Cary Grant and Jayne Mansfield in a still from “Kiss Them for Me,” listed on EBay at $8.99.
If Jayne Mansfield had died in 1957 instead of 1967, she’d be remembered as one of the most talented and promising actresses of her generation. In 1956 and ’57, she gave two sharp, smart comic performances (The Girl Can’t Help It and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?) and a quiet, touching dramatic performance in The Wayward Bus. Then it all went straight to hell, starting with the unwatchable Dumpster fire of Kiss Them for Me. Fox is really foxy about not letting its movies get onto YouTube, so I will have to present you with the official trailer for Rock Hunter:
and a really crap-quality minute from The Wayward Bus:
But instead . . . This was Jayne’s future . . .
Now don’t get me wrong—I adore the Queen of Camp she became. The world would be a poorer place without Jaynie’s pink-marshmallow, tragicomic divoonity. That’s not Jayne doing the Wild, Wild narration, by the way, it’s Italian actress Caroline de Fonseca, who earned her living doing voice-overs for American stars. And just try to get that damn jingly theme song out of your head!
Here’s a Jayne you rarely see. If there was a bad, self-destructive decision to be made, Jayne leaped right at it. But she was also one of the sweetest people in show business, without a mean or scheming bone in her body. Skip to the 1:07 mark of this clip for a heart-breaking interview with Jayne (in one of her series of increasingly tatty wigs), just back from a Vietnam tour, months before her death:
Jayne needs a good biography, and I’d love to write it. But her daughter Jayne Marie was very nice but very firm that she just didn’t want to go there, and I can’t do a book without her.