This series recalls famous visits and historical landings at Helsinki Airport. This time, we look back on Jayne Mansfield’s arrival in Helsinki in 1963.
Long before Janet Jackson met Justin Timberlake, Jayne Mansfield already had highly publicized wardrobe malfunctions. In 1957, for instance, she crashed a party that Paramount threw for the up-and-coming Sophia Loren. Filled with ambition, Mansfield grabbed headlines by taking a seat next to the guest of honor and displaying a plunging neckline so revealing that even Loren couldn’t help but stare. It was this talent for self-promotion that made her one of the hottest sex symbols on the silver screen during the 1950s and early 1960s.
While most of history may remember her quite disparagingly as the “working man’s Marilyn Monroe,” the voluptuous American star was no dumb blonde. Born Vera Jayne Palmer in 1933, the singer, film and theatre actress, and one of the early Playboy Playmates was said to have possessed a genius-level IQ and was fluent in five languages.
In 1963, she headlined the sexploitation film Promises! Promises!, in which she became the first major American actress to have a nude starring role in a Hollywood motion picture. In October of the same year, Mansfield visited Finland upon the invitation of Yleisradio, the Finnish Broadcasting Company.
Upon her arrival at Helsinki Airport she said, “I’m very happy to be here because I’ve wanted for a long time to visit Finland. Finally the opportunity has arisen for me.”
When asked if her family had any private life at all, the Pennsylvania-born Mansfield replied in her breezy Bryn Mawr accent, “Actually we make it a point to have a private life. We always take our children with us.”
In the film clip from this time, however, Mansfield can only be seen with her husband Mickey Hargitay, tossing flowers to a throng of adoring fans who craned their necks for a glimpse of the actress. The pair had already filed for divorce, finalized the year after, and the appearance was all for show.
As to why Mansfield was in Helsinki, John Steinbeck offered an answer. “Jayne Mansfield is also in town. She’s helping judge the Miss Scandinavia contest. You see, we’re both spreading culture,” the author of East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath told the New Yorker. During the beauty pageant, Mansfield played the violin, another one of her talents.
On her way to a TV interview in 1967, Mansfield met a car accident that took her life. The 34-year-old was a front-seat passenger in a vehicle that rammed the rear of a slow-moving tractor-trailer. Driving the Buick Electra was Sam Brody, a divorce attorney with whom she had reportedly developed a romance. In the back seat were the three Hargitay children, who all survived the crash in Louisiana. The youngest, Mariska, is now known for her role on the American crime drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
At the time of her death, four years after Marilyn Monroe passed away, Mansfield was married three times, divorced twice, and had five children. This led Variety to write that “her personal life out-rivaled any of the roles she played.” Decades after her tragic end, admirers continue to flock to her grave in Pennsylvania, easily identified by a large marble heart-shaped headstone.
Which historical landing at Helsinki Airport would you like to read about? Send us requests at [email protected].