Mansfield 66/67

 

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A decidedly gay take on a famous Hollywood name.

 
Mansfield 66/67
  

This is one crazy movie. As its title indicates it is a work about the film star Jayne Mansfield and it starts out with on-screen performers singing about her, after which we are told that this documentary tells a true story based on rumour and hearsay. Later there are scenes played out by featured dancers and, later still, animation is used to depict two serious incidents: the first concerns a lion mauling one of Mansfield's children and the second depicts Mansfield's famous death in a car accident in 1997 (that was when extremely serious head injuries were presented in the press as full-scale decapitation). If anything is needed to explain the tone of this film by P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes, it can be found in the realisation that the movie is itself building on the notion that, as it is suggests, Mansfield was doing camp before it was invented.

 

Mansfield 66/67 unfolds in seven parts, but the title misleads since it suggests that the film is limited to her last two years. Instead, the first half for all its stylisation follows the standard biopic path of relating the life story and the career in what is basically chronological order. It incorporates film clips and numerous observations from friends and historians and in this case many of them, including John Waters, Kenneth Anger and the singer Marilyn, speak from a gay perspective.

 

By also featuring Mamie Van Doren who was essentially eclipsed by Jayne, the film may hope to cover up the fact that, unlike the No.1 glamour star of the period, Marilyn Monroe, Mansfield is of doubtful worth as a subject, more celebrity than talent. In her private life, she went through three husbands only to end up involved with the questionable lawyer Sam Brady, who would die with her: all this in addition to succumbing to an addiction for both drink and drugs. Mansfield 66/67 does indicate that, but for becoming pregnant, it would have been her and not Kim Novak playing opposite James Stewart in Bell, Book and Candle but, in terms of her film career it could be argued that her only definitive appearance was in The Girl Can't Help It which owed almost everything to Frank Tashlin.

 

Mansfield's admirers may totally reject my view of her, but even they will surely for the most part question the film's obsession with the possibility that, with Mansfield having become a member of the Church of Satan through Anton LaVey, it was the curse that he put on Brady that was responsible for the crash that killed her. This aspect is allowed to dominate the second half of the movie, and it all becomes rather tiresome unless you are somebody who can give credence to the notion of Satanic powers. That we are also invited to see both Jayne and LaVey as publicity whores may be valid, but playing up the story of LaVey's fatal curse is surely a misjudgment even if Ebersole and Hughes are following the famed advice to print the legend.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  John Waters, Kenneth Anger, Cheryl Dunye, Mary Woronov, Peaches Christ, Dolly Read, Mamie Van Doren, Marilyn, Tippi Hedren, with the voices of  Ann Magnuson and Richmond Arquette.

 

Dir P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes, Pro P. David Ebersole, Todd Hughes and Larra Anderson, Ph Larra Sanderson and John Tanzar, Pro Des Jane Morton, Ed P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes, Music Robert Davis and James Peter Moffatt.

 

The Ebersole Hughes Company/The Northern Film School - School of Film, Music & the Performing Arts/Leeds Beckett University-Peccadillo Pictures.
85 mins. USA/UK. 2017. Rel: 11 May 2018. Cert. 15.