This picture came up over the weekend, and I thought I’d share it with everyone who doesn’t know the story.
Lady on the left, giving the “what the fuck do you think you’re wearing?” glare? That’s the legendary Italian actress, Sophia Loren.
The boundless expanse of cleavage and blonde to the right? That’s Jayne Mansfield, one of the quintessential late 50s, early 60s bombshells.
This photograph was taken in 1957 at Romanoff’s in Los Angeles. The occasion was a dinner honoring Italians in the motion picture industry. Jayne Mansfield, while obviously not Italian, was too big of a star in 1957 to not get invited to something like this. Having her at an event like this would ensure that the reporters would be there to cover it.
There’s a subtext to this picture, as well. See, Loren and Mansfield were on opposite ends of the sexuality dynamic in Hollywood.
Sophia Loren was all about selling sex, yes. But she was of the smile and wink school. Her allure was all about temptation without any payoff. She may have been the sort of lady that your wife wouldn’t let you near, but most importantly, she was still a lady. There were certain things that she would never do.
The same wasn’t true of Jayne Mansfield. Two years before this picture was taken she was a Playboy Playmate (a pictorial which nearly got Heff arrested on an indecency charge). She was the first big name Hollywood actress to appear nude in a film since the demise of the Hays Code, in Promises! Promises!. She wore outfits like the one above as publicity stunts, hoping and often encouraging her breasts to fall out. Her sex was overt, in your face, and with a payoff that was given to anyone who’d look for more than a second.
Sophia Loren was the epitome of the classic siren, and Jayne Mansfield was a vision of the future. Two legendary beauties, both selling sex, but both going it at it in different ways, colliding in a single moment, made timeless in an unforgettable photograph.