Mariska Hargitay Is the Daughter of Hollywood Legend Jayne Mansfield—What to Know about Her Mom

Mariska Hargitay, Jayne Mansfield
Photo: AP Images.

SVU fans may be surprised to learn that Mariska Hargitay’s mother, Jayne Mansfield, is a Hollywood veteran just as famous as she is (if not more.) Mariska, who has starred as Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit since 1999, is the daughter of bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay and Playboy Playmate Jayne Mansfield.

Jayne and Mickey—who are also parents to Mariska’s older brothers, Zoltan Hargitay and Mickey Hargitay Jr.—met in 1956 at the Mae West Revue, where Mickey was performing at the time. They married in 1958, and the two went on to star in four movies togethe—Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, The Loves of Hercules, Promises! Promises! and L’Amore Primitivo—before their eventual divorce in 1964.

Along with Zoltan and Mickey Jr., Mariska also has three half-siblings from his parents other marriages. Her older sister, Jayne Marie Mansfield, is from her mother’s relationship with with Paul Mansfield. Her other older sister, Tina Hargitay, is from her dad’s relationship with Mary Birge. And her younger half-brother, Tony Climber, is from her mom’s relationship with Matt Climber.

So that’s the Hargitay family in a nutshell. But who is Mariska Hargitay’s mother, Jayne Mansfield, and what iconic movies has she been in? Read on to find out.

Mickey Hargitay

Image: AP Images.

Who is Mariska Hargitay’s mother, Jayne Mansfield?

Mariska Hargitay’s mother is actress and Playboy Playmate Jayne Mansfield. Jayne, whose full name is Vera Jayne Palmer, was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, on April 1933. An only child, Jayne wanted to be a Hollywood sdtar like Shirley Temple. When she was 12 years old, she took ballroom dance lessons, and while in high school, she took violin, piano and viola lessons. In 1950, when she was 17 years old, Jayne married Paul Mansfield. The couple had a daughter, Jayne Marie Mansfield, six months later. In 1951, after some time at the Southern Methodist University studying theatre, Jayne moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as an actress. Her time in Hollywood was short-lived, however, as Jayne and Paul moved to Austin, Texas, where she worked as a nude art model, while studying acting at the University of Texas, Austin.

While in Texas, Jayne was a student of actor Baruch Lumet, the father of director Sidney Lumet, who gave Jayne private acting lessons and helped her get her first screen test at Paramount in 1954. After that, Jayne and Paul moved back to Los Angeles, where she worked different side jobs while modeling part-time for the Blue Book Model Agency. In February 1955, Jayne was named Playboy’s Playmate of the Month. Her appearance in the magazine helped boost her career, and Jayne went on to pose for Playboy several more times from 1955 to 1960. Playboy wasn’t without controversy, however. In 1956, Paul sought custody of his and Jayne’s daughter, alleging that Jayne was an unfit mother because she appeared nude in Playboy.

Around the time of her Playboy spreads, Jayne’s acting career also took off with movies like Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? The Girl Can’t Help It, The Wayward Buss and Too Hot to Handle. She also became the first major American actress in a post-silent Hollywood film to have a nude scene in Promises! Promises!. Another of her career highlights was when she originated the role of Rita Marlowe in the 1955 Broadway production of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, which won her a Theatre World Award and a Golden Globe.  She separated from Paul in 1955 and went on to marry Mariska’s father, Mickey Hargitay, in 1958. The couple had three children before their divorce in 1964. After their divorce, Jayne went on to marry Matt Climber in 1964. The two had a son and divorced in 1966.

On June 29, 1967, Jayne died in a car accident in Eastern New Orleans at the age of 34. Jayne was killed in a car crash along with her boyfriend, Sam Brody, and their driver, Ronald B. Harrison. Mariska and her brothers, Zoltan and Mickey Jr., were also in the car at the time, but survived. In an interview with People in 2018, Mariska opened up about the loss her mom at an early age. “The way I’ve lived with loss is to lean into it,” Mariska said. “As the saying goes, the only way out is through. In my life, certainly I’ve tried to avoid pain, loss, feeling things. But I’ve learned instead to real­ly lean into it, because sooner or later you have to pay the piper. I’m not saying it’s easy, and it certainly hasn’t been for me. There’s been a lot of darkness. But on the other side things can be so bright.”

Law & Order is available to stream on Peacock.

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"True Stories of Law & Order"

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