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April 20, 2024

30 Vintage Photos of Jayne Mansfield in the 1960s

One of the leading sex symbols of the 1950s and 1960s, film actress Jayne Mansfield was born Vera Jayne Palmer on April 19, 1933 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, the only child of Vera J. (nee Palmer; later Peers) and Herbert W. Palmer. Her parents were well-to-do, with her father a successful attorney in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, where she spent a portion of her childhood. Her parents were both born with the same surname, and her ancestry was seven eighths English and Cornish and one eighth German. She was reportedly a talented pianist and played the violin when she was young.

Tragedy struck when Jayne was three, when her father suddenly died of a heart attack. Three years later, her mother remarried and she and her mother moved to Dallas, Texas, buying a small home where she had violin concerts in the driveway of their home. Her IQ was reportedly 163, and she attended the University of Dallas and participated in little-theater productions. In 1949, at the age of 16, she married a man five years her senior named Paul Mansfield. In November 1950, when Jayne was seventeen, their daughter, Jayne Marie Mansfield was born. The union ended in divorce but she kept the surname Mansfield as a good surname for an actress.

After some productions there and elsewhere, Jayne decided to go to Hollywood. Her first film was a bit role as a cigarette girl in Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955). Although the roles in the beginning were not much, she was successful in gaining those roles because of her ample physical attributes which placed her in two other films that year, Hell on Frisco Bay (1955) and Illegal (1955). Her breakout role came the next year with a featured part in The Burglar (1957). By the time she portrayed Rita Marlowe in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) and Playgirl After Dark (1960), Jayne was now known as the poor man’s Marilyn Monroe. She did not get the plum roles that Marilyn got in her productions. Instead, her films were more of a showcase for her body more than anything else. She did have a real talent for acting, but the movie executives insisted she stay in her dumb blonde stereotype roles. By the 1960s, her career had options that grew lower. She made somewhat embarrassing guest appearances like on the popular game show What’s My Line? (1950), she appeared on the show four times in 1956, 1957, 1964, and 1966 and many other 1950s and 1960s game shows. By 1962, she was dropped from 20th Century Fox and the rest of her career had smaller options like being in B movies and low budget movies or performing at food stores or small nightclubs.

While traveling from a nightclub in Biloxi, Mississippi and 30 miles from New Orleans to where she was to be on television the following day, she was killed instantly on Highway 90 in Slidell, Louisiana in a car crash in the early hours of June 29, 1967, when the car in which she was riding slammed into the back of a semi-tractor trailer truck that had stopped due to a truck in front of the tractor trailer that was spraying for bugs. Her car went under the truck at nearly 80 miles per hour. Her boyfriend Samuel Brody and their driver Ronnie Harrison, were also killed. The damage to the car was so bad that the engine was twisted sideways. She was not, however, decapitated, as had long been misreported. She was 34 years old.

Mansfield’s funeral was on July 3, 1967 and hundreds of people lined the main street of Pen Argyl for her funeral, a small private ceremony at Fairview Cemetery in Plainfield (outside Pen Argyl), Pennsylvania (where her father was also buried), attended by her family. The only ex-husband to attend was Mickey Hargitay. Her final film, Single Room Furnished (1966), was released the following year. In 2000, Mansfield’s 97 year old mother, Mrs. Vera Peers, was interred alongside Mansfield.


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