The American male’s obsession with big breasts found its perfect incarnation in the sumptuous 40-19-36 statistics of Jayne Mansfield, who shot to stardom in 1957 in Frank Tashlin’s rock & roll comedy The Girl Can’t Help It, where the 24-year-old former beauty queen was seen memorably clutching two milk bottles to her ample bosom.
Miss Mansfield was born Jayne Palmer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. She later lived in Dallas, Texas, where she married Paul Mansfield – a fellow high school student – when she was 16.
She divorced Mr Mansfield in 1958 and the same year married Mickey Hargitay, a movie strongman. They divorced in 1962.
Her ascent to fame came accidentally when a press agent managed to get her on a publicity junket to Florida for the Jane Russell movie, Underwater.
She posed for photographers in a skimpy red bikini and stole the show from Russell and other glamour girls. This resulted in a contract with Warner Bros.
When Warners dropped her she headed to Broadway and a play by George Axelrod, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
Her role as movie star Rita Marlowe was an obvious takeoff of Marilyn Monroe. The play was less than a smash but enjoyed a healthy run, largely because of the monumental publicity campaign built around Jayne.
She starred with Tony Randall in the movie version of Rock Hunter and provided a humorous portrait of Monroe. She did the same in The Girl Can’t Help It, and though her career in important films waned, her appetite for publicity never did.
Jayne Mansfield was killed on 29 June 1967 when the car she was travelling in rammed into the rear of a truck in the early morning hours.
The truck had slowed on a winding narrow road near New Orleans behind an insecticide spray truck, “fogging” the area for mosquitoes. The impact of the crash drove the 1965 Buick almost completely under the trailer, peeling back the windshield and roof of the car.
Contrary to gory myth, Mansfield was not decapitated in the crash. Rather it ‘scalped’ her as her car buckled beneath the truck’s undercarriage.
Jayne Mansfield was just 34.
Also killed in the accident were her lawyer and companion, Sam Brody, and the 20-year-old chauffeur, Ronnie Harrison.
Three of Mansfield’s five children (including future Law & Order: Special Victims Unit star Mariska Hargitay, who was 3 years old at the time) were asleep in the back seat of the car and were injured.
Two of Jayne’s Chihuahua dogs also died in the accident.
At the time of her death, Mansfield was separated from her third husband, Matt Climber, a stage director.
She could speak five languages, was a classically trained pianist and violinist and claimed to have an IQ of 163.
A pity, then, that Jayne Mansfield is only remembered for her on-screen appearances as a vacuous buxom blonde airhead. That, and being ‘decapitated’ in a car crash.