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Mickey Hargitay

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Mickey Hargitay
Hargitay in 1964
Miklós Karoly Hargitay

(1926-01-06)January 6, 1926
Budapest, Hungary
DiedSeptember 14, 2006(2006-09-14) (aged 80)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Mary Birge
(m. 1948; div. 1956)
(m. 1958; div. 1964)
Ellen Siano
(m. 1968)
Children4, including Mariska Hargitay

Miklós Karoly 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 and eventually became a U.S. 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 Primitive Love (1964).

Early life and early career[edit]

Miklós Karoly Hargitay (or Hargitai) was born in Budapest, Hungary, on January 6, 1926. He was the son of Ferenc and Mária (Rothsischer) Hargitay (or Hargitai).[3] Hargitay was 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 the brothers 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.[2][4] He was also a proficient football player,[1][5] and was an underground fighter during World War II.[5][6]

In 1947, aged 21, Hargitay left Hungary to emigrate to the United States[3] to avoid being drafted into military service by the Soviet Union.[7] He settled in Cleveland, where he worked as a plumber and carpenter and also performed in an acrobatic act with his first wife, Mary Birge.[5] He was inspired to begin bodybuilding after seeing a magazine cover featuring Steve Reeves, famed for playing Hercules.[citation needed] Hargitay won the National Amateur Body-Builders' Association (NABBA) Mr. Universe award in 1955.[6]

Hargitay is credited with stimulating the enormous interest in physical fitness prevalent in the US during the 1950s. He appeared as a pin-up model in fitness magazines.[5] After Mae West saw his photo on a magazine cover, Hargitay joined West's muscleman revue.[6]

Acting career[edit]

Hargitay on the cover of the November 1955 issue of Strength & Health

Hargitay's first film role came when Jayne Mansfield demanded that he be cast in her movie, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957).[8] The two fell in love and were described as inseparable. 20th Century Fox did not want Hargitay to appear in Rock Hunter because they disliked Mansfield's view of Hargitay as her "only" lover; Fox preferred their sex symbols to be single.[citation needed]

In 1960, Hargitay and Mansfield played the lead roles in The Loves of Hercules.[7] 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 (2017).[citation needed] Over the next four years, Hargitay and Mansfield would appear together in Promises! Promises! (1963) and Primitive Love (1964). In 1965, Hargitay played the lead role in Bloody Pit of Horror without Mansfield.[5]

Hargitay's acting career was not limited to the United States; he also appeared in many Italian productions,[6] and acted in Hungarian director György Szomjas' 1988 film, Mr. Universe.[9]

In 2003, Hargitay guest-starred on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the series in which his daughter Mariska stars; he portrayed a witness to a violent crime.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Hargitay with Mansfield in Los Angeles in 1956
Hargitay with Mansfield and children in London in 1959

Hargitay's first wife was fellow acrobat Mary Birge. Hargitay had a daughter, Tina, with Birge in 1949.[10] Hargitay and Birge later divorced.[7]

Hargitay and Jayne Mansfield met in 1956 while he was performing in 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."[8] The couple married on January 13, 1958. They had three children: Miklós, Zoltán, and Mariska. Mariska Hargitay grew up to be an actress, starring on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.[3] Hargitay remodeled much of his and Mansfield's Beverly Hills mansion, known as "The Pink Palace",[11] building its famous heart-shaped swimming pool. In November 2002, the house was razed by developers who had purchased it from Engelbert Humperdinck.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Hargitay married Ellen Siano on April 14, 1968. Hargitay and Siano remained married until his death.[5][3][7]


On September 14, 2006, Hargitay died in Los Angeles, California, aged 80, from multiple myeloma. In Hargitay's obituary, the Los Angeles Times quoted bodybuilding historian Gene Mozee as stating the following: "Walter Winchell once said that what [President] Eisenhower did for golf, Mickey Hargitay did for bodybuilding, because he brought it to the forefront... Back in those days, bodybuilding was thought of as a freakish, unusual activity that wasn't popular with the general public... At that time, athletic coaches discouraged lifting weights, thinking you'd become musclebound. And along came Mickey Hargitay, a great all-around athlete".[1]

In popular culture[edit]

Hargitay was portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1980 television film The Jayne Mansfield Story.[6]



Year Title Role Notes
1957 Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Bobo Branigansky
Slaughter on Tenth Avenue Big John
1960 The Loves of Hercules Hercules
1963 Promises! Promises! King Banner
1964 Primitive Love Hotel Bell Captain
Revenge of The Gladiators Fabius
1965 Stranger in Sacramento Mike Jordan
Sheriff Won't Shoot Allan Day
Bloody Pit of Horror Travis Anderson
1966 Three Bullets for Ringo Ringo Carson
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 Delirium Herbert Lyutak
1973 Black Magic Rites Jack Nelson
1988 Mr. Universe Himself
2001 Szemétdomb Short film


Year Title Role Notes
1968 The Wild Wild West Monk Episode: "The Night of the Fugitives"
2003 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Grandfather on escalator Episode: "Control"; final appearance

References and footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c McLellan, Dennis (September 19, 2006). "Mickey Hargitay, 80; Bodybuilder Popularized the Sport". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 4, 2014. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Murray, Jim (November 1955). "Mickey Hargitay, Mr. Universe 1955". Strength & Health. Archived from the original on January 4, 2009. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d Hevesi, Dennis (September 20, 2006). "Mickey Hargitay, 80, Actor and Former Mr. Universe, Dies". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 16, 2022. Retrieved May 16, 2022.
  4. ^ Cohen, Sandy (September 19, 2006). "Actor Mickey Hargitay Dies at Age 80". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Mickey Hargitay". The Independent. September 21, 2006. Archived from the original on May 14, 2022.
  6. ^ a b c d e Bergan, Ronald (September 25, 2006). "Mickey Hargitay". Guardian.com. Archived from the original on April 19, 2022. Retrieved May 16, 2022.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Mickey Hargitay, Ex-Hercules & Father of Mariska, Dies". E! Online. September 19, 2006. Archived from the original on May 16, 2022. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Mozee, Gene (February 2007). "Mickey Hargitay (In Memoriam)". Iron Man. Archived from the original on May 23, 2011. Retrieved April 10, 2011.
  9. ^ "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.
  10. ^ "Mickey Hargitay". IMDb. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  11. ^ "Photo: Jane Mansfield Home". Archived from the original on October 30, 2008. Retrieved October 11, 2008. Jayne Mansfield Pink Palace

External links[edit]