Arnold, I want you to know the things I do for you. 90 minutes of Loni Anderson playing buxom star Jayne Mansfield in a TV biopic? Thankfully in the first five minutes you called her “Chenny,” and saved it for me. Directed by the guy who’d give us Kenny Rogers: The Gambler and starring one of my least favorite actresses, I had a feeling this was going to be a tough one. It even won a Razzie award.
Arnie ends up narrating much of the movie, and you have to wonder what the hell the director was thinking. We love Arnold but in 1980 he didn’t have the best diction of the English language. But about 20 minutes in, when we see Jayne give up on acting and go for cheesecake, the film gets a little more interesting. In fact, Loni does a decent imitation, but it’s a tall order. The screenplay is pretty poor and accompanied with an insipid piano score, but the re-enactment of famous scenes in Jayne’s life makes it easy to please. For example, they suggest that she got the part in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? by auditioning in a towel that she let slip.
Arnold plays Micky Hargitay, the Hungarian bodybuilder who also starred in some exploiters like Hercules vs. the Hydra. They meet when he’s the beefcake in a Mae West show, and he’s a better fit than her first husband; they are both performers and don’t have a problem baring their bodies for audiences. With his strength and her squeal, they made double the public impression that she did before, as he carried her into a room, with her busting out of her dress.
The problem is how the story is told; it begins with her infamous death in a car crash in Slidell Louisiana between gigs, and then is told through flashbacks as a woman goes through photographs with Mickey Hargitay. It’s clumsy and forces the narration on us. Arnie is good as Mickey, but it isn’t much of a challenge. But it’s one of his few pre-action star roles, and he’s eager to show that he’s more than muscles.
Jayne just wants to be a star, so she cultivates a busty bimbo persona that makes men melt; the story suggests that the studio used her as leverage against moody Marilyn Monroe, and veteran character actor G.D. Spradlin plays the cranky exec who wants her to date studio boys and dump Mickey. The story follows the traditional TV biopic formula- rise to stardom, devoured by fame, drinky drinky, sad sad. This makes for some entertaining marital spats between Arnie and Loni, as he pins her to the bed and bellows “I LUF YOU!!!”
He’s a long-suffering husband in this one as Jayne makes their wedding a huge Hollywood spectacle and makes him drive her to the hospital in her pink Cadillac when she gives birth to their baby. Her drinking and refusal to give up on being the blonde bombshell drive them apart, and she ends up doing lame lounge shows. In case we missed the car crash opening, we get to see it again at the end. For die-hard Jayne Mansfield fans only- or if you want to see Arnie play a beleaguered Hollywood husband!
All the entries in The Arnold Project
Rating: Don’t disturb my friend. He’s DEAD tired.