Martha Mansfield

Martha Mansfield
Martha Mansfield
Born Martha Ehrlich
July 14, 1899(1899-07-14)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died November 30, 1923(1923-11-30) (aged 24)
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
Other names Martha Early
Occupation Actress
Years active 1917–1923

Martha Mansfield (July 14, 1899 – November 30, 1923) was an American actress in silent films and vaudeville stage plays.


Early life and career

Born Martha Ehrlich in New York City to Maurice and Harriett Gibson Ehrlich. Although many biographies state that Mansfield was born in Mansfield, Ohio, her birth record and death certificate both have New York City as her place of birth. In 1912, she was left in her mother's care after her father deserted the family. At the age of 18, she showed an aptitude for acting and began a stage career. Her advancement as a performer came quickly. For a time she was a dancer performing with the Ziegfeld Follies.

Before she relocated to the west coast, Mansfield played leads in films produced by Famous Players-Lasky. Her first Hollywood movie was Civilian Clothes (1920) directed by Hugh Ford. She gained prominence as Millicent Carew (originally offered to Tallulah Bankhead) in the film adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which starred John Barrymore. She appeared with Eugene O'Brien in The Perfect Lover (1919). The final completed features in her short film career were Potash and Permutter and The Leavenworth Case, both from 1923.


On November 30, 1923, while working on location in San Antonio, Texas on the film The Warrens of Virginia, Mansfield was severely burned when a match, tossed by a cast member, ignited her Civil War costume of hoopskirts and flimsy ruffles. Mansfield was playing the role of Agatha Warren and had just finished her scenes and retired to a car when her clothing burst into flames. Her neck and face were saved when leading man Wilfred Lytell threw his heavy overcoat over her. The chauffeur of Mansfield's car was burned badly on his hands while trying to remove the burning clothing from the actress. The fire was put out, but she sustained substantial burns to her body.

She was rushed to a Physicians and Surgeons Hospital in San Antonio, where she died in less than twenty-four hours. Mansfield was 24 years old. Accompanied by actor Phillip Shorey, Mansfield's body was flown to her home in New York City. Her mother resided there at 142 West Fifty-seventh Street. She was interred at the Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York, United States.


Mansfield left an estate valued at only $2,473. However, she gave $22,000 in Liberty bonds to her mother, Harriet G. Ehrlich. Ehrlich said her daughter saved $40,000 in the last three years of her life which was invested in the bonds. Her estate included a platinum solitaire ring, cash, and $600 due from the Fox Film Company on her contract.


  • Max Comes Across (1917)
  • Max Wants a Divorce (1917)
  • Max in a Taxi (1917)
  • Broadway Bill (1918)
  • The Spoiled Girl (1918)
  • The Hand Invisible (1919)
  • The Perfect Lover (1919)
  • Should a Husband Forgive? (1919)
  • Women Men Love (1920)
  • Mothers of Men (1920)
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Uncredited, 1920)
  • Civilian Clothes (1920)
  • The Wonderful Chance (1920)
  • His Brother's Keeper (1921)
  • Gilded Lies (1921)
  • The Last Door (1921)
  • A Man of Stone (1921)
  • Queen of the Moulin Rouge (1922)
  • Till We Meet Again (1922)
  • The Woman in Chains (1923)
  • Youthful Cheaters (1923)
  • Little Red School House (1923)
  • Fog Bound (1923)
  • The Silent Command (1923)
  • Is Money Everything? (1923)
  • Potash and Perlmutter (1923)
  • The Leavenworth Case (1923)
  • The Warrens of Virginia (1924)

Further reading

  • Michael G. Ankerich (2010). Dangerous Curves atop Hollywood Heels: The Lives, Careers, and Misfortunes of 14 Hard-Luck Girls of the Silent Screen. BearManor. ISBN 1-5939-3605-2. 


  • Los Angeles Times, "Follies Beauty Coming", January 24, 1920, Page II7.
  • Los Angeles Times, "Burns Fatal To Actress", December 1, 1923, Page II1.
  • New York Times, "Martha Mansfield, Film Star, Dies of Burns Caused by Costume Fired by Smoker's Match", December 1, 1923, Page 1.
  • New York Times, "Martha Mansfield Left All To Her Mother In Partial Return for Care Given Her", September 26, 1924, Page 1.
  • Death Certificate
  • New York City Birth Index

External links

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