Marilyn, Jayne Mansfield, and the Story of a Snub

“I’ve never been in a Hollywood fight or feud,” Marilyn once said. “I have the most wonderful memory for forgetting things.” Having been the target of Joan Crawford’s cutting remarks early on in her career, she rarely criticised other stars. However, when it came to younger actresses (and especially blondes), Marilyn was deeply insecure. Perhaps the most obvious example is her sole public encounter with rival bombshell Jayne Mansfield.

The images above show Jayne approaching, and being pointedly ignored, by Marilyn after the New York premiere of The Rose Tattoo in 1955. While it’s easy to read too much into photos, the cumulative impact seems all too obvious here. While some might argue Jayne was seeking a photo opportunity at her expense, Marilyn’s very public ‘ghosting’ was graceless and humiliating.

All too often dismissed as ‘the poor man’s Monroe,’ Mansfield was a star in her own right. Her rivalry with Marilyn – more of a cold war than a genuine feud – is discussed in a cover story for the April 26 issue of US magazine Closer Weekly.

“At a party at New York’s Hotel Astor in 1955, two bombshells almost collided. Jayne, the star of the Broadway hit Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, stood on one side of the room, while the other famous blonde, film star Marilyn, sat at a table with her back to the younger woman. ‘Jayne was enamored of Marilyn and wanted to go over, but Marilyn snubbed her,’ biographer Frank Ferruccio tells Closer. The insult stung. ‘For someone who was very sure of herself, it was hard to be snubbed by her idol.’

Marilyn’s jealousy wasn’t without cause. Though there were many buxom blondes who followed in her footsteps, Jayne’s 40-21-36 figure wasn’t her only asset. She excelled as an actress and nightclub singer; had an IQ of 163; and a genius knack for generating publicity. ‘She loved being the center of attention,’ says her son Tony Climber, who tells Closer it wasn’t just Jayne’s work that set her apart. ‘She also cared so much about being a good mother.’

After Jayne created a sensation on Broadway in 1955, Hollywood came courting. She signed with 20th Century Fox — not coincidentally the same studio where Marilyn was under contract. ‘Jayne made $2,500 a week, which was double the salary Marilyn was paid when she started,’ says Ferruccio. ‘The studio was purposely pitting Jayne against Marilyn because Marilyn was giving them a hard time and didn’t want to do the dumb blonde roles anymore.’

Ambitious Jayne didn’t mind playing dumb, although she won a Golden Globe for a dramatic role in 1957’s The Wayward Bus. And unlike Marilyn, she courted publicity and made friends of the press. ‘Jayne would pose for a picture for anyone, anywhere, at any time,’ says Ferruccio. ‘She was a very driven woman. It was in her blood.’

Gossips did write about Jayne — and it wasn’t always nice. One persistent rumor is that she had love affairs with both John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert F. Kennedy. ‘I believe that rumor was invented by one of her biographers,’ says Ferruccio. ‘Timeline-wise, she would have been pregnant with Mariska [Hargitay], so I dismissed it. I think that was said to make it look like Jayne was trying to do everything Marilyn did.”

But like Marilyn, Jayne also died tragically at a young age. The 34-year-old performer was killed when the car she was riding in rammed into a truck late at night in a dense fog. The three adults in the front seat died instantly, but Jayne’s children Mickey, Zoltan and Mariska sustained only minor injuries. ‘Jayne’s greatest regret would be not growing old with her children,’ says her son Tony. ‘But I can also tell you that she never really left. She lets her presence be known. And it’s so Jayne.'”