1963 was to be a big year for Hollywood. Two of Hollywood’s leading blondes, Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren, were set to do a nudie film together, Promise Her Anything (later retitled Promises, Promises), directed by Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ Tommy Noonan.
The ladies signed for the film in January to play the roles of Sandy Brooks (Mansfield) and Claire Banner (Van Doren). The official announcement took place on January 12th:
The honeymoon was short lived. Just a week later, on January 19th, papers announced Van Doren had quit:
The most likely situation at play was Van Doren’s hopes of earning the same amount as Mansfield (who would eventually make a deal with Noonan for a percentage of the profits in addition to her $50,000 salary), but Van Doren was underestimating her powers of persuasion without the backing of a studio. If Van Doren wasn’t willing to take the scraps thrown her way, someone else was; therefore, on February 4th, Noonan announced Van Doren’s replacement, Marie “The Body” McDonald:
On February 13th, the mutual admiration of Mansfield and Van Doren officially ended:
Promises, Promises would go on to gross an estimated $3 million dollars, with Mansfield happily raking in money for brief, on-screen nudity that one would be hard-pressed to find offensive today. Mansfield was the first American A-lister to appear nude on-screen in an American-made, mainstream picture (yes, that’s a mouthful) although the title may have gone to Marilyn Monroe if her nude scenes for Something’s Got to Give had been kept in the film (which is doubtful).
Mansfield wouldn’t appear nude on-screen again after receiving considerable criticism for her appearance in Noonan’s film and the accompanying Playboy pictorial (which famously landed Hugh Hefner in jail for obscenity charges). Van Doren, likely realizing she had missed the financial mark by withdrawing from Promises, Promises, agreed to star in Noonan’s 1964 picture, Three Nuts in Search of a Bolt. Three Nuts wasn’t as successful as Promises, Promises (it features a weaker storyline and a questionable living arrangement with Van Doren playing a stripper) but Van Doren received her own Playboy cover in June of 1964. Van Doren and Mansfield would eventually film 1966’s The Las Vegas Hillbillies together, but the set was fraught with tension. Mansfield had just given birth to her fifth child, Tony Cimber, and was visibly heavier than the lithe Van Doren. The pair has one scene together, accomplished by the use of voice-overs and body doubles being neither woman wanted to be on set together.
I’m one of the few people who enjoys Promises, Promises. It’s not an amazing contribution to the history of cinema, but most assuredly has its place for what is shown on film as well as being enjoyable fluff. McDonald fully owned the role of Claire Banner and, even though McDonald was a blonde, Jayne was right when she insisted she was “enough” for the film.