Jayne Mansfield (April 19, 1933 — June 29, 1967) was an American actress working both on Broadway and in Hollywood. One of the leading blonde sex symbols of the 1950s, Mansfield starred in several popular Hollywood films that emphasized her platinum-blonde hair, hourglass figure and cleavage-revealing costumes.
While Mansfield’s film career was short-lived, she had several box office successes. She won the Theatre World Award, a Golden Globe and a Golden Laurel. As the demand for blonde bombshells declined in the 1960s, Mansfield was relegated to low-budget film melodramas and comedies, but remained a popular celebrity.
In her later career she continued to attract large crowds in foreign countries and in lucrative and successful nightclub tours. Mansfield had been a Playboy Playmate of the Month and appeared in the magazine several additional times. She died in an automobile accident at age 34.
In 1955, she enjoyed a successful Broadway run acting in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?. This wild comedy starred Mansfield as Rita Marlowe, a wild blonde Hollywood actress. The play also starred Orson Bean and Walter Matthau. Returning to Hollywood on May 3, 1956, Mansfield signed a six-year contract with 20th Century Fox. Fox had plans to mold Jayne as a Marilyn Monroe second, to threaten Monroe when she got out of line. The studio capitalized Jayne as, “Marilyn Monroe King Sized”. Jayne was then given her first starring role as Jerri Jordan in the film production of Frank Tashlin’s The Girl Can’t Help It (1956). The film features some early performances from Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Fats Domino, The Platters and Little Richard.
Jayne then played a straight dramatic role in The Wayward Bus in 1957. In this film, she attempted to move away from her “dumb blonde” image and establish herself as a serious actress. This film was adapted from John Steinbeck’s novel, and the cast included Dan Dailey and Joan Collins. The film enjoyed reasonable success at the box office. She won a Golden Globe in 1957 for New Star Of The Year – Actress, beating Carroll Baker and Natalie Wood, for her performance as a “wistful derelict” in The Wayward Bus. It was “generally conceded to have been her best acting,” according to The New York Times, in a fitful career hampered by her flamboyant image, distinctive voice (“a soft-voiced coo punctuated with squeals”), voluptuous figure, and limited acting range. Mansfield reprised her role of Rita Marlowe in the 1957 movie version of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, co-starring Tony Randall and Joan Blondell. The Girl Can’t Help It and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? were popular successes in their day and are considered classics.
Mansfield’s fourth starring role in a Hollywood film was in Kiss Them for Me (1957) in which she received prominent billing alongside Cary Grant. However, in the film itself she is little more than comedy relief while Grant’s character shows a preference for a sleek, demure redhead portrayed by fashion model Suzy Parker. Kiss Them for Me was a box office disappointment and would prove to be her final starring role in a mainstream Hollywood studio film. The movie was described as “vapid” and “ill-advised.” It was also one of the last attempts of 20th Century Fox to publicize her. The continuing publicity around her physical presence failed to sustain her career. Mansfield was then offered a part opposite Jack Lemmon in Bell, Book and Candle, but had to turn it down due to pregnancy. After turning the part down, Mansfield got word that her rival Kim Novak would replace her in the film. In 1958, Fox gave Jayne the lead role as Kate opposite Kenneth More in the western spoof, The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw. Despite being filmed in 1958, The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw, wasn’t released in the United States until 1959. The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw required Jayne to sing three songs; she wasn’t a trained singer, therefore, the studio hired singer Connie Francis, to sing the numbers for her.
The Fat Spy is a 1966 Z movie that attempts to parody teenage beach party films. It was filmed at Cape Coral, Florida. It is featured in the 2004 documentary The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made. Barely released to theaters in 1966, it was rarely seen until the 1990s, when it was widely released on DVD and VHS in various editions sold mainly at dollar stores.