In 1977, British punk band The Motors ran an ad campaign in the NME that featured celebrity photos with acidic headlines. One ad featured a shot of peroxide Hollywood legend Jayne Mansfield with the caption, “I Lost My Head Over The Motors.”
For all you trash-tabloid deprived folks, the backstory is that she left this mortal coil a decade earlier in a gruesome auto accident. The car she was riding in drove into the back of a truck, and the three front seat passengers got extremely close haircuts, Jayne included.
Why bring this up? Considering the lurid picture painted by the Mansfield biopic Diamonds to Dust, the sick advert seems like an honest, albeit nasty, take on the media’s exploitation of her, and in turn, she of it.
“…Mansfield salivated over press and TV attention and became a pro at grabbing headlines.”
Throughout her career, Mansfield salivated over press and TV attention and became a pro at grabbing headlines. But underneath the celebrity gossip, garish photos and breathlessly titillating scandals lay a disdain — our’s and the media’s — for an unremarkable actress whose chief talent was self-promotion. The Jayne in Diamonds to Dust is a self-proclaimed sex symbol who cannot get enough of anything she craved be it press coverage, partying, or simple attention. Perhaps her most memorable achievement took place when she photobombed another star when she barged in as a cameraman is snapping pics of Sophia Loren at a restaurant. Jayne leans into the frame and lets her top slip most of the way off — a boob bomb, if you will. The rest is history.
But apart from her obsession with self-promotion she was apparently a holy terror. The film portrays her as a pill-popping, booze-chugging sex maniac who bullies her several husbands, taunting them as she committed adultery right under their noses. Her oldest daughter, Jayne-Marie (Lisa Marie Henricks), was on the receiving end of a healthy portion of abuse but had the guts to stand up to the old gal. At one point, when Jayne spirits away a 16-year-old hotel employee for a little rumpus in her room, Jayne-Marie reprimands her. He’s my age, she reminds her morally challenged senior.
“What’s tragic is that she left behind three children and a string of husbands and lovers…”
That she died in such a horrific manner was just the tantalizing pièce de résistance for what must have been an immensely troubled life. I say must have been because the film gives a smidgen of background on Mansfield barely before she became Mansfield, the poor man’s Marilyn Monroe. It’s a shallow chronicle of her exploits as she leaps from one man to another, obsessed with success and reminding everyone around her that she’s the breadwinner, so they’d better toe the line.
In short, she’s a monster, and part of the thrill we’re supposed from seeing an abusive megalomaniac on screen is watching her get hers. And boy, does she ever. What’s tragic is that she left behind three children and a string of husbands and lovers, some genuinely caring of her, and others just as cold-blooded as she.
Diamonds to Dust holds together as a narrative, probably because it was adapted from a book. Each section of the film is broken down into chapters. Call it an accurate portrayal of the facts, or cheap exploitation, it’s overly long, running a bit under two hours. The acting is spotty and stiff, the production values are strictly low rent. Hailey Heisick’s Jayne is passable in a role that requires little depth. Trash culture addicts may get a charge out of Diamonds to Dust. Just don’t expect it to be much better than many of the clunkers that Mansfield starred in.
Diamonds to Dust (2014) Directed by Rob Villano. Written by Frank Ferruccio. Starring Hailey Heisick, Adrian Gorbaliuk, Rocco Palmieri.
5 out of 10