the song “Promise Her Anything” from the movie Promises! Promises!
Later in her career, Mansfield branched out to doing far more than just burlesque performances. She frequently made special appearances at nightclubs and special engagements while also going on tour. By 1960, just seven years before her passing, she was making personal appearances for everything from drug store openings to supermarket promotions, netting roughly $10,000 per appearance.
She Wasn’t Shy
Jayne Mansfield was ahead of her time. Decades before body positivity was in vogue and all the internet seems to talk about, she proudly embraced her body and wasn’t afraid to show it off. Sure, some considered her to be plus-sized at a time when that wasn’t considered the most desirable thing to be, but she owned her curves and wasn’t afraid to flaunt them.
The mother of five shamelessly stripped to her birthday suit – or at least close to it – on stage for many years, but she also earned a special place in cinema history for being the first American actress to appear nude on film in a post silent-film-era Hollywood feature.
Actor and producer Tommy Noonan managed to convince Manfield to bear it all on screen when she appeared in the starring role in his 1963 film Promises! Promises!. The films poster didn’t mince words when it promoted what the feature was all about. In big bold words at the top, the poster read “NOW SEE All of Jayne Mansfield!”
Playboy subsequently published nude photos of Mansfield on the film’s set in it’s June 1963 issue. This led to obscenity charges getting pressed against Hugh Hefner in a Chicago court. Several US cities, including Cleveland, Ohio, banned the film outright, but otherwise enjoyed a great deal of commercial success.
Anything For Publicity
Jayne Mansfield was well aware that she could leverage her looks and sex appeal to dial up some much-needed publicity. In fact, if it weren’t for a few of the salacious publicity stunts that she pulled, she might not have achieved the same level of success that she did.
In January 1955, Mansfield made an appearance a press junket promoting the film Underwater! in Silver Springs, Florida. Purposefully trying to steal the attention away from the film’s star, Jane Russell, Mansfield wore a very skimpy red bikini that was lent to her by her photographer friend Peter Gowland.
When Jayne dove into the swimming pool, her top came off, and the resulting photos created a sudden burst of media attention. Simply put, the press took the bait hook, line, and sinker. The ensuing publicity led both Playboy and Warner Bros to approach her with lucrative offers.
Later that year, while attending a movie party and later at s club, Mansfield’s dress fell down to her waist twice in the same evening. Then in February 1958, she decided to go topless at a Carnival celebration in Rio de Janeiro.
Similarly, in June 1962, Jayne shimmied her way out of her polka-dotted dress at a nightclub in Rome.
Perhaps most infamously, Mansfield’s breasts were the focus of a ballsy publicity stunt devised to detract press attention away from actress Sophia Loren at a dinner party that was being held in Loren’s honor. Photos of Mansfield’s bosom were published in papers and gossip rags throughout the world. The most famous photo showed Loren gazing directly at Mansfield’s cleavage. When Mansfield leaned over the table, everything pretty much came spilling on out.
At the time, the world, particularly the moral majority, was quick to condemn Manfield’s publicity stunts, but there was no denying that they helped make her one of the most controversial and thus well-known stars on the planet. Still, by the late 1950s, Mansfield began to generate way too much negative publicity due to her repeated exposure of her breasts in those carefully crafted wardrobe malfunctions.
Because of her exploits, Richard Blackwell, her wardrobe designer, dropped her as a client. In 1967, The LA Times wrote that Mansfield often confused publicity and notoriety with celebrity and stardom, and that the end result is distasteful to the public. If that’s not burn, then we don’t know what is!
Jayne Mansfield was tragically killed instantly on June 29, 1967, when the car she was riding in struck the rear of a trailer truck on US Rte. 90 just east of New Orleans. She was just 34 years old when her flame was suddenly snuffed out.
Still, Mansfield’s legacy has continued to live on. Sure, she was the controversy queen, but she knew how to use scandal and her god-given good looks to her advantage in a way few at the time came close to accomplishing.
Long before Instagram and reality TV, Mansfield knew how to capture the public’s attention and use publicity to help her land lucrative contracts and opportunities. Not surprisingly, even though her film career eventually waned, her time doing burlesque and striptease shows proved equally profitable.
Did you know that Jayne Mansfield was making the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars a week with her Vegas revues and that she continued to make bank doing personal appearances at clubs and events throughout the country? Share your thoughts on the late blonde bombshell in the comments. And as always, thanks for watching.