It was Thanksgiving Day 1923 on location in San Antonio, Texas, and Martha Mansfield (born Martha Erlich, also known as Martha Early) had a lot to be thankful for [source: Golden]. The 24-year-old actress was a rising star in the Hollywood scene. From appearing in a series of comedic shorts six years before, she had performed in the Ziegfeld Follies, an elite ensemble of beautiful and talented ingenues, and then was cast opposite the legendary John Barrymore in 1920's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" [source: Martin].
She sat in a car with fellow actors, having just finished the day's shooting for her latest movie, a Civil War love story called "The Warrens of Virginia." Mansfield was still in costume, the ruffled finery befitting a Southern belle, when someone in the car struck a match. Mansfield's clothing was immediately set ablaze. Her co-star managed to contain the flames using his overcoat, and the chauffeur tore the dress from Mansfield's body, burning himself in the process. Her injuries were too severe, however, and she succumbed the next morning: Nov. 30, 1923. As small consolation, the men's actions had saved her face and neck from being burned [source: Domel].
The studio heads, dry-eyed, noted that Mansfield had mostly wrapped up her work on the film, saving them the trouble of recasting her role [source: Domel]. Her scenes were pared down, another actress promoted as the star, and the show went on.