Martha Mansfield & Her Untimely Death

Martha Mansfield

Martha Mansfield was a beautiful Ziegfeld Follies star and actress who died young after her dress caught on fire

She was born Martha Sophia Ehrlich on July 14, 1899, in New York City. Her father, Maurice Ehrich, worked for a newspaper. When Martha was a young child she decided that the only thing she wanted to do was be an actress. At the age of thirteen she started modeling for photographers like Alfred Cheney Johnston. Then she appeared on Broadway in The Century Girl and On With the Dance. In 1916 she joined the Ziegfeld Follies and quickly became one of audience's favorite performers. The petite blonde also starred in the Midnight Frolic. She was offered a contract with Essanay studios in 1917. Billed as Martha Early she made three movies with comedian Max Linder. On May 1, 1918 she married Kasper Schmidt, a Navy officer,. Her big break came when she was cast opposite John Barrymore in the 1920 drama Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. She was called "one of the screen’s most charming actresses”. Martha had starring roles in more than a dozen film including Queen of the Moulin Rouge, Till We Meet Again, and Youthful Cheaters.

Martha MansfieldMartha Mansfield

Martha Mansfield Magazine

She was becoming a popular screen star and appeared on the cover of magazines like Photoplay. Her marriage to Kasper ended in 1922 because he did not support her career. Then she had a brief romance with writer Crane Wilbur. Fox signed her to a lucrative contract in 1923. Her first film at the studio was The Silent Command starring Bela Lugosi. In the Fall of 1923 she went to San Antonio, Texas to make the big budget western The Warrens of Virginia. On November 29, 1923 she took a break from filming to sit in her limousine. Someone threw a lit match into the car causing her dress to catch on fire. Martha ran from the car engulfed in flames and was rushed to a hospital. Tragically she died the following day, November 30, from her injuries. She was only twenty-four years old. Martha was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York City. It was never determined who threw the match into her car. There were rumors that she may have lit a cigarette but her mother claimed she hated smoking.

Martha Mansfield NudeMartha Mansfield Nude
Martha posed nude for Alfred Cheney Johnston

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