Promises! Promises! (1963)

This 1963 movie — released betweeb the end of the Hays Code and the start of the MPAA rating system — was the first Hollywood motion picture release in decades to feature a mainstream star nude. And that star was Jayne Mansfield, bearing Marilyn Monroe in the buff in 1962’s uncompleted Something’s Got to Give.

In case anyone asks you, the first mainstream star to go fully nude was Annette Kellerman in 1916’s A Daughter of the Gods.

The three nude scenes by Mansfield were scandalous. Even more so was the July 1963 issue of Playboy, which was the only obscenity charge every brought against Hugh Hefner. In that issue a pictorial entitled “The Nudest Jayne Mansfield” showed Mansfield topless alongside T.C. Jones, a hairstylist, actor and one of the most famous female impersonators under his stage name Babette.

All the press made the movie a big deal, despite the horrible reviews. Sadly, Mansfield only got offers for more sex comedies. While you could buy stag loops of her scenes in the 60’s, the same scenes would show up in the posthumous The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield, which also has scenes from Too Hot to Handle, The Loves of Hercules and Primitive Love.

Mansfield was voted one of the top ten box office attractions that year, but Roger Ebert took her to task: “Finally, in Promises, Promises she did what no Hollywood actress ever does except in desperation: she made a nudie. By 1963, that kind of box office appeal was about all she had left.” Of course, this practice is commonplace today.

So what’s it all about? Jayne plays Sandy Brooks, a woman dying to get knocked up yet with a husband played by Tommy Noonan, who produced this and warred with his co-star. In the movie, he’s too stressed out to make love to her, which sounds like a problem no man ever had next to Ms. Mansfield. Meanwhile, after meeting another couple, Claire and King Banner. Claire is played by Marie “The Body” McDonald, who had perhaps an even crazier life than Mansfield, starting as winning the title of The Queen of Coney Island before adding up six marriages, an alleged kidnapping that was never proved to have taken place and a death from an “active drug intoxication due to multiple drugs.” In the aftermath,   her husband and father would commit suicide and her children would be raised by third husband (they were married twice, too) Harry Karl and his wife, Debbie Reynolds, who knew something about infamous divorces. She took over the role from Mamie Van Doren. King is played by Mansfield’s husband at the time, Mickey Hargitay.

The couples end up swapping — this had to be scandalous for 1963 — ends up with both women pregnant and unsure who the daddy (or daddies, I guess) are. In between that, Mansfeld sings two songs, “Lullaby of Love” and “Promise Her Anything.”

This movie wasn’t an adult film. It was a major studio picture, directed by King Donovan (husband of Imogene Coca), who beyond acting in Invasion of the Body Snatchers also directed this movie and four episodes of Grind! and one of That Girl. Vidor shows up in plenty of things, with his last role in the 1984 cult movie Nothing Lasts Forever.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime. You won’t get arrested.

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