A touch of glamour

Jayne Mansfield / on a tram in blackpool / 1959
Jayne Mansfield / on a tram in blackpool / 1959
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She illuminated Blackpool with her Hollywood smile and a quick flick of the famous Switch-On lever.

Jayne Mansfield was one of the original blonde bombshells, known for her hourglass figure and sex symbol image – she delighted the town when she visited in 1959.

And the town delighted her. When she returned eight years later to appear at the Sands Casino and Theatre Club in Marton, she told reporters it was wonderful to be back.

The busty blonde was back in the resort as part of a three-week northern club circuit taking in towns such as Batley, Bradford and Greasbrough, a suburb of Rotherham.

Celebrity interviewer, Neil Sean, has captured the tour in his DVD documentary. From Hollywood to Yorkshire – Jayne Mansfield featuring unseen footage of the star just two months before she was killed in a car crash.

Neil, originally from Mirfield, said he began to research the actress after his father told him he had seen her perform on stage.

He said: “I had interviewed Jayne Mansfield’s daughter, Mariska Hargitay, and said to my dad you wouldn’t think she was Jayne Mansfield’s daughter to look at her.

“That’s when he told me he and my mum had seen her perform alongside comedian Max Wall at Batley Variety Club.

“I thought, how on earth would that happen, why would you put someone like Jayne Mansfield with Max Wall? Apparently the club had organised a deal, and she received £20,000 for the week.

“I thought about it for a while, and approached one of the networks to make a documentary. They told me to go and find out what I could.”

Neil, who has interviewed countless celebrities, from Jennifer Lopez to Barack Obama, said Mansfield’s trip to Blackpool shaped the documentary.

He said: “At first the only footage we could find was Jayne in Blackpool, at the Imperial Hotel, looking around the Winter Gardens and sitting on North Pier.

“She travelled up from Euston and asked to stay in the room Winston Churchill had used when he stayed at the Imperial.

“She loved it in Blackpool, she told people she wanted to re-launch her career in the loveable resort. She said she wanted to move to the town.

“People loved her, Blackpool played host to some big names, Morecambe and Wise spent the summer in the town, but even for Blackpool Jayne was a catch.”

Born in Pennsylvania in 1933, the girl with the stunning 41-18-35.5 figure, conquered Broadway in less than a year, and Hollywood in two.

She made a fortune from films such as The Girl Can’t Help It, Kiss Them For Me and Too Hot to Handle, and was known as filmland’s smartest ‘dumb blonde’.

She lived in a pink Beverley Hills mansion – sold to Engelbert Humperdinck after her death – with a heart shaped swimming pool with an arrow and ‘I love you, Jayne’ written on the bottom.

But publicity around Mansfield’s physical appearance – she was the first major American actress to have a nude starring role in a Hollywood film – failed to sustain her career.

In 1967, the year of flower power, the busty Hollywood blondes were slowly falling out of favour with cinema studio bosses.

Knowing this, Mansfield decided to decamp, along with her dogs, and packed her furs to take on the tour of the English northern clubs.

Neil said: “I can’t imagine how daunted she would have felt performing in front of the northern audiences. We are a blunt lot. Looking at the footage of her over here, there are a lot of admiring glances from men, and quite a few unhappy wives.

“My dad said when she performed in Batley he noticed a change in the women throughout the week.

“At first they kept their rollers in, but it wasn’t long before they started glamming themselves up a bit in a bid to stop their men leering at the Hollywood beauty.

“Whoever I talk to, in Blackpool or anywhere else, they say she was ever the professional. She would arrive at the club five minutes before she was due on and leave as soon as she was done.

“But she took the time to speak to her fans, and even attended a local garden party, just because she had been invited.

“I think she enjoyed the experience. I certainly enjoyed making my documentary, although some of the footage, especially Jayne sitting on North Pier, is haunting – because of what happened.

“But I hope the DVD will keep her memory alive.”

Mansfied was killed when her car crashed into the rear of a tractor in the early hours of June 29, 1967.

n From Hollywood to Yorkshire will be shown on Sky’s Bio Channel this summer. The DVD is available to buy.