Jayne Mansfield

Mansfield 66/67 (2017)

Mansfield 66/67

In Hollywood, blonde bombshells don’t always have the longest lifespans. Many of the most popular blonde actresses of all time have died young under tragic circumstances, from Jean Harlow to Marilyn Monroe and, of course, Jayne Mansfield. On June 29, 1967, Jayne was killed in a car accident at the age of 34 while she was on her way to an appearance in New Orleans. While this might seem like a pretty straightforward cause of death, there are long-standing rumors that she had actually died as the result of a curse by Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan.

Jayne Mansfield catapulted to stardom in the 1950s thanks to her figure, her Marilyn Monroe-esque image, and her unrelenting love of publicity stunts. But as American culture shifted into the 1960s, the whole image and style of glamour embodied by Mansfield began to fall out of favor. However, her desire for attention hadn’t even begun to be satisfied and she started actively trying to keep up with the changing times by doing things like hanging out on the Sunset Strip and any place else where she would be photographed. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Anton LaVey was just as hungry for publicity as Jayne and was eager to bring more celebrity followers into the Church of Satan. When Jayne decided to crash the 1966 San Francisco Film Festival, she ended up meeting Anton LaVey and it was the beginning of a match made in publicity stunt hell.

Jayne Mansfield with Anton LaVey

Jayne Mansfield with Anton LaVey

Over the course of their relationship, Jayne and Anton were repeatedly photographed together, both in Jayne’s infamous Pink Palace home and in Anton’s Black House in San Francisco. Of course, this got people talking. Was Jayne Mansfield really a practicing Satanist? Were Jayne Mansfield and Anton LaVey having an affair? The big rumor is that Sam Brody, Jayne’s boyfriend/lawyer at the time, got on the bad side of Anton and he put a curse on Brody, warning him that he would die in a car crash. Supposedly, Anton told Jayne to stay away from Sam, but she didn’t listen. Brody was indeed killed in that car accident along with Jayne and in the time leading up to that fatal accident, he had been involved in multiple other car accidents.

The 2017 documentary Mansfield 66/67 explores the rumors surrounding Jayne Mansfield’s association with the Church of Satan and the role it may or may not have had in her untimely death. Since so much of what we know about the life of Jayne Mansfield comes from media coverage, it can be difficult to know what exactly is real and what just sounds good. Mansfield 66/67 never pretends to have any definitive answers. It describes itself as being “A true story based on rumor and hearsay,” which is a completely accurate description of it. But even if it doesn’t draw any conclusions, that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining.

Mansfield 66/67 takes a very campy and playful approach to the subject, complete with dance numbers, animation, and a theme song performed by Donna Loren. It features interviews with a mix of cultural commentators and celebrities, including John Waters, Mamie Van Doren, Tippi Hedren, Mary Woronov, and Hollywood Babylon author Kenneth Anger. Everyone has their own theories about who Jayne really was, what happened between her and Anton LaVey, and how active she was in the Church of Satan. I watched the documentary a few times because it was so fun and the whole legend of this story is just so wild. We’ll never know the full truth, but who needs the truth when the legend is this fascinating?

If you’d like to see it for yourself, Mansfield 66/67 is available on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital download.

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Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)

When advertising writer Rockwell P. Hunter (Tony Randall) finds his job on the line, he has one last chance to win over his agency’s biggest client, Stay-Put Lipstick.  When he sees actress Rita Marlowe (Jayne Mansfield) on television, he has a stroke of genius.  Rita is known for her “oh-so-kissable lips,” so having her endorse Stay-Put Lipstick would surely be a huge success.  The folks at Stay-Put Lipstick agree, so Rock sets out to get Rita to agree to endorse Stay-Put.

Luckily for Rock, Rita just happens to be in town trying to forget about her boyfriend Bobo (Mickey Hargitay).  She agrees to endorse Stay-Put, but only if Rock pretends to be her new boyfriend to make Bobo jealous.  Rock goes along with it, but nothing could prepare him for what happens next.  Bobo does, indeed, get jealous.  So jealous that he talks to the press about how Rita’s been running around with an ad exec named Rock Hunter, or as she calls him, “Lover Doll.”  Before he knows it, he’s all over the newspapers and Rita’s fans are clamoring to get a piece of him.  Rita gets a lot of great publicity out of it, but it isn’t all bad for Rock, either.  Not only does the whole world think he’s the greatest lover to ever walk the earth, he finally starts getting the recognition at work he’s wanted so badly.  But once he finds success, he isn’t sure if he really wants it.

One person not happy with this situation is Rock’s fiancée Jenny (Betsy Drake), who doesn’t believe Rock’s repeated assurances that he loves her, not Rita.  Desperate to not lose him, she begins trying to make herself more like Rita.  Meanwhile, Rita begins to actually fall for Rock and wants him to really be her boyfriend.  But her secretary Violet (Joan Blondell) knows her better than she knows herself and can see that she’s really just looking for a man to replace her one true love, George Schmidlap.

I can sum up Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? in two words: absolutely hilarious.  What Bombshell is to Jean Harlow, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? is to Jayne Mansfield.  It bears very little resemblance to the stage play, but it does stand well on its own.  The first time I saw it, I wasn’t even planning to watch it at the time, but I happened to catch the first few minutes and it looked like so much fun that I didn’t want to turn it off.  Everyone’s performances were very entertaining, but Tony Randall was particularly hilarious.  Even though it’s a satire on television and advertising in the 1950s, a lot of the jokes have held up surprisingly well over time.  It’s just great fun.  And wait until you see who plays George Schmidlap!

What’s on TCM: November 2011

If you’re a fan of blonde bombshells, this is the month for you!  Rather than having just one star of the month, TCM will be spotlighting two classic blondes every Monday and Wednesday this month.  All the classic blondes like Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, Jean Harlow, and Jayne Mansfield (just to name a few) will be getting their time to shine.  And in preparation for the TCM Classic Film Cruise, they’ll be playing a night of movies set on ships every Thursday.  Lots of fun stuff to look forward to, so let’s get to my picks for the month:

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