Actresses of the 50s and 60s

Jayne Mansfield (1933 – 1967)

In 1933, American on January 12, 2017 at 12:53 pm

jayne-mansfield dog

Jayne Mansfield’s Head. Published: May 4, 1997

”Her head was attached as much as mine is,” says Jim Roberts, gently dismissing a longstanding myth about Jayne Mansfield’s grisly demise. The accepted version (now playing in the movie ”Crash”) has it that Mansfield was beheaded when she died in a car accident just outside of New Orleans on June 29, 1967. Roberts says the beheading part is hooey, and he should know — he was her undertaker. ”People always figured wrong about Jayne,” he laments. ”About the way she lived and the way she died.”

These days Roberts, 77, lives in cozy retirement above the New Orleans funeral home where he worked for 41 years. He’s unaware that Mansfield’s death has been reduced, by some, to a pop-culture reference point, but he probably wouldn’t like it. He was a fan, and for years he kept a scrapbook of clips, pictures and old obituaries. ”She was such a fine-looking person,” Roberts says. ”And she couldn’t stand to be away from her children.”

As he also recalls, Mansfield died in a sedan that slammed into the back of an 18-wheeler that was shrouded in ”fog” from a mosquito-spray truck. The impact drove the car’s engine into the front seat, killing the actress, two adults and a Chihuahua (who rode up front) but sparing Mansfield’s children. Mansfield’s wig was thrown to the side of the road, where it was mistaken in news stories for her head.

Headless or not, Mansfield did not go gently. Her face and body, Roberts allows, were ”as bad as you get in this business,” and he worked all night, valiantly trying to reconstruct her face before her relatives arrived. ”She had a lot of makeup with her,” he remembers, ”and I used it all.”


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