Mamie Van Doren at the launch of her new wine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Mamie Van Doren was one of the Big Three Sex Symbols of the 1950’s – Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, and Van Doren. In her autobiography, Van Doren revisits her career which includes steamy relationships with men such as Steve McQueen, Burt Reynolds, Johnny Carson, Rock Hudson (yeah, Rock Hudson!), and bandleader and husband Ray Anthony, as well as would-be suitors like Cary Grant and Warren Beatty, and her friendship with Elvis and Clark Gable.
To be honest, the movie roles of The Three M’s reflected the same descending order. Although Van Doren finds good qualities in many of her movies, most were at best forgettable. Mamie Van Doren’s biggest vehicle was the Clark Gable/Doris Day romantic comedy, Teacher’s Pet, in which Mamie played a supporting role as newspaperman Gable’s showgirl girlfriend who finds himself attracted to journalism teacher Day.
Van Doren thrived during the 1950’s, the era of the blonde bombshell, but poignantly describes her realization following the death of Jayne Mansfield that that particular era had passed. By that time both she and Mansfield are struggling to find movie roles and have to do nightclub acts and dinner theater. Mansfield, in fact, was to fill in for Van Doren in the first few weeks of a show that Van Doren would later complete, when the auto accident in which Mansifled was killed occurred.
Another such moment occurs when long-time friend Johnny Carson bumps her at the end of the Tonight Show on which she’d appeared so many times, when the previous interview ran over. Van Doren had gone from being the main guest whose interview runs over, to the one who was run over. Carson, of course, was well-known for his skill at deciding when a celebrity had faded, even when it was a woman he had a relationship with.
There are other excellent points in the book, such as Van Doren’s grueling hospital tours in Viet Nam and her struggle with a career-breaking story in Confidential which would claim she and her mother were prostitutes — Van Doren discovers who the rat was who made that claim but doesn’t name that person).
An entertaining book on the late Golden Age of Hollywood and on an interesting, free-spirited person.