The rise and fall of ‘the poor man’s Monroe’ Jayne Mansfield (2024)

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It is a bizarre footnote to the biography of movie star Jayne Mansfield that at the time of her death, she had just returned from a set of dates on the club circuit of northern England.

The famously curvy pin-up girl died in a car smash in Louisiana on June 29, 1967. But just weeks earlier, she had been performing in Yorkshire and Blackpool, and was planning to return to Manchester in the autumn for more dates.

This implausible slice of showbiz history has been unearthed by Neil Sean, royal and entertainment reporter for NBC News and showbiz journalist, a Yorkshireman whose late father Alan Scott was a comedian and compere, who told how he worked with Jayne Mansfield at Batley Variety Club.

Sean has created a documentary telling the tale, Jayne Mansfield: From Hollywood to Yorkshire, out now on DVD.

“Getting a huge Hollywood star in our midst was fantastic,” says Sean of Mansfield’s 1967 sojourn up north.

“But really the days of big movies (for her) had passed. It was the age of Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton – skinny models. So big-busted ladies might have been on their way out.”

By this point Mansfield had just turned 34, married and divorced three times and with five children. It had been 12 years since she was Playboy’s Playmate of the Month. The movie career which earned her the nickname of the “poor man’s Monroe” was on the wane.

What brought her to England in 1967 was an offer of a tour put together by the late Cheetham Hill-born Don Arden, the legendary tough music manager, and father of Sharon Osbourne.

“Arden said he had all these things lined up for her, like being a guest host on Top of the Pops, which was filmed in Manchester at the time,” says Sean.

“But she fell out with him because he wanted her to appear in a see-through dress on stage. She was very well-educated and she wanted to recite Shakespeare and play her violin. She came over having no idea that what she had to do was sit on laps and stroke heads and sing Marilyn Monroe-type songs.

“So after two shows in Stockton-on-Tees, they pulled the deal. Another promoter picked her up but by that point, a lot of the original club dates had died. That’s the reason she was begging round for a bit of work. She was going to be based in Manchester but when the deal fell through with Don Arden, she ended up in a hotel called Holdsworth House in Wakefield.”

Mansfield was booked to appear at a club near Blackpool, and, en route, stopped at Kendals in Manchester to buy some go-go boots.

“She went into the Midland Hotel and changed, and she left her original shoes in the ladies at the Midland,” says Sean.

Mansfield was booked to do a week at Batley Variety Club, earning what would be the equivalent of £20,000 today. This was a golden era for the northern clubs, and Batley could boast the likes of Louis Armstrong and Tom Jones among its attractions.

“She did about 40 minutes on stage, and she would come on in the minutest of clothing and chat, bring on her dogs, sing some Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend-type songs, stroke perspiring bald heads, sign autographs and do a Q&A with the audience.”

Mansfield also found time to appear at an even more unlikely venue: Armley jail in Leeds.

“In those days, they used to put on entertainment for the prisoners,” says Sean. “Apparently when she tottered on to the stage, they said ‘Why don’t you sit on the piano?’ and she said ‘I can’t. I don’t wear any underwear’. She had a miniskirt on.”

Mansfield’s Hollywood glamour proved infectious in Batley.

“My dad said all these harridans would turn up at Batley with their rollers in and headscarves on,” says Sean. “But as the week went on, they became more and more glamorous, turning up with their hair done and lipstick.

“One night Diana Dors, our own sex symbol, turned up to see her. According to the general manager of the variety club it was a bit frosty. Jayne had no idea who she was.

In the two weeks she was in England, she met up with Engelbert Humperdinck no less and had a brief fling with him. He went on to buy her famous Pink Palace in Hollywood, and had it right through to 2004.”

The energetic life of Jayne Mansfield came to an abrupt end weeks after she returned to the USA. We can only speculate what would have become of her had she not, like that other blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe, died before she grew old.

Sean believes Mansfield had such a talent for self-publicity that she would still be known today. Her very first publicity coup entailed upstaging another famously pneumatic actress Jane Russell at Russell’s own poolside photocall. Mansfield dived into the water and “accidentally” lost her bikini top, igniting huge media and public interest.

“During the period she was in and around Manchester, Blackpool and Batley, she was filming a documentary which you’d now describe as a reality show, The Wild Wild World of Jayne Mansfield” says Sean.

“If she’d have been around today, she would definitely have been in a reality show. She’d have been a bit like the Kardashians.”

The rise and fall of ‘the poor man’s Monroe’ Jayne Mansfield (2024)


Who is Jayne Mansfield's oldest daughter? ›

Jayne Marie Mansfield was Mansfield's daughter from her first marriage to Paul Mansfield, while Tony Climber was born in 1965 to Jayne Mansfield and her third husband, Tony Climber. Meanwhile, Mickey Hargitay's daughter Tina was born under his first marriage to Mary Birge (via StyleCaster).

What was the autopsy report of Jayne Mansfield? ›

​JAYNE MANSFIELD WAS NOT DECAPITATED! ​DECAPITATE: CUT OFF THE HEAD OF A PERSON OR ANIMAL. The Coroner who performed the autopsy reported that her head and body were "in one piece" though extremely cut and battered. See Death Certificate: "Crushed skull with avulsion of cranium and brain."

What is Jayne Mansfield's IQ? ›

According to CBS news, Jayne Mansfield's IQ was reported to be 149.

What was Jayne Mansfield known for? ›

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.

How many biological kids did Jayne Mansfield have? ›

Jayne Mansfield, one of the last blonde bombshells of the Golden Age of Hollywood, welcomed a large family during her fame including five children: Jayne Marie Mansfield, Miklós "Mickey" Hargitay, Jr., Zoltán Hargitay, Mariska Hargitay and Antonio “Tony” Cimber.

How old was Mariska Hargitay when Jayne Mansfield died? ›

Mansfield died in a car accident at age 34 in 1967, when Hargitay was 3. Hargitay is one of three children Mansfield shared with her second husband, actor and bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay.

Who is related to Mariska Hargitay? ›

Her parents are Mickey Hargitay and Jayne Mansfield. She is the youngest of their three children. In June 1967, Mariska and her brothers Zoltan and Mickey Jr. were in the back seat of a car when it was involved in the fatal accident which killed her mother.

Is Mickey Hargitay still alive? ›

Are all of Mariska Hargitay's children adopted? ›

Hargitay and Hermann have welcomed three children to their happy family: their eldest son, August Miklos Friedrich Hermann; their daughter, Amaya Josephine Hermann; and their youngest son, Andrew Nicolas Hermann. Hargitay gave birth to August in 2006 and adopted Amaya and Andrew within six months of each other in 2011.

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