The Jayne Mansfield Story (1980)

Dick Lowry has worked in made-for-TV movies for some time, working on many projects with Kenny Rogers (The GamblerThe Coward of the County) and connected movies like In the Line of Duty and Jessie Stone, as well as the Project ALF TV movie reunion and Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again.

Based on the Martha Saxton book Jayne Mansfield and the American Fifties, this is — at best — a fictionalized accounting of her life. John Wilson’s book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.

Arnold Schwarzenegger — four years before The Terminator — plays Mansfield’s second husband Mickey Hargitay, who is telling a reporter the story of her life. Mansfield is played by Loni Anderson, who is perhaps the worst person — outside of bust line — to play her. She just seems wrong, from how she approaches the role to look. Maybe she identified with Jayne, seeing as how she started as a sex symbol and struggled to get her intelligence across. I’m not really sure, but it just doesn’t work.

Ray Buktenica plays her manager Bob Garrett. Buktenica was best known as Benny Goodwin, the rollerskateing toll-booth working boyfriend of Brenda Morgenstern on Rhoda. Also in the cast are Kathleen Lloyd (who memorbaly is killed by The Car as it flies through her kitched window) as Carol Sue Peters and G. D. Spradlin, who mostly plays cops in movies, as Gerald Conway.

Jayne Marie Mansfield is played by Laura Jacoby, who beyond being in Rad is also Scott Jacoby’s sister. The younger version of the character was played by Deirdre Hoffman, Anderson’s daughter.

If you look close enough, Lewis Arquette — the man whose loins gave the world Rosanna, Patricia, Alexis, Richmond and David — shows up as a publicity man.

There were no fact checkers in 1980. After all, how can you explain a movie that purports to tell the life story of Mansfield report that she was 36 when she died when the truth is that she was 34? Or that Jayne is shown making Las Vegas Hillbillys which is supposed to be a Western, which it is not, much less the fact that it was made two years after she and Mickey were actually divorced, yet they are married here? Shouldn’t that be The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw? And while we’re on the matter of facts, how great is it when Jayne is getting a new convertible sometime in the mid-1950’s, you can clearly see a 1980 Honda Civic roll by?

Much like how Jayne is dying to play the lead in The Jean Harlow Story, Valerie Perraine wanted this role. Surely she would have done better than imitating the worst vocal tics of Mansfield and none of the brains behind the glamour. Also, of all people to narrate this movie, Arnold in 1980 would not be the person I’d pick.

You can watch this on YouTube.

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