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In a new bio of Dallas-raised star Jayne Mansfield, author Eve Golden explains why ‘The Girl Couldn’t Help It’

The late Hollywood actress graduated from Highland Park High School and went to SMU and the University of Texas at Austin before descending on Tinseltown.

Born in Pennsylvania, Vera Jayne Palmer spent time growing up in Oak Cliff and the Park Cities, where she graduated from Highland Park High School in 1950. Vera Jayne later became Jayne Mansfield, one of the earliest sex symbols in the golden age of Hollywood. After HP, she moved on to Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas at Austin, where she won multiple beauty contests and served as a nude model in art classes. And then Tinseltown, where she won a Golden Globe and appeared as the first nude celebrity in Playboy.

Mansfield died in a car crash near New Orleans in 1967. She was 34. The three passengers riding in the back — her children — survived the crash, which killed the three adults in the front seat of a 1966 Buick Electra 225. Seat belts would not become mandatory equipment in American cars until 1968.

One of the back-seat survivors — Mansfield’s youngest, then-3-year-old Mariska Hargitay — has been a Golden Globe-winning star on the NBC series, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, since 1999.

Back in 2016, in a conversation with The Dallas Morning News, on the eve of her appearance at the Winspear Opera House, film legend Sophia Loren shared her own Mansfield moment.

In a photograph that went viral long before the term was fashionable, Loren stares pointedly at Mansfield’s cleavage. The picture was taken at a Hollywood party, Loren’s first since moving from Italy.

“I never signed that picture!” Loren says. “Never! Because,” she says, adding with a laugh, “it was a moment that for me was very difficult to cope with. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. I couldn’t believe it. You know, it was something … It didn’t really upset me, but I was a little shocked.”

Mansfield was no stranger to shock. And now, she’s the subject of a buzzy new biography, written by Eve Golden, who promises a revealing look at a “smart, determined woman” that Andy Warhol once called “the poet of publicity.” Hollywood author John DiLeo, offering an advance hosanna for the book, says Golden’s bio serves as an appreciation of Mansfield’s “undervalued talent” and “sadly unfulfilled potential.” In other words, when it comes to Jayne Mansfield, there was always more than met the eye.


Jayne Mansfield: The Girl Couldn’t Help It, by Eve Golden, will be released on June 29 by the University Press of Kentucky, $34.95,

Michael Granberry, Arts Writer. Michael Granberry was born and grew up in Dallas. He graduated from Samuell High School in Pleasant Grove in 1970 and from Southern Methodist University in 1974. Between his junior and senior years, he interned at The Washington Post during "the Watergate summer" of 1973. He spent 19 years at the Los Angeles Times before returning to Dallas. @mgranberry
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