In 1917 Mansfield broke into film – silent in those days – winning a six-month assignment at Essanay Studios. She made three short comedies with Essanay, a company that became famous after making a series of movies with a certain Charlie Chaplin in 1915. Mansfield’s screen name at Essanay was Martha Early.
Then in 1918 she was invited to join the Ziegfeld Follies, a lavish revue show loosely modeled on the burlesque performances of the Folies Bergère in Paris, France. Consequently, she rubbed shoulders with many of the top stars of the day, such as W.C. Fields and Will Rogers.
After two seasons with Ziegfeld, Mansfield became something of a celebrity and famous beauty, known back then as an “it girl.” In 1918 she acted in her first feature film, Broadway Bill. And in 1919 she announced to her public that she would henceforth devote herself to the cinema.