Why did Jayne Mansfield’s career declined so much?
When people think about Jayne Mansfield they think about a lot of things. One of them is of a star whose image was glamorous, and someone who had succeeded in Hollywood - but whose success also was surprisingly limited. But why did that happened? Was she untalented?
Introducing Jayne Mansfield:
A dumb blonde? Hell no. Jayne was an outstanding student and a brilliant child. She knew how to play violin, piano, spoke 5 languages fluently and studied drama since her childhood. She could recite Shakespeare without a book and she also didn’t even wanted to be blonde or to have the blonde bombshell image. Yeah, crazy as it sounds, Jayne’s ambition in Hollywood was to be a actress who plays classic roles, till a producer said that her figure was “too distracting for mens audience”, so she embraced the sex symbol image and that’s where everything started.
In 1954, Jayne Mansfield moved from Dallas to Hollywood determined to become a movie star. After some minor movie roles, in 1955 she starred in the successful Broadway play ‘Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?’ After this her career shined, she was contract by 20th Century Fox, starred in 'The Girl Can’t Help It (1956) (one of the biggest hits of the year), 'The Wayward Bus’ (1957) (her dramatic acting rained in good reviews, and she received a Golden Globe Award) 'Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?’ (1957) (the film version of her Broadway play was also a success) and in late 1957 she acted beside the renowned actor Cary Grant in the comedy 'Kiss Them For Me’. She also was doing performances in Las Vegas, appearing on the front of every newspapers and magazines, Jayne had interviews scheduled around the clock, she bought a pink palace and was working 18 hours a day. Her working ethic was marvelous, she was an actress whose instinct was, described by one of her directors: “unbelievable”. What could go wrong?
The 60s came
What can change in a decade? Everything. The 60s era was completely different from the 50s: The hair styles, the makeup styles, the film’s style. Mamie Van Doren described what happened very well: “I was trying to keep my head above the waters that were fast closing around us in that decade. But while I saw the end coming for us all too clearly, I don’t think Jayne realized what was happening.”
What went wrong:
1. The “blonde bombshell/dumb blonde persona”
As previously mentioned, the 60s were completely different - and the image of the glamorous and dumb blonde from the 50s was no longer welcome. Jayne kept appearing in TV shows and events doing the same stuff. And the reason why she did it was simple and quite innocent: She didn’t want to let down the fans who fell in love for the Jayne Mansfield from the 50s.
2. Her motherhood
Jayne tried hard to balance her two biggest loves: Her children and her career. While she was pregnant she had to refuse a lot of movie offers. (But anyways, I personally think that she handled it very well)
3. The movie 'Kiss Them For Me’ (1957)
Often described as 'the key mistake in her career’, the history behind the movie was simple: A broken promise from the studio. 20th Century Fox promised her that if she accepted the role in the film, she would play the role of Jean Harlow in a biopic. She didn’t liked the script at all, but accepted it: The movie was a relative success but a disaster in the critics.
4. Staying at 20th Century Fox
After 1959, they started to send Jayne to europe to do low budget films. They also didn’t paid Jayne a satisfactory salary. Jayne wanted to stay at Fox because it was a huge company and also it was the Studio of her idol: Shirley Temple. She decided to stay at Fox till her 7 year contract was over, but sadly it was a little too late.
“Maybe Jayne Mansfield was a wasted talent. Wasted by the Hollywood studio system that always type casted her as the glamorous movie star, sexy stripper, or blonde gang mol. Viewing her movies and watching her performances in them, shows us a woman who really wanted to act. Underneath the blonde bosomy facade lay traces of an unpolished talent and when directed by talented directors, this rough diamond did shine brightly. Taking in consideration the material Jayne Mansfield was handed it would have been a hard job for any actress to show what acting skills she really possessed.” - excerpt from “Affectionately, Jayne Mansfield”