vp19 (vp19) wrote in carole_and_co,

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To the power of 'Puffblicity'

One of Carole Lombard's gifts was an instinct on how to effectively promote herself, as she proved in July 1938 when she spent a week handling publicity for Selznick International Studios (https://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/17287.html). Not only was it a good experience seeing "how the other half lives," but handling publicity was, for her, good publicity -- setting her apart from her Hollywood contemporaries.

Since the cinematic star system (and Hollywood itself) began nearly 110 years ago, actors have recognized what publicity can achieve. One of them was an actress who now may be as remembered for her self-promotional efforts, along with an awe-inspiring figure, as for her acting...

...Jayne Mansfield.

Had it not been for a fatal auto accident in June 1967, Mansfield might still be with us; she would only be 85. Part of an army of buxom actresses -- most of them blonde -- who studios used in the waning days of the classic Hollywood system, Jayne played "dumb," but really wasn't.

While reports of Mansfield's phenomenal IQ may have been overrated, she was college-educated, could speak several languages and played several instruments. And those who knew her said she was a genuinely good mother. (One of her children is noted TV actress Mariska Hargitay.)

In a new book, Facebook friend and author April VeVea examines Jayne's use of publicity during her rise in the 1950s. It's titled "Publicity," the first in a projected Mansfield trilogy.

According to VeVea, the title derives from a term Walter Winchell -- someone Lombard had known in the 1930s, see below -- employed to note Jayne's self-promotion.

Mansfield's breakthrough year was 1956. While her primary goal was movie stardom, she had landed a role in the Broadway comedy "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" (she would reprise her part in the 1957 movie version) and signed a film contract with 20th Century-Fox. One of her New York publicists, Eliot Stark, later wrote a long piece on Jayne's instincts for publicity. It included these comments.

* As part of her publicity agreement, she arranged for cash payments and merchandise from retailers whose products she endorsed or appeared in:

"The merchandising tie-ins and publicity involved everything from dance schools to frankfurters to TV sets. Photo coverage was arranged for Jayne at restaurants, hotels and resorts. She was photographed with household appliances, food, clothes of every description, jewelry, sporting goods, automobiles, business machines."

He added Mansfield went so far as to drive through a snowstorm to New Jersey to preside over the opening of a new bowling center. "Jayne's outstanding characteristic was her inability to say no to anything which would provide promotion or merchandise for her," Stark added, noting she subsequently made such deals on her own for free trips to a beauty parlor.

Here's a sample of 1956 Jayne, appearing at an aviation show in Oklahoma City as illustrated in the New York Daily News Sept. 3:

Remember, in the mid-fifties nearly any sort of positive publicity was accepted, no matter how tacky it might seem today. VeVea notes Mansfield used an assortment of tie-ins to help furnish her fabled "Pink Palace" residence (since razed).

Some have suggested that Mansfield's incessant drive for publicity might have been more successful in the '20s and '30s -- at least where personality is concerned. Jayne and Carole may have been stylistic opposites, but certainly many stars during Lombard's formative film years were known for outlandish lifestyles -- Gloria Swanson, Theda Bara and Mae Murray to name a few.

Physically, Mansfield's buxom build had few equivalents between the wars; perhaps the closest was Marie Wilson, who never quite became a top-tier film star but later achieved significant success on radio and TV.

Whatever you may think of her talent, Mansfield is an engaging personality, and "Puffblicity," profiling her several years of Hollywood stardom, makes for a fun read. VeVea knows her blondes, as she runs the charming https://www.classicblondes.com website.

You can order the book in softcover form (it features more than 100 photos, many of them rare) at at https://www.amazon.com/Puffblicity-Appreciation-Jayne-Mansfield-Pictures/dp/1978294352 or an instant PDF version at http://www.blurb.com/b/8607277-puffblicity.

We'll close with the title song from my favorite Mansfield film, still one of the best rock 'n' roll movies ever made, as Jayne displays her ample charms through some fine Frank Tashlin sight gags (alas, this version ends a few seconds too early):


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