Pregnant at 15, married at 16, at 18 the spectacularly endowed Vera Palmer left Dallas, Texas for Hollywood, determined to become famous. She became Jayne Mansfield, a curious blend of homespun innocence and outstanding sexuality. With her 40 inch bust, perfect teeth and an insatiable lust for publicity, she was made for the camera. And she had the personality to match – she was as brazen and sexy as the image she created for herself.
Insane though it sounds, Jayne’s achievement in Hollywood was a feminist victory. No man created Jayne Mansfield – she did it all herself. She understood instinctively the power of her sexuality and she exploited it without shame to get what she wanted. One writer described her as “all bust, bum and broken promises”. Her first agent saw the skill of the trick: “She knew it all, she wanted to do it all by herself.”
Mansfield’s shining moment was brief. She died, not a movie star, but a second-rate nightclub entertainer, decapitated in a car crash. There were stories of occult curses and wild boozing sprees, and even in death she was the centre of a blaze of publicity. But, according to her former husband, adviser and lifelong love, Mickey Hargitay, she was, when she died, just at the point of reinventing herself.
Callan examines Mansfield’s life and the uniqueness of her short, fated career.