Friday, June 29, 2012

Celebrity Cenotaph: Actress & Sex Symbol Jayne Mansfield 1967


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.


Death

While in Biloxi, Mississippi, for an engagement at the Gus Stevens Supper Club, Mansfield stayed at the Cabana Courtyard Apartments, which were near the supper club. After a June 28, 1967 evening engagement, Mansfield, Brody, and their driver, Ronnie Harrison, along with the actress's children Miklós, Zoltán, and Mariska, set out in Stevens' 1966 Buick Electra 225 for New Orleans, where Mansfield was to appear in an early morning television interview. Prior to leaving Biloxi, the party made a stop at the home of Rupert and Edna O'Neal, a family that lived nearby. After a late dinner with the O'Neals, during which the last photographs of Ms. Mansfield were taken, the party set out for New Orleans. On June 29 at approximately 2:25 a.m., on U.S. Highway 90, the car crashed into the rear of a tractor-trailer that had slowed because of a truck spraying mosquito fogger. The automobile struck the rear of the semi tractor and went under it. Riding in the front seat, the adults were killed instantly. The children in the rear survived with minor injuries.

Rumors that Mansfield was decapitated are untrue, though she did suffer severe head trauma. This urban legend was spawned by the appearance in police photographs of a crashed automobile with its top virtually sheared off, and what resembles a blonde-haired head tangled in the car's smashed windshield. It is believed that this was either a wig that Mansfield was wearing or was her actual hair and scalp. The death certificate stated that the immediate cause of Mansfield's death was a "crushed skull with avulsion of cranium and brain." Following her death, the NHTSA began requiring an underride guard, a strong bar made of steel tubing, to be installed on all tractor-trailers. This bar is also known as a Mansfield bar, and on occasions as a DOT bar.

Mansfield's funeral was held on July 3, in Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania. The ceremony was officiated by a Methodist minister, though Mansfield, who long tried to convert to Catholicism, had become interested in Judaism at the end of her life through her relationship with Sam Brody. She is interred in Fairview Cemetery, southeast of Pen Argyl. Her gravestone reads "We Live to Love You More Each Day."


A memorial cenotaph, showing an incorrect birth year, was erected in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, California. The cenotaph was placed by The Jayne Mansfield Fan Club and has the incorrect birth year because Mansfield herself tended to provide incorrect information about her age.


Legacy

Shortly after Mansfield's funeral, Mickey Hargitay sued his former wife's estate for more than $275,000 to support the children, whom he and his third and last wife, Ellen Siano, would raise. Mansfield's youngest child, Tony, was raised by his father, Matt Cimber, whose divorce from the actress was pending when she was killed. In 1968, wrongful-death lawsuits were filed on behalf of Jayne Marie Mansfield and Matt Cimber, the former for $4.8 million and the latter for $2.7 million. The Pink Palace was sold and its subsequent owners have included Ringo Starr, Cass Elliot, and Engelbert Humperdinck. In 2002, Humperdinck sold it to developers, and the house was demolished in November of that year. Much of her estate is managed by CMG Worldwide, an intellectual property management company.


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