Monday, March 1, 2010

Jayne Mansfield...Never let a God fall in love with you

Assuming the titular throne
It takes a little skill and a lot of luck for a career to span pop movements. Most celebrities get creamed trying to jump the cultural chasm, especially if they’re B-level.

By the mid 1960s, Jayne Mansfield was a somewhat pitiful anachronism. Her pneumatic proportions had no place beside the incipient sophistication of slim new girls like Jane Fonda, Natalie Wood, Mia Farrow and Faye Dunaway. Her voice was an audible cartoon, a breathless Marilyn Monroe underpinned with rinky-dink Betty Boop, made sad with aimless, self-destructive irony.

With Monroe’s death in 1962, it was assumed Mansfield would assume the Titular Throne, but it never happened. That throne remains forever empty, Titularless.

In 1956, she signed a long-term contract with 20th Century Fox. But they dropped her five years later. Like many entertainers with calcified careers, Jayne headed to Las Vegas, commanding $8,000-$25,000 per week for her nightclub act. Unfortunately, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and once off the Strip she was reduced to playing dinner theatres. In June 1967, following a dinner theatre gig in Biloxi, Mississippi, she died at night on a highway in an automobile crash. She was thirty-four.

She remains. It's a mystery.
She was a pro and needed little provocation to expose her breasts, staging a series of wardrobe malfunctions. Critics often dismissed her as more exhibitionist than actress.

During the length of her career, there were many women hip-rolling around Hollywood who were far prettier, had more alluring bodies, and displayed at least rudimentary acting skills, but none succeeded like Jayne Mansfield. They're all gone. She remains. It's a mystery.

The ancient Greeks believed those whom the gods love die young... with no time to gasp final wisdom bleeding on the tar of a Mississippi highway at midnight, no chance to suffer the crushing shame of silence where there once roared applause. Maybe the mystery staggers lost down that thousand-year-old rainy neon Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

Never let a God fall in love with you.