Noted TV actress Inger Stevens and silent screen star Martha Mansfield are two female thespians who suffered tragic, premature deaths!
Inger Stevens (1934-1970): This Swedish blue-eyed blonde captivator (born Inger Stensland in Stockholm) starred in the doomsday epic, The World, The Flesh, And The Devil(1959), as Sarah Crandall, the survivor of a nuclear holocaust. A white racist (Mel Ferrer, who was a pianist with new hands in 1967's The Hands of Orlac) and a miner (Harry Belafonte, who was a Jewish angel named Alex Levine in 1970 The Angel Levine) joined her as the only other surviving humans on the planet. This dark, apocalyptic work had a surprise ending: after it appeared certain that one of the men would kill the other as they hunted each other through Manhattan's deserted canyons, the trio wound up skipping off hand-in-hand, determined to make the best of what fate had offered them.
Of course, Inger is best remembered for two superb 1960 episodes of The Twilight Zone. First in The Hitchhiker, she was Nan Adams, a woman who had what appeared to be a minor tire blowout on a turnpike. But, as she wended her way across country, she found herself being stalked by a creepy hitcher enacted by Lew Gallo (later seen as Vokar, a denizen of earth in the future in the 1967 "Time Tunnel" episode, Chase Through Time). Ultimately, she learned that she had actually been killed in the accident and that "Death" was pursuing her. In the final scene, she glimpsed him in her car's rearview mirror, seated in the back, where he stated, "I believe you're going my way."
Later that year, in the episode,"The Lateness of the Hour," she portrayed Jana, the daughter of Dr. Loren (John Hoyt, a veteran of numerous sci-fi/horror entries, such as 1958's Attack of the Puppet People), who had created a coterie of robotic servants. Ultimately, in a gut-wrenching scene, she came to realize that she, too, was an android, created as the perfect daughter for a childless couple, as she repeatedly slammed her fist against a stairwell to demonstrate that she was incapable of feeling pain. Dr. Loren then reinvented her as a servant with a new memory track!
Inger suffered from a lifelong bout of depression, with an apparently unhappy life off-screen. For instance, she had a brief, bitter marriage to her agent, Anthony Soglio, whom she wed in 1955. And, she attempted suicide on New year's Day, 1960, with an overdose of barbiturates which rendered her temporarily blind for two harrowing weeks. The next year, she secretly married a music producer, Isaac "Ike" Jones in Tijuana, Mexico. Despite steady work on both TV and in the movies, she was besieged by chronic melancholia.
Tragically, she reportedly died at just age 36 of an overdose of barbiturates on Thursday, April 30, 1970. Her death was ruled a suicide as opposed to an accident. But, close friends actually suspected murder as she was ebullient about her upcoming starring role in an Aaron Spelling TV series, The Most Deadly Game. Jones claimed her body, which was then cremated, with ashes scattered over the Pacific Ocean.
Inger fell in love with Bing Crosby on the set of Man On Fire (1957), but refused to accede to his demand to convert to Catholicism. Later, actress Kathyrn Grant did agree to convert and married him, devastating Inger!
She and actor Rod Steiger came close to being asphyxiated by carbon monoxide fumes while shooting a scene in a tunnel in 1957 for the movie, Cry Terror.
She was the last passenger to leap from an airliner that exploded upon landing in Lisbon, Portugal in 1961!
Martha Mansfield (1899-1923): Silent screen actress Martha Mansfield's best claim to fame was undoubtedly co-starring as Millicent Carew with John Barrymore in the 1920 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
After achieving success in New York City as a musical comedy star, the consummate beauty commenced her film career in the 1917 short, Max Comes Across. By 1923, she had amassed appearances in 28 films, mostly in secondary roles. An apparent major step forward in her career came in that year when she signed with Fox Studios for the lead role in the Civil War epic, The Warrens of Virginia.
On Thursday, November 30, she was attired in a bustling period gown on the set in Ft. Worth, TX. After a day of shooting, she was walking to her automobile when someone carelessly tossed a match that set her dress ablaze and engulfer her in deadly flames. Actor Wilfred Lytell, the film's co-star, tried desperately to save her, wrapping his coat around her to extinguish the fire. But, tragically, she died the next day at just age 24!
Ruehl Fact: Mansfield was born Martha Erlich on July 14, 1899 in New York City. She also used the name Martha Early.
So, once again, I ask if it is within the realm of feasibility that these actresses were victims of some type of a curse for appearing in works in the sci-fi/horror genre? Or, were these just tragic cases of ill fortune?
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