Born Vera Jayne to Vera and Herbert William Palmer.  Jayne Mansfield's father died when she was three .  In 1939, when Vera Palmer remarried, the family moved to Dallas, Texas. In 1950, Vera Jayne Palmer married Paul Mansfield, thus becoming Jayne Mansfield, and the couple moved to Austin, Texas. She studied dramatics at Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas at Austin.  Lacking the funds for child care, Jayne attended acting classes in Los Angeles with her infant daughter strapped on her back.

Between a variety of odd jobs, including a stint as a candy vendor at a movie theatre, Mansfield studied drama at UCLA.  Her movie career began with bit parts at Warner Brothers.  More famous as a cheesecake model than an actress, by 1955 Mansfield first gained critical acclaim for her classic performance as a movie starlet in George Axelrod's Broadway play Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter.  This role won her a contract at 20th Century Fox, where she fell within the sphere of comedy director Frank Tashlin, who regarded Mansfield as a "living cartoon" and directed her accordingly in the film version of Rock Hunter and in 1956's The Girl Can't Help It.

When Jayne wasn't acting she aggressively sought out the press agent or photo op that was handy, so did her second husband, Mr Universe Mickey Hargitay, to whom she was married to from 1958 through to 1963.  Jayne became the first major US actress to appear nude in her film Promises, Promises. Mansfield's third husband, Matt Cimber, who she met when she appear in Bus Stop at Yonkers playhouse, became her agent.  She appeared in cheap European films, slapped-together American quickies like Single Room Furnished , and did lots of nightclub and summer-theater work. While driving to a club engagement in New Orleans, 34-year-old Jayne Mansfield was killed (but not decapitated, contrary to popular belief) in a car accident.