Jayne Mansfield: The Girl Couldn’t Help It

Univ. Pr. of Kentucky. Jun. 2021. 452p. ISBN 9780813180953. $34.95. FILM
Noted entertainment biographer Golden’s second entry in the “Screen Classics” series (after John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars), on actress and sex symbol Jayne Mansfield (1933–67), is an archetypal Hollywood cautionary tale—you can get what you want, but do you want what you get? Mansfield devoted her life to becoming, and remaining, a movie star in the classic 1940s Hollywood sense—the look, the endless quest for attention, the material trappings, all of which hindered her career but would have played out seamlessly on a contemporary reality television show. This lengthy and richly documented biography follows the trajectory of Mansfield’s life with an almost day-by-day accounting. Golden paints a picture of someone with a brilliant ability to manufacture publicity and an insatiable need to be adored, who was also genuinely kind to her many fans and gave to numerous charitable causes. Golden covers Mansfield’s films, television appearances, and Las Vegas night club and lounge acts; she accompanies it all with voluminous critical, and often snarky, commentary from newspapers large and small.
VERDICT Exemplary in its research and detail, Golden’s book may well become the definitive word--if not the last word--on the Mansfield story.
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