9 February 2006 | manuel-pestalozzi
You're a star now
Jayne Mansfield created herself as a star with an undeniable sex appeal. She became part of a cultural style during a certain time period in a certain geographical region. The transformation from a human being to an icon and a public property was effectuated with a cheerful formal consistency that seems unique. This makes Jayne Mansfield interesting to me.
The movie is a success as far as the making of the public figure and its decline is concerned. The viewers meet a young, determined and optimistic woman who will do anything to get on the screen. The creation of herself as a platinum blonde bombshell, it seems to be of her own making, is presented in an interesting and convincing way. The movie shows how she gets there and how she realises that the air is very thin up there (despite a reported I.Q. of 136 she apparently didn't see that coming). How that bombshell persona sticks to her like the blonde wig that looks more and more seedy as time passes. How good parts elude her, how she becomes aware that the radius of action is small and pitiful (Another Playboy centerfold? Another run of Rock Hunter?). As cynical as it may sound, the tragic but fast and probably almost painless death comes as a relief. Furthermore, it cements the reputation of the icon. Loni Anderson would have deserved an award for her performance. She must have studied the original very carefully and gives a convincing and touching performance.
The idea to put the relation between Mansfield and her second husband Mickey Hargitay at the center of the narrative, with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Hargitay telling and commenting different events in Mansfield's life from Hargitay's viewpoint in a voice-over, was not a good one (except you can accept Arnie's really heavy accent as a comic relief). At the best times of their relationship Hargitay seems to have been a loving, loyal, reliable (and patient) backup to his wife, but he apparently never had any influence on Mansfield's activities. He appears to be a kept husband" (and that is another story). Some questions that came up while watching this movie (Why this insane fixation on Marilyn Monroe who was an entirely different person? Why this inability to see the contradiction between playing a star, accepting and exploiting Hollywood's studio system and the urge to be taken as a serious, versatile actress?) are left unanswered. In this aspect I think a chance was missed.
The locations, the set design and the wardrobe are just fine. There is a romantic scene between Jayne and Mickey in front of a big, gloomy palace hotel with a gorgeous park (looks like Northern Italy), apparently in the Catskills. Interesting place.