Jane Withers, child star who later gained fame in commercials, dies at 95

Jane Withers, a 1930s child star who played tomboy kids in more than two dozen B-movies and rose to second adulthood as an adult as Jose...

Jane Withers, a 1930s child star who played tomboy kids in more than two dozen B-movies and rose to second adulthood as an adult as Josephine the Plumber in commercials for the Comet cleaner, died Saturday in Burbank, Calif. She was 95 years old.

His death was confirmed by his daughter Kendall Errair.

In her first major movie role in Fox’s “Bright Eyes” (1934), 8-year-old Jane played a spoiled rich kid who wanted a machine gun for Christmas and took gruesome pleasure in sending her dolls to the hospital. . She was the antidote to the movie star, Shirley temple, the orphan always happy, always obedient, always smiling.

The titles of some of the films Ms. Withers starred in said it all: “The Holy Terror” (1937), “Wild and Woolly” (1937), “Rascals” (1938), “Always in Trouble” (1938) and “The Arizona Wildcat” (1939).

At the end of most of her films, “just to satisfy everyone, I get a good spanking,” Ms. Withers told Norman Zierold, the author of “The Child Stars” (1965). “The minute they slapped me in ‘Bright Eyes’ everyone just screamed and waved, they were so happy. Well, I don’t mind. I had fun.

As an adult, Ms. Withers played Vashti Snythe, Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson’s neighbor who rejoiced in spending her oil money in “Giant” (1956); appeared in several television series; and voiced Gargoyle Laverne in the animation “The Hunchback of Notre Dame II” (2002), a role she first assumed after the death of Mary wickes in 1995.

But its most memorable and enduring role was like Josephine the plumber, in a white cap and dungarees, in the 60s and 70s. Almost 40 years later, she was still known for this character.

“I can be in a market and I’m going to talk to someone about a can of peas and all of a sudden they’ll say, ‘I knew it was you! I immediately recognized your voice, ”Ms. Withers told the Long Beach Press-Telegram in 2007.

Most of his films were shot in Fox’s small Hollywood studio. Shirley Temple’s mother Gertrude, who was reportedly being choosy about who was allowed to play with her daughter, had Ms Withers banned from the studio’s large Westwood lot, according to another former child star, according to another former child star. Dickie moore. In his memoir, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” Mr. Moore wrote that Gertrude Temple was so protective of Shirley that Jane was not even allowed to say hello to her when the kids performed in “Bright Eyes” together.

While her Hollywood success didn’t survive her teenage years, Ms. Withers was the rare child actor who entered adulthood prepared for the real world – and with money in the bank. Her parents “taught Jane accounting when she was seven,” Moore wrote, unlike almost all other parents, who refused to let their meal vouchers grow and, in most cases, squandered their money. It was a point of pride for his father, a Goodrich executive, that his salary paid for family expenses.

Jane Withers was born in Atlanta on April 12, 1926 to Walter and Lavinia Withers. Her mother, a movie buff, chose Jane as her name because she thought it would look good on a marquee. At the age of 4, the chubby kid with the Buster Brown haircut was singing, dancing, and imitating Greta Garbo; billed as “Dixie’s Dainty Dewdrop,” she had her own local radio show.

When Jane was 6, the family moved to Hollywood. After two years of modeling for department stores and bit parts, she was chosen to play Joy Smythe in “Bright Eyes”.

Like Ms. Temple, Ms. Withers has played an orphan in most of her films. In “Paddy O ‘Day” (1935), her savior was Rita Cansino – soon to be renamed Rita Hayworth – in her first leading role. In “45 Fathers” (1937), she is adopted by a group of old men.

In 1937, Ms. Withers was in sixth place on the 10 best box office stars list of movie owners, despite the fact that she only starred in B movies. And doll sales in Jane Withers paper, hair bows, socks and mystery novels similar to the Nancy Drew series have made her more money than her films.

Stardom also brought Ms. Withers thousands of dolls and teddy bears, most of which were sent by fans. Those fans included President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who asked his wife, Eleanor, to handpick a teddy bear.

In her early teens, Ms. Withers wrote a story for herself, under the pseudonym Jerrie Walters. It was adapted in the film “Small Town Deb” (1942). At the end of her contract with Fox, she played the role of a peasant girl in Samuel Goldwyn’s “The North Star” (1943).

Ms. Withers married Texas oilman William Moss Jr. in 1947. They had three children and divorced in 1955, leaving Ms. Withers several oil wells. That same year, she married Kenneth Errair, who had been a member of the singing group The Four Freshmen. He was killed in a plane crash in 1968. (Information on his survivors was not immediately available.)

In August 2004, Ms. Withers auctioned off several hundred dolls, many of which looked like movie and radio stars and 1930s characters, including Sonja Henie, the Lone Ranger, and Snow White.

Ms. Withers may never have surpassed Ms. Temple’s on-screen popularity. But in the 2004 sale, a Shirley Temple doll dressed in her “little colonel” costume sold for $ 3,100; a Jane Withers doll sold for $ 5,600.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Jane Withers, child star who later gained fame in commercials, dies at 95
Jane Withers, child star who later gained fame in commercials, dies at 95
Newsrust - US Top News
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