Miklós "Mickey" Hargitay (/ˈhɑːrɡɪt/; HAR-gi-tay Hungarian: Hargitay Miklós [ˈhɒrgitɒi ˈmikloːʃ]; 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).

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 soccer 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, Ohio, 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 of Steve Reeves, famed for playing Hercules. Hargitay became 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 on a magazine cover in 1955

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 wife Jayne Mansfield doing the twist at the Candy Stik Lounge

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:

In popular culture

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



Year Title Role
1957 Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Bobo Branigansky
1957 Slaughter_on_Tenth_Avenue_(film) Big John
1960 The Loves of Hercules Hercules
1963 Promises! Promises! King Banner
1964 L'Amore Primitivo Hotel Bell Captain
1964 Revenge of The Gladiators Fabius
1965 Uno straniero a Sacramento Mike Jordan
1965 Sheriff Won't Shoot Allan
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 (Delirium) Herbert Lyutak
1973 Riti, magie nere e segrete orge nel trecento... Jack Nelson


Year Title Role Notes
2003 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Grandfather Episode: "Control"

References and footnotes

  1. ^ McLellan, Dennis (September 19, 2006). "Mickey Hargitay, 80; Bodybuilder Popularized the Sport". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-10-20. 
  2. ^ Murray, Jim (November 1955). "Mickey Hargitay, Mr. Universe 1955". Strength & Health. Retrieved 2014-10-20. 
  3. ^ Murray, Jim (November 1955). "Mickey Hargitay, Mr. Universe 1955". Strength & Health. Retrieved 2014-10-20. 
  4. ^ Cohen, Sandy (September 19, 2006). "Actor Mickey Hargitay Dies at Age 80". Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2011-07-28. 
  5. ^ Gene Mozee (February 2007). "Mickey Hargitay(In Memoriam)". Ironman Magazine. Archived from the original on May 23, 2011. Retrieved April 10, 2011. 
  6. ^ "FilmVilág". Emir.hu. 1990-12-03. Archived from the original on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2011-07-28. 
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-10-30. Retrieved 2008-10-11.  Jayne Mansfield Pink Palace
  8. ^ McLellan, Dennis (2006-09-19). "Mickey Hargitay, 80; Bodybuilder Popularized the Sport - Los Angeles Times". Latimes.com. Retrieved 2011-07-28. 

External links