In June 1967 on a dark stretch of road east of New Orleans known as Dead mans’s bend, a car was travelling closely behind a truck; ahead of them on the road was a machine emitting a thick white fog of insecticide to reduce the numbers of mosquitoes, the driver’s vision was obscured and the car hit the trailer-truck from behind; forced under the back of the trailer the roof was completely shorn off the car.
Actress Jayne Mansfield, a passenger in the car, was killed instantly along with the driver, and her divorce lawyer and lover Sam Brody. Her three children from her second marriage were asleep in the rear seat and survived with minor injuries. Jayne was 34, and died intestate.
Jayne’s death led to regulations that all semi truck trailers to be equipped with a DOT Bar known better by it’s other name: the Mansfield Bar.
Jayne had been on her way to New Orleans from Biloxi, Mississippi, where she had been performing at a local nightclub.
In the mid 1950’s Jayne became a major Broadway and Hollywood star. She was a nightclub entertainer, a singer, and featured several times in Playboy Magazine. Alongside Marilyn Monroe she was one of 20th Century Fox’s main sex symbol actresses.
Jayne Married her first husband Paul Mansfield when she was 16, and gave birth to their child Jayne at 17; they divorced in 1955. In 1958, she married Mr. Universe, Mickey Hargitay, and had three children, including actress Mariska Hargitay. In 1964 Mansfield married director Matt Cimber, they had one child before divorcing; Sam Brody represented her in the divorce.
Jayne’s estate was appraised initially at $600,000, including Sam Brody’s $185,000 estate which he left to her.
After Mansfield’s death, Hargitay, Cimbers, Vera Peers (Jayne Mansfield’s mother), William Pigue (her elder daughter Jayne Marie’s legal guardian), and Charles Goldring (Jayne Mansfield’s business manager), as well as Bernard B. Cohen and Jerome Webber (both administrators of the estate) unsuccessfully filed suits to gain control of her estate.
Mickey Hargitay sued the estate for support of their three children. In 1969 he lost this claim on the basis that he had the means to support and educate the children himself.
In 1971, Beverly Brody sued the Mansfield estate for $325,000 worth of presents and jewelry given to Jayne by Sam Brody, which was settled out of court. However, when Jayne’s four elder children (Jayne Marie, Mickey, Zoltan and Mariska) went to court in 1977 to seek a proper account of the estate it was insolvent due to $500,000 worth of debts that Jayne had incurred and estate litigation.
What remained of her estate subsequently came under the management of CMG Worldwide, an intellectual property-management company.
I doubt that Jayne would have wanted her estate to be left insolvent due to a combination of debt and litigation. It meant that her children were not able to benefit from her estate following her death. Importantly it required her administrators to make decisions for the benefit of the estate that may not have reflected Jayne’s wishes. It is also a reminder that we are never sure what may befall us therefore we should plan for our future.