Mickey Hargitay

Miklós "Mickey" Hargitay (January 6, 1926 – September 14, 2006) was a Hungarian-American[1] actor and the 1955 Mr. Universe. Born in Budapest, Hargitay moved to the United States in 1947, where he eventually became a citizen.[2] He was married to actress Jayne Mansfield, and is the father of actress Mariska Hargitay. During their marriage, Hargitay and Mansfield made four movies together: Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957), The Loves of Hercules (1960), Promises! Promises! (1963), and L'Amore Primitivo (1964).

Mickey Hargitay
Hargitay in June 1964
Miklós Hargitay

(1926-01-06)January 6, 1926
Budapest, Hungary
DiedSeptember 14, 2006(2006-09-14) (aged 80)
OccupationBodybuilder, actor
  • Mary Birge
    (m. 1948; div. 1956)
  • Jayne Mansfield
    (m. 1958; div. 1964)
  • Ellen Siano
    (m. 1967)
Children4, including Mariska Hargitay

Early life and sports career

Hargitay was born in Budapest, Hungary, one of four children of an athletic father. He and his brothers were all brought up as athletes. During his youth, Hargitay was part of an acrobatic act with his brothers. The act was so popular that they performed throughout all Hungary, including the largest opera house in Budapest. After being introduced to the sport by his brother, Hargitay began competing in speed skating. In 1946, he won the Middle European championship at 500 and 1,500 meters, and placed second in the 5,000 meter race.[3][4] He was also a proficient football player, and was an underground fighter during World War II.

In 1947, Hargitay left Hungary to emigrate to the United States. He settled in Cleveland, where he met and married his first wife, fellow acrobat Mary Birge. Hargitay had one child with Birge, a daughter named Tina, who was born in 1949. He worked as a plumber and carpenter, and also performed in an acrobatic act with Birge. He was inspired to begin bodybuilding after seeing a magazine cover featuring Steve Reeves, famed for playing Hercules. Hargitay became National Amateur Body-Builders' Association (NABBA) Mr. Universe in 1955. After winning Mr. Universe and divorcing Birge, Hargitay joined Mae West's muscleman revue at New York's Latin Quarter, where he met Jayne Mansfield, whom he married in 1958. He is the first recipient of the Joe Weider Lifetime Achievement Award.

Acting career

Hargitay's first film role came when Jayne Mansfield demanded he be cast in her movie, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957). The two had met the year before at The Mae West Show at the Latin Quarter. When Mansfield noticed Hargitay performing, she allegedly told the waiter, "I'll have a steak and that tall man on the left."[5] The two fell in love, and were described as inseparable. 20th Century Fox didn't want Hargitay in Rock Hunter, because they disliked Mansfield's view of Hargitay being her "only" lover; Fox preferred their sex symbols to be single.

In 1960, Hargitay and Mansfield played the lead roles in The Loves of Hercules. The film was shot in Italy, and has never been released in movie theaters in the United States, though it is available on Netflix under the title Hercules vs. Hydra, and under its original title as episode 1108 of Mystery Science Theater 3000, released in 2017. Over the next four years, Hargitay and Mansfield would appear together in Promises! Promises! (1963) and L'Amore Primitivo (1964). In 1965, Hargitay played the lead role in Bloody Pit of Horror without Mansfield.

Hargitay's acting career wasn't limited to the United States; he also appeared in many Italian productions, and acted in Hungarian director György Szomjas' 1988 film, Mr. Universe.[6]

In 2003, Hargitay made his final acting appearance on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the series in which his daughter Mariska stars. In the episode, titled "Control", Hargitay played a man who witnessed the aftermath of a brutal assault on a subway station escalator. He and his daughter are seen together on screen when Mariska's character, Olivia Benson, is interviewing his character.

Personal life

Hargitay and Jayne Mansfield met in 1956, when he was performing in The Mae West Show at the Latin Quarter. The couple married on January 13, 1958. They had three children: Miklós Jeffrey Palmer Hargitay (b. December 21, 1958), Zoltán Anthony Hargitay (b. August 1, 1960), and Mariska Magdolina Hargitay (b. January 23, 1964). Hargitay remodeled much of his and Mansfield's Beverly Hills mansion, known as "The Pink Palace",[7] building its famous heart-shaped swimming pool. In November 2002, the house was razed by developers who had purchased it from Engelbert Humperdinck.

In May 1963, Hargitay and Mansfield filed for divorce in Ciudad Juárez. The divorce was ruled invalid, and the two reconciled in October 1963. After Mariska's birth, Mansfield sued for the Juárez divorce to be declared legal, and ultimately won. The divorce was recognized in the United States on August 26, 1964. After Mansfield's death in a car crash on June 29, 1967, Hargitay sued Mansfield's estate for over $5,000 to support the children. In their divorce decree, Mansfield had agreed to pay child support, as well as to give Hargitay approximately $70,000 in cash and property.

Hargitay married again in September 1967 to Ellen Siano. Siano and Hargitay remained married for 39 years, until his death.


On September 14, 2006, Hargitay died in Los Angeles, California, aged 80, from multiple myeloma. The Los Angeles Times noted in Hargitay's obituary:

"Walter Winchell once said that what [President] Eisenhower did for golf, Mickey Hargitay did for bodybuilding, because he brought it to the forefront," Gene Mozee, a bodybuilding historian and writer for Iron Man magazine, told The Times on Monday. "Back in those days, bodybuilding was thought of as a freakish, unusual activity that wasn't popular with the general public," Mozee said. "At that time, athletic coaches discouraged lifting weights, thinking you'd become musclebound. And along came Mickey Hargitay, a great all-around athlete.[1]

Arnold Schwarzenegger played the role of Mickey Hargitay in the 1980 TV movie The Jayne Mansfield Story.



Year Title Role Notes
1957 Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Bobo Branigansky
1957 Slaughter on Tenth Avenue Big John
1960 The Loves of Hercules Hercules
1963 Promises! Promises! King Banner
1964 Primitive Love Hotel Bell Captain
1964 Revenge of The Gladiators Fabius
1965 Stranger in Sacramento Mike Jordan
1965 Sheriff Won't Shoot Allan Day
1965 Bloody Pit of Horror Travis Anderson
1966 Three Bullets for Ringo Ringo Carson
1966 Sette donne d'oro contro due 07 Mark Davis
1967 Cjamango Clinton
1970 Ringo, It's Massacre Time Mike Wood
1971 Lady Frankenstein Captain Harris
1972 Delirio caldo Herbert Lyutak (Delirium)
1973 Black Magic Rites Jack Nelson
1988 Mr. Universe Himself
2001 Szemétdomb Short


Year Title Role Notes
2003 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Grandfather Episode: "Control", (final appearance)

References and footnotes

  1. McLellan, Dennis (September 19, 2006). "Mickey Hargitay, 80; Bodybuilder Popularized the Sport". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  2. Murray, Jim (November 1955). "Mickey Hargitay, Mr. Universe 1955". Strength & Health. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  3. Murray, Jim (November 1955). "Mickey Hargitay, Mr. Universe 1955". Strength & Health. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  4. Cohen, Sandy (September 19, 2006). "Actor Mickey Hargitay Dies at Age 80". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  5. Mozee, Gene (February 2007). "Mickey Hargitay(In Memoriam)". Iron Man. Archived from the original on May 23, 2011. Retrieved April 10, 2011.
  6. "Rejtő Jenő velünk van" [Rejtő Jenő Visits]. FilmVilág (in Hungarian). December 3, 1990. Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved August 25, 2018.
  7. "Photo: Jane Mansfield Home". Archived from the original on October 30, 2008. Retrieved October 11, 2008. Jayne Mansfield Pink Palace
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