Book Review: Jayne Mansfield: The Girl Couldn’t Help It by Eve Golden

If you saw a headline about a blonde bombshell actress living in a “pink palace” with her muscular husband, pack of dogs, and her young children, you could probably name a myriad of celebrities who this story might apply to. Visions of Instagram stories and Buzzfeed articles may come to mind. But this headline would have come in the late 1950s well before any of the modern-day social media and click-bait headlines we’ve grown accustomed to. But Jayne Mansfield would have loved those outlets because they would have loved her and her eccentric and over-the-top ways.

But as with any person we encounter on screen or in the pages of a magazine, Jayne Mansfield was more than just what the media portrayed. These other facets of her life as well as what the public saw is what author Eve Golden has chronicled in her new biography, Jayne Mansfield: The Girl Couldn’t Help It. Golden takes her reader through a very detailed account of Mansfield’s entire life bringing forth a more holistic picture of the Hollywood legend as a celebrity, actress, mother, woman, and person.

Golden’s book is definitely not for the casual Mansfield fan. This book is for the fans who want every little detail of Mansfield’s life. At 432 pages with almost 75 of those beings notes and references, and an additional 30 pages of photos, Golden dives deep into details about Mansfield’s rise to stardom, her career, personal life, and her untimely death at the age of only 34 years old. And while Golden does write about some of the brutal details about the deadly car accident that killed Jayne Mansfield, Ronnie Harrison, and Sam Brody, she does not dwell too long there and tries to do away with the sensationalism that many other works about Mansfield seem to focus on.

And while this biography is about this larger-than-life celebrity, Golden also explores how awful the media machine can be both in life and in death. She chronicles the reviewers, interviewers, and gossip columnists who made their living from Mansfield’s career and publicity exploits, but who then posthumously eviscerated her in their work. Journalists and gossip columnists were not the only one who took advantage of Mansfield after her death, Golden highlights some of the so-called friends who profited off of the tragedy as well in cruel and grotesque ways.

With all the details Golden includes in Jayne Mansfield: The Girl Couldn’t Help It, I was surprised at the ending of the book which concludes on a less-than-impactful quote. The book felt like it just stopped instead of Golden having any kind of reflection on Mansfield’s life or legacy. I would have liked to see her reflect on the complexities of Mansfield and all her different facets. I feel this biography needed that after so many pages of densely packed information. It was as if Golden just ran out of words.

Jayne Mansfield: The Girl Couldn’t Help It by Eve Golden is published by the University Press of Kentucky and is out now.

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Darcy Staniforth

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