The violent end Jayne Mansfield met in a cloud of insecticide has all the elements of a good story. Sex, violence, fame, blackmail, a Satanic curse, death by decapitation (well, severe haircut, anyway)—why, the LA Times obit reads like 12-year-old Glenn Danzig wrote it:
Jayne Mansfield Killed
Jayne Mansfield, blonde and buxom, almost a caricature of a sex symbol who lived in a glass bowl of publicity for 13 years as a Hollywood actress was decapitated last week in a grotesque car crash in a New Orleans swamp. She had been appearing at a night club in Biloxi, Miss. leaving there en route to New Orleans for a morning television appearance when the 2:30 a.m. collision occurred. Her car came around a curve at high speed and smashed into the trailer of a truck which had slowed on entering a cloud of white anti-mosquito mist. The trailer sheared off the top of the auto killing instantly the three adults in the front seat: Miss Mansfield, her friend, Samuel S. Brody, 40, a Los Angeles lawyer and their driver, Ronnie Harrison, 20, a student at the University of Mississippi. Three of her five children (in the back seat of the car) were injured but not seriously.
[...] Last year, her son Zoltan, 6, (while posing with her for a publicity stunt) was mauled by a lion and almost died when he developed meningitis. Several weeks ago, her daughter Jayne Marie, 16, left home complaining that she had been beaten by her mother’s boyfriend lawyer Brody. Miss Mansfield’s second husband was Mickey Hargitay, who flew to New Orleans after the accident to be with his children. On the French Riviera last week, Francoise Dorleac, 25-year-old French film actress, was also killed in a car crash. Her car skidded on a wet highway, struck a sign post and burst into flames.
The legend of Mansfield’s death is the subject of the latest documentary from P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes, the creative powerhouse behind Room 237, Hit So Hard: The Life & Near Death Story of Patty Schemel, and the live-action Chick tract feature Hot Chicks. Ebersole and Hughes’ Mansfield 66/67: A True Story Based on Rumor and Hearsay focuses on the actress’s relationship with the Black Pope of the Church of Satan, Anton LaVey, and the tale that sorcery caused her fatal car crash. She is portrayed by “over fifty actors and dancers.”
Mansfield 66/67 appears, like Room 237, to be about a particular kind of 20th century folklore: “Paul is dead” cases of private obsessions, nourished by mass media, passing into folk belief. Conditions were favorable. Dead Jayne was in no position to refute any stories about her entirely sensationalized life, and LaVey was in no hurry to disclaim supernatural powers. Interviewed by Jack Fritscher in the 1972 book Popular Witchcraft, LaVey suggested his curse was responsible for the car crash, though he’d laid it not on Jayne but Sam Brody—the man the LA Times identified as Mansfield’s “friend”:
LAVEY: I know I have been rumored to have cursed Jayne Mansfield and caused her death in that car crash. Jayne Mansfield was a member of the Church of Satan. I have enough material to blow sky-high all those sanctimonious Hollywood journalists who claim she wasn’t. She was a priestess in the Church of Satan. I have documentation of this fact from her. There are many things I’ll not say for obvious reasons.
FRITSCHER: Say what you can.
LAVEY: Her lover [lawyer Sam Brody, also killed in the front seat of the car], who was a decidedly unsavory character, was the one who brought the curse upon himself. There was decidedly a curse, marked in the presence of other people. Jayne was warned constantly and periodically in no uncertain terms that she must avoid his company because great harm would befall him. It was a very sad sequence of events in which she was the victim of her own—as we mentioned earlier—inability to cope with her own success. Also the demonic self in her was crying out to be one thing, and her apparent self demanded that she be something else. She was beaten back and forth in this inner conflict between the apparent self and the demonic self. Sam Brody was blackmailing her.
FRITSCHER: About what?
LAVEY: He was blackmailing her. I have definite proof of this. She couldn’t get out of his clutches. She was a bit of a masochist herself. She brought about her own demise. But it wasn’t through what I had done to curse her. The curse, that she asked me to cast, was directed at him. And it was a very magnificent curse.
As if sex, violence, and black magic weren’t enticement enough, will you look at the talent! On the soundtrack, Ann Magnuson (also Jayne’s voice in the movie), Donna Loren, and the 18.104.22.168’s; onscreen, Kenneth Anger, Peaches Christ, Tippi Hedren, Mamie Van Doren, John Waters, and Mary Woronov. By God, I feel that old itch in my popcorn hand.
Mansfield 66/67 opens at Laemmle’s Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre on October 27, screening with the Jayne Mansfield classics The Girl Can’t Help It and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Watch the exclusive trailer below.