Mansfield 66/67

by Roger Walker-Dack

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday October 27, 2017

'Mansfield 66/67'
'Mansfield 66/67'  

"Mansfield 66/67" is a deliciously camp and funny romp by married filmmaker duo Todd Hughes and P. David Ebersole. The film is loosely based on the life of Hollywood pin-up and blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield. The filmmakers make a point of stating right from the start that their documentary is based on press cuttings, rumors, and vague reminiscences of the film star's roller coaster life -- most of which are more than a tad scandalous.

They skillfully mixed archival footage with talking heads who knew/worked with her, such as Kenneth Anger and Mamie Van Doren. They also talked to a very odd assortment of B- and C-list celebrities, including the punk singer Marilyn and drag queen Peaches Christ, who are too young to have known her but seemed to be more than a tad obsessed with her legend. Strangely enough, the only real voice of reason about the Mansfield phenomenon turns out to be filmmaker John Waters, who, in his usual sardonic manner, dismisses some of the more outrageous rumors as being blatantly untrue.

Jayne Mansfield's short-lived, but memorable, 1950s movie career included several major box office hits, one of which won her a Golden Globe Award. 20th Century Fox were grooming her to be another Marilyn Monroe, but when she kept having babies and so was often unavailable, they stopped offering her major roles. In 1963, when her move career was almost over, they cast her in the sexploitation film "Promises! Promises!," and she became the first major American actress to have a nude starring role in a Hollywood motion picture.

The documentary mainly focuses on Mansfield's life after the studios had dropped her, when she become even more of a publicity fiend. There is even a clip of her saying that the public have a right to know all about her private life. Encouraged by her string of husbands and boyfriends, she did some very questionable stunts, like having "wardrobe malfunctions" that would expose her enormous breasts to the cameras of the paparazzi.

One of her major fixations was with First Church of Satan founder Anton LeVay, who hawked himself as the leader of powerful demonic cult but wore what looked a cast-off costume from "The Adams Family." He looked about as scary as Mickey Mouse. Waters dismissed their relationship as laughable, and something that only two publicity whores would concoct. However, LeVay had a major falling out with Mansfield's lawyer/boyfriend Sam Brody and very publicly put a curse on him, saying that he would meet his end in an automobile accident.

Whether the curse was anything more than hearsay was never proved, but the fact that Brody and Mansfield were killed in a particular nasty car crash in 1967 has been the subject of many salacious tabloid stories, most of which wrongfully claim that she was decapitated -- a detail that is definitely not true.

The documentary clearly has no intention of telling the full story; Mansfield's colorful life comprised so many incarnations it could make for a mini-series. The film does, however, play with a few of the more outrageous facts attributed to her as one of Hollywood's last old-fashioned sex symbols. The project also hints that there was a great deal of untapped substance to Mansfield, who was much more than another dumb blonde.

Hughes and Ebersole have a great deal of fun concocting this bizarre, fascinating hybrid of a film. While most of its elements work well, some fall flat. Why they opted to add a Greek chorus in sappy blonde wigs doing campy music routines throughout, for instance, is a puzzle. Despite such missteps, this oddball movie is wickedly funny and will be loved by anyone who prefers their cinematic treats as weird as hell.

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.