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Mansfield 66/67 (Frameline)

by Roger Walker-Dack
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Sunday Jun 18, 2017
Mansfield 66/67 (Frameline)

"Mansfield 66/67" is a deliciously camp and funny romp by married filmmaking duo Todd Hughes and P. David Ebersole. The movie is loosely based on the life of Hollywood pin-up and blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield. Hughes and Ebersole 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 includes commentary from people who knew and worked with her, such as Kenneth Anger and Mamie Van Doren. The filmmakers also talked to a very odd assortment of B and C list celebrities, such as the punk singer Marilyn and drag queen Peaches Christ, who are too young to have known her but seem to be more than a tad obsessed with her legend. Strangely enough, the only real voice of reason about the Mansfield phenomenon is 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 movie career in the mid 1950s was very successful, and 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 was often unavailable due to child bearing they stopped offering her any more major roles. In 1963, when her movie 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 focused on Mansfield's life after the studios had dropped her, and she become even more of a real 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 got up to some very questionable stunts, like having "wardrobe malfunctions" that would expose her enormous breasts when there were paparazzi cameras around to record it.

One of her major fixations that Mansfield had was with the First Church of Satan founder Anton LeVay, who hawked himself as the leader of powerful demonic cult; wearing what looked a cast-off costume from "The Addams Family," though, he looked about as scary as Mickey Mouse. Waters dismisses this "relationship" as laughable, and something that only two publicity whores like these 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 Brody would meet his end in an automobile accident.

Whether the curse was anymore than hearsay was never proved, but the fact that he 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 claimed that she was decapitated.

The documentary clearly never set out to tell the full story of Mansfield's colorful life, which included so many incarnations her story could fill a whole mini-series. It does, however, play with a few of the more outrageous facts attributed to her life as one of the last Hollywood old-fashioned sex symbols, and hints that there was a great deal of untapped substance to a woman who was so much more than another dumb blonde.

Hughes and Ebersole have a great deal of fun concocting this bizarre and totally fascinating hybrid of a film, and whilst 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 was lost in the translation.) However, all told, this oddball movie is wickedly funny and will be loved by anyone who prefers their cinematic treats as to be 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.


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