Jane Withers, a former child star from the golden age of Hollywood, passed away on Saturday in Burbank, California. She was 95 years-old.
Wither’s death was confirmed by her daughter Kendall Errair in a statements obtained by People Magazine.
“My mother was such a special lady. She lit up a room with her laughter, but she especially radiated joy and thankfulness when talking about the career she so loved and how lucky she was,” Errair said.
Wither’s film career began in the 1930s, and she was only eight years-old when she scored her big break in the 1934 Shirley Temple film Bright Eyes. She managed to steal scenes in this movie as Joy Smythe, the spoiled 8-year-old daughter of a family who employs the mother of Temple’s character as a maid.
Withers then signed a contract with the Fox Film Corporation, appearing in three to five films a year. Her first starring role came in 1935 with the movie Ginger, which began filming on her 9th birthday. In this movie, Withers portrayed an orphan who’s taken in by a rich family after her uncle gets arrested.
Withers would go on to star in the 1941 movie Small Town Deb, which she wrote under a pseudonym in the hopes of getting more mature roles in Hollywood. She then retired from Hollywood at the age of 21 to get married and raise a family, and she later had five children.
In 1955, Withers returned to Los Angeles to go to film school at University of Southern California. She resumed her acting career from there, appearing in the 1956 movie Giant and as Josephine the Plumber in commercials for Comet, which ran from 1963 to 1974.
Withers once said that she moved to Hollywood at the age of 6 with her mother, who wanted her to become a child star.
“Mother was determined to have only one child, a girl, who would go into show business, which she had wanted to do so much herself,” she said.
“In fact, Mother turned down several marriage proposals because the men wouldn’t go along with the plan,” she added. “When she was carrying me she’d study movie marquees trying to decide on a name to go with Withers. She taught me to sing, although she doesn’t sing on pitch herself. Luckily I do, although I never know what key I’m singing in. She’d take me to the movies when I was 2 and 3 so I could learn.”
Rest in peace, Jane Withers.