Saturday, October 3, 2015

Jayne Mansfield: Silver Screen To Vegas Headliner

There is just something about the blonde bombshells of Old Hollywood that always spark my interest. Hollywood thought they had found another Marilyn Monroe when Jayne Mansfield busted (pun totally intended) on to the scene, but Jayne was a completely different animal. Aside from having blonde hair and a knock out figure... the two stars couldn't be farther from each other. Jayne Mansfield was over the top, larger than life... dare I say campy? That's just what made me so interested in her. She knew exactly what she wanted and what she needed to do to get it. She used her 'obvious talents' to make a name for herself. She knew what Hollywood expected of her... so she gave it to them. 

I've seen a few of of her films, so I wanted to learn more about the woman behind the camera. This post will be the first of many exploring Jayne's other talents and other sides of her career that sometimes get lost behind her bombshell, sex symbol image.

Jayne started out her career as Hollywood's newest, hottest blonde bombshell, but even with her successes on the big screen, Jayne wasn't earning what she thought was a fair salary... only earning $2,500 a week from the studio. Lucky for her, she was in demand outside of Hollywood. She was able to capitalize on her popularity by turning her sex symbol reputation into a lucrative stage career. She took her 'satire on striptease' every where from Las Vegas to North Carolina to Mississippi.

The Tropicana | Take 1

Sign at the Tropicana advertising Jayne's show

On February 12th, 1958, fresh off their honeymoon, Jayne and new husband Mickey Hargitay made their debut in the 4 week run of 'Tropicana Holiday' at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas. The show took place in the world famous resort's show room called 'The Theater Restaurant' which sat 450 people for dinner and was produced by Monte Proser. Jayne played Trixie Divoon in the original musical composed by Gordon Jenkins that sported a 50 piece orchestra led by Nat Brandwynne. The show's opening night helped raise $20,000 for the March of Dimes. What a change of pace this must have been for the blonde bombshell. She was now earning $25,000 a week to appear in front of sold out crowds, and on top of that the Tropicana was footing the bill for her & her family's living expenses. They even took out a $1 million dollar insurance policy on Jayne because of the risky acrobatic moves she and Mikey were performing during the show. 'Tropicana Holiday' ended on March 19th, 1958, but it wouldn't be long until she was back on the Vegas strip.

Jayne posing pool side at the Tropicana

Jayne posing pool side at the Tropicana

The Tropicana | Take 2

"Jayne Mansfield and some sequins"

On May 14th, 1959, Jayne & Mickey were back at the Tropicana for a 4 week reboot of their successful stage show, now titled 'The Tropicana Hotel Nightclub Revue.' The show was again a success, selling out every night. This time it wasn't the acrobatic stunts she and Mikey were performing on stage, it was Jayne's costume... or the lack of shall I say. It was so shocking it made the news. The papers described the gown as a barbed wire fence and wrote, "it protects the property but doesn't obstruct the view." The gown was made of a sheer nylon fabric with strategically placed sequins & stones to cover her lady parts and had half a dozen petticoats that were worn at the knee. Jayne told the press, "I designed it myself. I wanted to be completely covered. If I had tried to compete with the nudes on their own grounds it would have been in bad taste. And besides, those girls are not as healthy as I. They have been through a war and all that hardship."

The Dunes Hotel

Jayne posing poolside at The Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas

On December 29th, 1960 Jayne and Mickey continued their successful stage act at The Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas with their striptease revue, 'The House of Love.' The show took place in the Dunes' state of the art restaurant/showroom, was produced by Jack Cole, written by Sid Kuller (who also wrote for Jack Benny) and featured Bill Reddie and his orchestra. Jayne was earning $35,000 per week, which was a career high for the actress. The show sold out every out every night. Seems like people were really interested in seeing Mickey twirl Jayne above his head... or maybe they wanted to get a peek at that infamous barely there gown. Yes, Jayne brought THAT gown with her over to The Dunes. The 8 week engagement ended on February 27th, 1962, but the show was such a big hit 20th Century Fox had another idea to capitalize off Jayne's success. In 1962, 20th Century Fox Records released 'Jayne Mansfield Busts Up Las Vegas' featuring the actresses music numbers from 'House of Love.'

Jayne posting in various costumes from 'House of Love'
Jayne Mansfield & Mickey Hargitay on stage for 'House of Love'

Outside of Vegas

Jayne posting on stage

Jayne realized her earning power as a Hollywood celebrity, and took her show on the road. She made her first appearance outside of Vegas in March of 1963 when she appeared at The Plantation Supper Club in Greensboro, North Carolina where she earned $23,000 a week. She followed this up with a stop at Iroquopid Gardens in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Jayne giving 'all that she has' during an unknown appearance

The Fremont Hotel and Casino

The Fremont Hotel & Casino in downtown Las Vegas

Jayne next and final appearance in Las Vegas would find her off the famous Vegas Strip. From September 1st through September 18th 1966 'Jayne Mansfield's Nightclub Revue' took to the stage of the Fremont Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas. Jayne was flying solo this time as she sang, danced, joked, and even sat on the audiences laps.

Jayne performing on stage at an unknown location

At It 'Till The End

The Jayne Mansfield way to shop for groceries

By the mid 60's, Jayne's film career was on a downward spiral and work was few and far between. Jayne resorted to doing small gigs at clubs much less glamorous than the Tropicana and The Dunes. It seemed Jayne was willing to show up anywhere if you had her $10,000 appearance fee. You could find her from supermarket promotions to drug store openings. Her final public appearance was in Biloxi, Mississippi at Gus Stevens Seafood Restaurant & Buccaneer Lounge. It was on this late night drive to New Orleans that the tragic car accident happened that ended the star's life.

Various photos of Jayne in Biloxi, Mississippi

Keep an eye out for the next installment of my Jayne Mansfield series...

1 comment:

  1. Very detailed article! I watched a documentary about her on YouTube this summer--wish I could remember the title--that showed her in a role I hadn't seen her in before: modest, brunette housewife!