Directors Todd Hughes and P. David Ebersole take a quirky approach to the life of actress Jayne Mansfield with the documentary Mansfield 66/67. The film explores the last two years of the actress’ life, a chaotic time marked by a floundering career, rumors of satanic worship, and a gruesome end in a car crash at age 34.
Mansfield 66/67 begins with a dance sequence with sequences throughout the film. I’ve never seen interpretive dance used as a storytelling tool in a documentary before, but somehow it fits right in with the "kooky bombshell meets devil worshipper" theme.
Like Monroe, Jayne Mansfield was smarter than she appeared. She played violin on The Jack Benny Show and spoke several languages. Despite her sexy image, she loved being a Mom, and had five children. Mansfield 66/67 features stock footage - and press clippings - that set the backstory for Jayne’s tumultuous final years.
If you’re looking for a straightforward documentary featuring interviews with family and friends and definitive answers about the relationship between Mansfield and LaVey and why Jayne died the way she did, you won’t find it here. That wasn’t the filmmaker’s intent. The film's tagline is “A True Story Based on Rumors and Hearsay”, and it features a combination of speculation and fact.
Jayne Mansfield’s story is a subject ripe for rumors and gossip. From her success as a blonde bombshell in the ‘50s to an ill-defined comeback in the swinging 1960s, along with a controlling boyfriend, a kidnapping, and rumors of devil worship, there’s enough here for several editions of the National Enquirer.
With her career on the skids, Jayne combined forces with the founder of the Church of Satan, Anton LaVey. Publicity photos of LaVey and Mansfield circulated in the press. Were the pictures just a PR opp or was there something more between the two? Well, LaVey did visit her at home, so maybe there was more between the two of them than a quick photo opp.
The interviewees include authors and Ph.Ds psychoanalyzing and explaining Jayne’s chaotic life. Other talking heads include Peaches Christ, pop star Marilyn, John Waters (who is, unsurprisingly, a Mansfield expert), Tippi Hedren, Alison Martino of Vintage Los Angeles fame, Yolonda Ross, Susan Bernard, Kenneth Anger, and Mamie Van Doren.
The film includes an animated reenactment of Jayne’s son Zoltan being mauled by a lion at a wild animal park called Jungleland in suburban Los Angeles. At death’s door and then miraculously recovered. Did Anton’s spell have something to do with it? Ann Magnuson provides the voice of Jayne and Richmond Arquette supplies Anton’s voice during the short animated segments.
The Pink Palace, Mansfield’s Sunset Blvd. house, was the crowning achievement of over-the-top persona. That kind of “Look at me!” flashiness has become an everyday occurrence in the 21st century. LaVey’s rituals and persona were considered risqué in 1967, but they wouldn’t even garner a PG rating today. Still, he brought Satanism into the mainstream, and now there are whole niches of horror and heavy metal music dedicated to the subject.
Mansfield 66/67 proves that Jayne’s chaotic life would have made a great reality show (think of her a gutsier Anna Nicole-or a bustier Paris Hilton). As actress Mary Woronov says, Jayne was "doing camp before camp was invented."
Mansfield 66/67 will have its theatrical opening in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre on October 27, 2017, co-programmed alongside a number of Mansfield classics including Girl Can’t Help It and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter.