It’s hard to imagine Playboy existing back in the 1950s, but that in fact is when it came to be. One of the publication’s biggest stars was the legendary Jayne Mansfield. She built a career on being a blonde bombshell, and Playboy played a huge part in it.
Jayne Mansfield Made a Career Out of Being Sexy
Jayne Mansfield is known for her platinum blonde curls, goddess curves, gigantic bosom, cooing voice, ability to sing, and show-stopping sex appeal. Although her stardom was short-lived due to an early and tragic death, she is unforgettable. In her later career, Mansfield was cast as the next Marilyn Monroe, because she very closely resembled Monroe in looks and how she presented herself.
Mansfield also had a reputation as being quite promiscuous. She had five children from three husbands, all divorced. Like Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield allegedly was intimate with both John F. Kennedy and his brother, Robert (Bobby) Kennedy. Mansfield is said to have been romantically linked to numerous other men including her attorney, Samuel S. Brody, musician Bobby Darin, pop singer Engelbert Humperdinck, billionaire Jorge Guinle, film director Nicholas Ray, Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey, and so many more. Suffice it to say, she certainly owned her sex appeal!
Playboy and Mansfield Had a Symbiotic Relationship
Playboy was established in December 1953, and its original cover featured Mansfield’s iconic doppelganger, Marilyn Monroe. In February 1955, Mansfield was Playboy Playmate of the Month. That same year, Mansfield got a 7-year Warner Brothers contract!
The February 1955 cover is hilariously unprovocative, but Mansfield’s photos certainly made up for that. That photo shoot was so popular, it’s said to be the catalyst that truly launched Mansfield’s career. The entire pictorial was published again in 1964. Photos were selectively reused by Playboy in a number of other issues (December 1965, January 1979, January 1984, January 1989, January 1994, November 1996, August 1999, and January 2000).
Mansfield was the hot feature of several more Playboy issues. She was on the cover in February 1957. In February 1958, the magazine’s cover was captioned “The Nude Jayne Mansfield.” The June 1963 Playboy cover spelled out “The Nudest Jayne Mansfield.” And the Best from Playboy 1964 edition featured “The Complete Jayne Mansfield” on the cover. Mansfield was also in the February 1956, December 1958, February 1960 (“The Best of Jayne Mansfield”), 1989 Newsstand Special (“100 Beautiful Women”), 1999 Newsstand Special (“45th Anniversary Special”), and the 1959 Playboy Calendar.
Incredibly, none of the Playboy modelings stopped Mansfield’s A-list career. Nay, she continued to star in mainstream cinema throughout her entire career.
Hugh Hefner Was Arrested for Featuring Photos of Mansfield in Playboy June 1963 Issue
In 1963, Hugh Hefner asked photographer Bill Kobrin, who had worked with Mansfield before, to photograph her for the June issue, “The Nudest Jayne Mansfield.” Hefner was arrested by Chicago police on obscenity charges. Luckily for Hugh, the trial was hung 7-5 and he was acquitted. That issue was banned although it did manage to circulate but at $10 a piece ($106 by today’s standards).
One of the reasons why the June 1963 issue was particularly “obscene” by the standards of the day is because it included photos from a Playboy movie set. Jayne Mansfield was the first ever mainstream actor to appear in a nude scene in the post-silent movie era. (To be fair, Marilyn Monroe almost was, but Monroe passed away before her film was aired and the project was immediately ended).
Mansfield wasn’t just in one nude scene, either. She was in a series of nude scenes, which were replayed in dream sequences in the film Promises, Promises. One of those scenes featured a totally nude (and allegedly champagne-drunk) Mansfield writhing on a bed. Promises, Promises was essentially as close to pornography as it got back then. Because photos of the making of the film were included in the June 1963 issue, it was seen as pornography. Hence, the issue was taken off the shelves.
Her Tragic Death and Living Legacy
Jayne Mansfield died in a tragic car accident at the age of 34. She and two other adults as well as three of her children were in a 1966 Buick Electra 225. They had left Biloxi, Mississippi and were headed for New Orleans. The car crashed into a tractor-trailer on U.S. Highway 90. All three adults in the front were killed but the kids, asleep, all escaped relatively unscathed.
There is a rumor that Mansfield was decapitated, and it often circulates with rumors of the Playboy Centerfold Curse. The rumor alleges that Playmates who posed for the magazine’s centerfold often meet an early demise (others include Marilyn Monroe, Dorothy Stratten, and Katie May). Not to downplay Mansfield’s death at all, or the grisliness of it, but she was not actually decapitated. Snopes got to the bottom of this and explained that it was more like a scalping, and still horrendous.
After her death, truck manufacturers started installing extensions on semi-trailers, coined “Mansfield bars.”
A testament to Jayne Mansfield’s contributions to Playboy is how often her photos have been reused. She is indeed a classic curvy blonde bombshell, one that will never fade no matter how much society changes. Long after her death in 1967, Playboy continued to feature her and idolize her.
Her family also remembers her dearly. Law & Order actress Mariska Hargitay, one of Mansfield’s five children, once fondly reminisced: “People didn’t know that she played the violin and had a 160 IQ and had five kids and loved dogs… She was just so ahead of her time. She was an inspiration, she had this appetite for life, and I think I share that with her.”