Bombshell, diva, Hollywood eccentric... this decent doc has a go at showing the real Jayne Mansfield behind the clichés.
Jayne Mansfield was designed to be a Marilyn replacement when Monroe starting losing her grip, but the actress proved to be just as troubled a ‘blonde bombshell’, if rumours are to be believed. This busy documentary looks into said rumours – Satan worship included – via a series of sensational magazine headlines, contemporary talking heads and archive clips.
There’s also the bizarre inclusion of performing arts students re-enacting key elements of her life through the medium of modern dance and song. This might have been fun at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but it sits oddly in this documentary, which is also cluttered with interviewees. Commentators like ’80s British pop star Marilyn feel tenuous at best, although Mamie Van Doren, Kenneth Anger and John Waters offer more relevant insights.
If you don’t know much about Mansfield’s private life, it’s definitely educational: this goes into her relationship with the somewhat comical Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, and also shows that there was a brain behind that fetishised body (she is shown speaking several languages – albeit briefly – and commenting on the horrors of war). Everything comes from an outside perspective, though, including observations on her career: Mansfield remains the glamorous enigma that fascinated the tabloid press. While this has its pleasures, it feels more like a doc you’d watch on terrestrial TV rather than seek out in the cinema.