Thursday, April 1, 2010

Miss Martha Mansfield

Such a pretty lady, and such a tragic ending. I have already come to the conclusion that that is the reason I am drawn to a lot of these stars. As I have stated before (and if not, will state here and now) I am a total death hag.

Martha Mansfield is another one of those silent stars that is not remembered anymore. I think if she is remembered, it is either for her death, or for her role in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with John Barrymore. I had a chance to a screening of the film last October at the Redford Theatre. It was an amazing movie and a great night! Also, the fact that photographer Alfred Cheney Johnston took many, many pictures of Martha will help to keep her face around for years to come.

Martha Mansfield was born Martha Ehrlich on July 14, 1899 in Mansfield, Ohio. She was raised in New York by her mother after her father left the family.

She began showing an interest in performing and by age 18, she was a regular performer on stage. She eventually made her way to the Ziegfeld Follies stage. (I always love the starlets rise through the jealous!) She wasn't a huge star in the Follies, but famed Ziegfeld photographer, Alfred Cheney Johnston obviously had a favorite. He loved to photograph her.

Martha soon made her way to California and began to appear in movies. Her most famous performance was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1920. She appeared in over 30 movies.

On November 30, 1923, Martha was in Texas filming her next movie, The Warrens of Virginia. During a break in filming, a cast member tossed a match and it landed on Martha's period costume. The costume immediately went up in flames. Leading man, Wilfred Lytell, her leading man in the movie, threw his overcoat on top of Martha, saving her face and neck from the flames. Those helping her remove the dress received terrible burns on their hands, but they did succeed in putting out the flames. Nevertheless, Martha was left with burns all over her body.

She was taken to a hospital in San Antonio where she died less than 24 hours later. She was only 24 years old. Her body was flown back to New York City where a funeral was held and she was interred at the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx. usual...few of her films survive. I have only seen one that is available for viewing.

Martha and John Barrymore

The entire Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde film with Barrymore and Mansfield is available online, in segments and its entirety. You can get there through Youtube, or rent it from your local library like I did! Always gotta rave about the libraries out there. :)


  1. Yes, I am sure she would have had a much longer career and stardom had she lived.

    I was reading a book about ridiculous deaths, and she was listed in there. I was kinda upset because I don't think of her death as ridiculous. It was just plain tragic.

  2. My great-great-grandmother is Rebecca Ehrich and Martha Mansfield (nee Ehrlich) is our cousin, who looks very much like my two great-aunts! Thank you for this. I just moved from New York to Texas, where I am from, so even the geography is especially poignant. I love Martha, and am sorry not to have known her.

  3. I myself am deeply jealous! What a treat to have a beautiful silent film star as a relative. Do you know if any of your relatives had any memories of her?
    You are welcome 10x over for shining light on Martha. She was a beautiful and talented young woman. I want to give my daughter the middle name of Mansfield when I have kids :)

  4. je suis surpris par certaines photos de Martha Ehrlich car celles-ci montre une femme de 30 ans et non de 24 ans comme on le sent dans docteur Jekyll et mister Hyde.
    Je préfére la voir avec Max Linder où elle trés attirante

  5. Sans vous fâcher,
    je suis surpris de certaines photos de Martha Ehrlich
    Elle parait avoir 30 ans au lieu de 25 ans comme on peut le voir dans docteur Jekyll et mister Hyde
    Je préfère la voir dans les deux films de Max Linder où elle est si belle et attirante

  6. suite à cve que j'ai dit
    je me suis trompé .On a la faire vieillir pour jouer dans le film docteur Jekyll et mister Hyde

  7. Replies
    1. If I am translating what you said correctly, Philippe, then I agree that she does look older than her years. Such a tragic thing happen to a young and beautiful girl.

    2. j'ai constaté que la traduction de mes propos sur Martha Mansfield les ont rendus incompréhensibles.
      Il est évident que je reconnais et que j'apprécie beaucoup son talent d'actrice.
      Je suis comme vous ,jessica, attristé par sa mort tragique encore inexpliquée :le geste maladroit d'un technicien qui a lancé son allumette enflammée sur sa robe ou,le plus probable, un volontaire mais risqué désir de fumer une cigarette pour se détendre pendant sa période de repos.
      Ce que je voulais vous dire,Jessica, c'est que la jeune fille jolie et attirante que l'on voit dans les films de Max Linder a mûrie et a laissée la place à une femme mais que l''on a aussi vieillie pour tenir son rôle de fiancée comme dans le docteur Jekyll et mister Hyde.
      J'attends votre jugement sur ma tentative d'explication sur le changement physique que l'on voit sur ses dernières photos..

  8. J'ai constaté que la traduction de mes propos sur Martha Mansfield les ont rendus incompréhensibles.
    Il est évident que je reconnais et j'apprécie beaucoup son talent d'actrice.
    Comme vous ,Jessica,je suis attristé par sa mort tragique inexpliquée:le geste maladroit d'un technicien qui a envoyé son allumette enflammée sur sa robe ou ,le plus probable,un besoin volontaire mais risquée de fumer une cigarette pendant sa période de repos pour se détendre.
    Ce que je cherchais à vous dire ,c'est que la jeune fille ,jolie et attirante, que j'avais vue dans les films de Max Linder, avait bien changée. Elle s'était transformée , au moment du docteur Jekyll et mister Hyde ,en une femme mûre ,malgré ses 20 ans , que les réalisateurs ont certainement cherchée à vieillir pour qu'elle puisse tenir son rôle inoubliable.

    1. jessica
      please ,can you let the texte original de Philippe without translation?
      we can't understand he said and It's very bad .
      you like discuss but let us undestand people said

    2. I do agree Philipe that she did look older than her young age, and am glad that the director saw something special in her like the rest of us :)

  9. Of course! Like I told him, I am hoping I am having it translated correctly. If not, forgive me!

    I noted that the translation of my remarks on Martha Mansfield made them incomprehensible. It is obvious that I recognize and I appreciate much his talent of actress. Like you, I am saddened by his unexplained tragic death: the awkward gesture of a technician who sent sound

    1. jessica
      with your name ,have you the big project to be a great artist like martha mansfield ?

  10. I would love to be on the silver screen one day, making my silent film favorites, like Martha, proud. I truly believe I am here to leave a special legacy, and I am hoping that my love for silent film is part of that. Maybe this blog is part of it! You never know!

  11. en tout cas,jessica,vous avez un bien beau sourire,le même sourire que martha mansfield .
    cela serait-il le présage d'une exceptionnelle carrière?
    Dieu seul le sait !
    only God Knows !!!
    et je suis fier d'être l'ami de quelqu'un qui croit en son avenir

    1. Awww thank you so much, Philippe! You are sweet.

    2. jessica
      c'est un bon début:vous faites awwww comme le lion de la MGM au début de chaque film

    3. jessica
      Pouvez-vous me donner le titre du livre racontant la vie de Martha Mansfield ?
      Et s'il est en vente en France?

    4. Martha doesn't have a whole book dedicated to her yet, but she is profiled in the WONDERFUL book "Dangerous Curves atop Hollywood Heels" by Michael Ankerich

  12. jessica
    votre livre n'est ni traduit ni vendu en france
    J'ai vu sur youtube la biographie de Martha Mansfield par silentmoviequeen accompagnée d'une très belle musique.
    Malheureusement,si elle raconte bien sa vie, elle ne nous parle pas d'elle:sa personnalité ,son caractère, ses espoirs.
    C'est pour cela qu'on est très déçu car on ne la connait pas:on ne sait d'elle que son portrait.
    elle parait plus un fantôme sans âme qu'un être humain vivant ;un vieux souvenir oublié comme vous le dites si bien.
    pourriez-vous me dire ce que disait d'elle Ankerich dans son livre?

    1. I am so glad you were able to find at least something on Youtube, and that video was actually made by a friend of mine, a really sweet girl named Suilyaniz. She does a great job making those videos and making sure that these beautiful screen stars are not forgotten.
      I am actually trying to dig out my copy of the Ankerich book. I moved a few months ago, so my books and a lot of my stuff are still in boxes. When I do find it, I will copy her biography and send it to you. Send me your e-mail address!

  13. jessica
    Avez-vous retrouvé votre livre si précieux ?

  14. jessica
    je m'excuse mais je ne peut pas donner mon e-mail address publiquement .
    mais j'attends toujours vos informations avec beaucoup d'intérêt.
    Son sort tragique me pousse à mieux la connaitre

  15. jessica
    your silence is so platinum !
    are you angry against me ?
    i am obliged to look your face in waiting your
    excuse my english:i have lost my dictionnary !

    1. No, no! I am not angry at you! I just don't know what I can offer you as far as giving you information without an e-mail. If you are on Facebook, I can give you the link to Michael Ankerich's page, he is the man who wrote the book that includes the biography about Martha Mansfield.

  16. So sad, I guess too many 3rd degree burns on her body to survive. I would like to know what the autopsy revealed. She should be honored a lot more. What a tragedy, she was lovely

    1. Her dress became completely engulfed in flames, and so that being attached to her body while they are trying to put it on caused her death. She was lovely.

  17. son exemple montre que faire du cinéma est dangereux voire mortel
    il vaut mieux être simplement spectateur

  18. il vaut mieux aussi être vendeur d' icecream à l'entracte car cela évite de voir le film

  19. faites attention à vos propos car, de là-haut ,martha vous entend et risque de ne pas apprécier votre humour
    elle peut se venger .
    n'est-ce pas jessica ?

    1. I am not sure what you mean Philippe. I haven't said anything offensive about Martha, nor would I ever.

  20. ma chère jessica,
    je suis désolé que vous n'avez pas compris mes propos
    je ne parlais pas de vous car je connais votre immense adoration pour martha mansfield
    en fait,j'étais choqué par l'humour de rudun qui considérait ce tragique accident en un banal incident
    et je le prévenais gentiment que martha,là-haut ,agacé pourrait se venger de cette irrévérence je vous demandais simplement si c'était votre avis
    c'est tout !!!
    je comprends votre réaction à cause du problème de langue et d'état d'esprit
    martha mansfield est inconnue en france alors que c'est une gloire aux USA
    je voulais vous dire aussi que son en français veut dire this et car because
    avec mes excuses

  21. jessica my friend
    are you satisfied by my reply
    tell me. i am waiting
    my tailor is very rich,does not it!!!!

  22. chère jessica,
    savez-vous qu'on peut voir 2 films de méansfield sur internet :his wonderful chance (1920), et surytout is money something (1923) et même sa photo à sa mort
    les avez-vous vu