Which Is For Real?—Jayne Mansfield
Now that Jayne Mansfield has made Hollywood, she has only one ambition. Not to be a great actress, an artiste, a heroine, comedienne or another Garbo.
“All I want to be,” says Jayne, “is a star. A glimmering, shimmering star, the 1927 variety in a 1957 setting. The word ‘star’ always had a special meaning for me,” she explains frankly, “and I want to do everything I can to fulfill it.” This, despite the fact that in fulfilling it she’s brought down a storm of criticism on her silver-blond head.
Like the furor she kicked up at Sophia Loren’s recent party.
Jayne arrived, took over and reduced the soirée to a shambles in a matter of minutes.
In a skin tight, pale blue lame sheath, slit to the knee on one side and exposed to the elements on all others, Jayne minced into the Crown Room of Romanoff’s and voom—no more Sophia.
As one, the photographers moved in as Jayne in a shockingly low-cut gown leaned over Sophia, across Sophia, around Sophia and in front of Sophia, refusing to budge until they had had their fill. And most photographers are decidedly hard to fill.
At a gala premiere a few evenings after, Jayne again stole the spotlight when her best beau, muscleman Mickey Hargitay calmly hoisted her into the air in front of the theatre. In that prone position, balanced beautifully on Mickey’s strong hands, Jayne obligingly signed autographs for clamoring fans even in the top sidewalk bleachers.
Gary Cooper had just begun a speech for the benefit of TV-viewers when Jayne’s acrobatic feat took place. From then on, Gary was left talking to himself as cameras swung out to grab the more spectacular show in front.
When everyone from the P.T.A. to the Hollywood press criticized her next day, Jayne, a little girl with a big heart, was “utterly bewildered.”
Now opinion is divided in Hollywood as to Jayne’s motives for these antics. As one columnist suggests, Jayne has it made. She’s already established in Hollywood. From now on, vulgarity can only react to her own discredit. And Jayne’s much too nice a person to reap such a harvest.
One Hollywoodite offers the explanation that the famous Monroe calendar gave Jayne an objective she’s been desperately trying to surpass. If not in quality at least in quantity.
Another insists Jayne has been sold an outdated bill of goods on how to take Hollywood by storm. “Be seen constantly and spectacularly. Grab the spotlight on all occasions and hold on to it. Never give up.”
In both these theories there lingers a grain of truth. But the impelling and compelling motive lies in a sort of mixed-up dream about Hollywood that Jayne has nourished through the years.
At the age of five she set her sights on movies. The exigencies of fate—such as marriage and motherhood—got in the way, but in those intervening years, Jayne’s dreams of Hollywood, fed by longing and hoping, took on a sort of Alice Through the Looking Glass perspective where people behaved in a peculiarly odd fashion, long, long, long outmoded.
For instance her ambition to be a “star.” So, as far as Jayne is concerned, let those who will pursue the methods of the Actors Studio or the gloom of Dostoevski. Let others wear sweat shirts and blue jeans. Neurosis, psychosis and mental explosives. It’s all just fine with Jayne, just fine.
Only let her ride down Wilshire Boulevard in her pink Jaguar with Lord Byron, her great Dane, by her side. Let her wrap herself in snow white pelts and live in a mansion with solid gold everything. Let her lead her ocelot down Sunset Boulevard on a diamond-studded chain wafting “Jungle Gardenia” as she goes. Let cameras click and strong men “no not Mickey, my goodness” tremble with desire.
To Jayne, that’s being a “star.” Her dream. Her goal. And every move she makes in public, every pose, every antic is dedicated to that great and glorious day when glamorous stardom comes to Jayne Mansfield. And never mind about the logic of it all.
All that she is and all that she has is dedicated to her dream.
Nothing has been left to chance. The works of old masters have obviously been studied over and over. Such “old masters” as Marie Wilson, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Marilyn Monroe, to name a few.
Her conversation drips with imitative reflections of all she has gleaned.
Of Mickey, she says, “Don’t think Mickey is only just muscles. He has plenty of muscles between the ears, too.” A typical Marie Wilson observation if ever there Was one.
With a low bow to Zsa Zsa Gabor she twits, “I didn’t come to Hollywood to get engaged. I came out here to be a star.”
“In New York,” Jayne says, “I went out with Oleg Cassini and lots of counts and dukes and princes. All shorter than I was.
“They don’t give you many presents, either,” she confided. “Well, one did offer me a string of camels. But who can exercise with a camel?”
And, of course, she’s so right. With Mickey nearby, who would want to?
Jayne met Mickey at the Latin Quarter in New York where, as “Mr. Universe,” he was appearing in an act with Mae West. During the performance Jayne turned to her escort and said, “Please, I’ll take a steak for my dog and that one on the end for myself.” “That one on the end” was Mickey. They’ve been engaged ever since.
Jayne’s divorce becomes final on October twenty-third and of her marriage to Mickey, Jayne says, “I’m not going to be rushed. But when I do get married it won’t be any elopement like my first wedding when I was seventeen. I’m going to have a big reception. The swimming pool will be filled with pink champagne. Jayne Marie will be my flower girl. Everybody I love will be there. So will all my cats and dogs, wearing big ribbons.”
Now, Mickey and Jayne have a fine arrangement. Between his movie jobs Mickey lays bricks in the patio and builds dog houses for the pets. The new pink one for Lord Byron is almost as large as Jayne’s own house. A real beauty. It’s Mickey’s job, too, to bathe the seven dogs while Jayne whips up separate mink collars for each. Pink mink, breath of spring mink. . . .
The “pink” craze, one suspects, has to do with Kim Novak’s lavender binge, so obviously does it creep into the conversation. And over a lunch table with Jayne, strange and wonderful things do have a way of creeping in. For oddly enough, Jayne’s fanciful make-believe of “glamorous stardom” includes everyone and everything around her and the interviewer is gradually seized with the idea that somewhere along the line time has slipped a cog and we’re back again with Gloria Swanson on a tiger-skin rug.
Like the detailed account of her Friday-evening routine.
With no morning call the following day, Jayne explained, she takes endless time in preparing a luxurious bath of soft pink bubbles. Into this is poured a bottle of pink champagne, maintained at room temperature, naturally. After the bath pink powder is applied profusely and donning last spring’s white mink coat—which is now used as a bathrobe—Jayne glides to her bed with the pink mirrored headboard made by Mickey with his own two hands (“so beautiful it makes you feel like a star”), and gracefully slides between jet black sheets.
“The pink powder and the black sheets—”
“Now Jayne,” I protested, “this is enough—”
“I have pictures to prove it,” she argued. “I can prove every word of it.”
She has documents to prove her title of “heiress,” too. While the sum fluctuates from $92,000 to something ’way beyond, the fact remains that through her paternal grandfather Jayne has come into a fancy sum which, she assured us, will be poured into her campaign for Movie Star of 1957 on the Glamour platform.
At a drop of interest, Jayne will take you on a verbal tour of her latest home—a wonderful journey across inlaid floors, through rooms enveloped in walnut, even to a built-in table, and indoor fountains. Through endless servant quarters—
“Where would you get so many servants?” I interrupted. She paid no mind.
“And the drawing rooms, each thirty by sixty, and hung in rich red velvet draperies—”
“You don’t want red velvet—”
She went right on. And two powder rooms. A His and a Hers. And both solid marble. “It makes you feel so starlike.”
We gave up. A few minutes later Jayne had too, in favor of an all glass house with a heart-shaped swimming pool which Mickey was to build with his own two hands.
“After all,” she confided, “I don’t want to be just the girl next door.” As if anything less than Providence could effect such a miracle.
She interprets every small attention as a step upward and onward to this nebulous world of “stardom.”
“They have a Jayne Mansfield salad on the studio menu now,” she beamed. “It’s two mounds of cottage cheese.
“This is an Anne Baxter salad I’m eating now,” she explained. “It’s chopped cabbage.”
A little later when the call came to return to work, Jayne regarded her uneaten lunch ruefully. “I just can’t eat when I talk,” she fretted.
Placing a napkin over her plate, she slithered across the studio dining room to her waiting car outside, holding her “Anne Baxter” far a front. In her dressing room while the hairdresser fussed, Jayne consumed her lunch.
Her heart is ever bubbly with gratitude. She couldn’t have been more thrilled the day Mickey rushed onto the set of “The Girl Can’t Help It” with the news that a new and more luxurious white mink coat was on its way.
He cautioned it would take a little time as the minks were still romping about somewhere up in Minnesota but when there were enough (as if there ever were, for goodness sake), Jayne would have the most lavish coat in the world.
And he was right. The night Jayne wore the new coat—“all male minks—which makes a difference”—she refused to take it off all evening long and gracefully swirled over the dance floor at Romanoff’s, enveloped in its elegant folds while the elite of Hollywood stared in wonder at the all-white apparition.
Jayne didn’t care. She rhumbas better in something comfortable.
Those who work with Jayne at 20th Century-Fox are torn between chagrin and rousing enthusiasm. Her constant pursuit of a glamour world that no longer exists, both amuses and saddens everybody a little, for make no mistake, the overflowing goodness of her heart has made her the “adored” of one and all.
The studio publicist who shares an office with Jayne’s personal publicity contact, claims he fell in love with Jayne just by overhearing his co-worker’s telephone conversations. “This girl has heart,” he states, which with these well-seasoned lads, is praise from Caesar indeed.
A studio executive, however, doesn’t think much of her chances as a candidate for glamourville. Not the Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Susan Hayward, Marilyn Monroe type of glamour. “For one thing she’s too approachable, too eager, too cooperative. She gives no indication of ever putting her studio through wringers of anxiety nor herself through headlines of personal tragedies,” he says.
“There’s no hint or whispers of ‘dark doings’ that often attend certain present-day glamour girls. Not with Mansfield. She’s too open, too frank about herself. In fact, Jayne is the least snooty, selfish, neurotic and tantrumy dame that ever set foot on this lot.”
As an actress they see no end of promise for Jayne. Good comments on her fine work in “The Wayward Bus” are making the rounds. And with Cary Grant’s request for Jayne in his next film for 20th, she’s well on her way. Even if it isn’t the way chosen by Jayne.
We spoke to a studio publicist about Jayne’s craze for publicity. “What will happen to Jayne when, and if, this excessive pursuit is curtailed, I can’t imagine,” he said. “It’s become her whole life—to achieve some sort of nebulous glory that always lies somewhere ahead. I can’t make out what the heck Jayne’s after. Being an actress in Hollywood is obviously not enough. Certainly she gives little outside time and effort to self-improvement as an actress. Despite this she’s a darned good one.
“The truth is Jayne is on such a merry-go-round of publicity, I doubt if she can stop. I really think Jayne would feel headed for oblivion if she weren’t in there pitching every moment of every day. Where it will end or how is beyond me.”
He hit the nail right on the head. But the problem is, there are so few places left for Jayne to go. She’s been everything from Miss Potato Soup to Miss Analgesia, which Jayne explains, is something you rub on your chest when it’s cold.
She achieved more notoriety in her year on Broadway in the play “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?” than many actresses do in a lifetime. She arrived in New York an unknown quantity and in a matter of months was “big news” from coast to coast. Her appearance on Edward R. Murrow’s “Person to Person” TV show spread the good news of Jayne’s happy existence to far-flung hinterlands.
She made every possible appearance whether the event had any importance or not. “Sometimes I competed with myself,” she says, “and the newspaper editors would have to choose between as many as four pictures of me at different places.”
The American Health Association named Jayne and Mickey “The Two Most Perfectly Built Human Beings On Earth” which even Jayne admits takes in considerable territory, not that she doubts the truth of it for one little minute.
She was thrilled to discover the marquee of a London cinema had spelled out in neon lights. “ ‘The Girl Can’t Help It,’ starring 40”; 18”; 35½”.”
At home the 40”; 18”; 35½, had become as familiar as the historical “54-40 or fight” and its impact had made itself felt long before Jayne ever hit Hollywood. In an army station in the state of Georgia after the Korean war, one bewildered major found himself suddenly propelled elsewhere for overattention to the shapely wife of Lt. Paul Mansfield, Jayne’s husband.
Army platoons under stern drill sergeants took to “marching through Georgia” over again, or that portion of it where Jayne practised her dance steps outdoors clad in a cream-colored leotard. “I guess I had Hollywood ideas,” Jayne says, “but I wasn’t in Hollywood.”
In that statement lies the core and the kernel of the Jayne Mansfield problem now. Hollywood—her fanciful dream world where busy hard working people dance outdoors in cream-colored leotards and think nothing of it!
And on those terms Jayne is meeting Hollywood head on. Or perhaps chest on. Tilting at windmills in an imaginary world all her own where she must daily compete by out-doing, out-exhibiting, out-striving, or all of a sudden Jayne may find herself back home in Texas all alone.
As one writer says, “Jayne is the biggest, most wonderfully pathetic Alice that ever got lost in Wonderland.”
And like a sleepwalker, it’s dangerous at this point to wake her up.
Jayne’s first act upon arrival in Hollywood after her Broadway triumph, was a tip-off on what lay ahead. A small truckload of enormous black scrapbooks filled with press clippings garnered during one year in New York was hauled to the studio and dumped on the floor of a publicist’s office in a heap, tripping visitors on their way in and occasionally sending them sprawling on their way out.
The boys in the department were bewildered. Familiar with the “too busy” or “hard-to-get-to” stars, or the completely unapproachable numbers such as la belle Monroe, they were overwhelmed, overdeluged and overcome by Jayne’s overpowering co-operation.
There was always a supermarket to open, “My Old Kentucky Home Kosher Delicatessen” to launch or it was Bide-a-Wee hour at the Biddy-Bye home for stray terriers and Jayne had promised to attend. And, of course, a publicist and a photographer or two must go along.
In time they came to appreciate the feeling of “I love everybody and I hope they love me” that fairly exudes from her ample being. With wonder they beheld the unprecedented lack of snobbery and the all-out cooperation with the meekest representative of the smallest news sheet. “I have ten minutes between scenes, bring him over to the set,” she’d telephone her publicist’s office.
They shared her worries over unavoidable events and enthusiasm over small favors. And in contrast they remembered the first day this Miss Paradox of 1957 showed up on the lot and all but prostrated the lunchers in the studio dining room, wrapped in a white mink coat (now relegated to bathrobe) with the temperature outside a torrid 92 degrees. “White hair, white coat, white cottage cheese all blending into one great white way,” one actor put it.
Even more auspicious had been her entry into Hollywood only the day before. With small daughter Jayne Marie, huge escort Mickey Hargitay, baggage beyond belief, small dogs in crates and a white rabbit concealed in the folds of her coat, Jayne froze the airport personnel, the plane crews and passengers into a state of inactivity. Everything stayed off-schedule for an hour.
In the home Jayne purchased the previous year the entire coterie, with the exception of Mickey who has his own abode, reside in peaceful turmoil. The peace within Jayne’s heart, the turmoil without. The innumerable animals, including dogs, cats, two parakeets and one ocelot (the rabbit eventually took it on the lam) with Jayne, her small daughter and a maid, live in wonderful proximity.
On weekends when the maid retires to her own secret cloisters somewhere over the rainbow, Jayne takes over. With pot roast in the oven, phone ringing, the ocelot yowling, the neighbors fleeing, the dogs gone crazy through the rooms, Jayne remains the calm, cool mistress.
And, incidentally, she makes a wonderful pot roast. She’s a four-star mother in every department, too. No matter how strenuous her week’s work, Jayne belongs to Jayne Marie on their free days together. Gathering up a group of little school friends, she’ll take off for a long day at Disneyland, taking in all the rides and events. Or the next Saturday to Marineland, or the zoo.
Promptly at nine of a Sunday morning she delivers Jayne Marie to her Sunday-school class at the All Saints’ Episcopal Church. On her occasional visits to the studio, Jayne Marie impresses one and all with her charm of manner and the pleasant comradeship that exists between mother and daughter. She’s in pix with Mom.
When Paul Mansfield threatened to sue for custody of the child, Jayne sprang into action. And there was something about her agitation, so unusual for Jayne, that warned one and all she meant it when she said, “I’ll give up my career before I give up my child.” Which with Jayne is tantamount to Gabriel handing over his Trumpet. The subject was dropped.
Shut out by her own flamboyancy, her friends among women stars are practically nil. And since the advent of Mickey into her life, there has never been even a rumor of another romance.
If she notices the aloneness of her position, she never mentions it. Her child, her fame, the bigness of her heart and her genuine love of animals—“They are God’s creatures, too,” she says—fill her time and her life. And, too, there’s always Mickey.
And her dream. And one day she’s positive a great gold-lined tub of glamour will spill over her platinum head, and lo, there she’ll be. “Feeling like a star.”
In the meantime she’s practising the niceties of life. Presenting a friend to an assistant director on the set of “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?”, she mused aloud over and over. “Let’s see, you introduce the woman to the man, no the—no, I did it right.”
Her striving toward chic and the proper thing is dominant in her mind.
For instance, a publicist suggested recently that since her divorce from Paul Mansfield would be due in October, she’d probably be marrying Mickey in November.
Jayne regarded him with absolute horror.
“November?” she echoed. “WHO gets married in November?”
—BY SARA HAMILTON
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE AUGUST 1957