|Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide|
|This text is from the E-book Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide by Christopher J. Morley (2005). Click here to return to the table of contents. The text is unedited, and any errors or omissions rest with the author. Our thanks go out to Christopher J. Morley for his permission to publish his E-book.|
Richard Mansfield was an American actor, though was actually born in Helgoland, Germany, on 24 May 1857. The son of operatic soprano Erminia Rudersdoff, and her second husband, English wine merchant Maurice Mansfield. Educated in Derby, England, he studied painting in London, though when this work failed to support him he turned to acting. At the time of the Ripper murders he was starring in a production of Robert Lewis Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde at the Lyceum Theatre.
He came under attack and suspicion after many believed his convincing on stage transformation from a gentleman into a mad killer incited murder. His on stage transformation was achieved by the method of pre-painting the required face altering shadows in actors grease paint, this would be undetectable under normal stage light, then by the process of gradually introducing a coloured filter to the lighting, while simultaneously contorting his facial features, the monstrous visage of Hyde would eerily become apparent.
In an attempt to stem criticism of him, Mansfield offered to present a special benefit performance for the Suffragan Bishop of London's home and refuge fund, who were trying to raise money to open a laundry for the employment of reformed prostitutes. The newspapers said Mansfield wisely selected a comedy in four acts for his benefit performance, Prince Karl. Mansfield unfortunately however suffered financial loss due to falling audience attendances and cancelled the show. He died from liver cancer 30 August 1907. At the time of his death The New York Times claimed, 'He was the greatest actor of his hour, and one of the greatest of all times'.
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