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Hollywood Golden Age Actress Jane Withers Dies at 95

Photo from IMDb

Hollywood Golden Age Actress Jane Withers Dies at 95

By Movieguide® Staff

Actress Jane Withers, best known as Shirley Temple’s antagonist in BRIGHT EYES, died on Aug. 7, 2021, at the age of 95.

Withers’ daughter, Kendall Errair, confirmed the news.

“My mother was such a special lady,” Errair said in a statement to Deadline. “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.”

At the age of 8, Withers landed her first significant role in the 1934 comedy BRIGHT EYES, where she played Joy Smythe, the tormentor of Shirley Temple.

Throughout the 1930s, Withers starred in other comedies, like Lewis Seiler’s GINGER. She also starred in THE HOLY TERROR, WILD AND WOOLY, RASCALS, and ARIZONA WILDCAT.

Although Wither’s career had just begun, in 1947, the 21-year-old actress said she wanted to retire and raise a family. Wither’s hiatus from the big screen did not last long, as she returned in GIANT, starring alongside Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean.

Yahoo News reported:

It would be the role that opened up more opportunities for Withers in both film and TV. She appeared in episodes of General Electric Theater, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Love Boat, and Murder, She Wrote. Withers also worked in stage productions of Mame, Hello, Dolly!, and No, No, Nanette., while raising her children.

In 1960, she took on what would become one of her most popular roles, as Josephine the Plumber in TV commercials for Comet cleanser. Withers was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that same year.

Withers also was a voice actress in the Disney animated films The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1995, and its sequel in 2002. She landed the role after Mary Wickes, who voiced the gargoyle, died while the former was in post-production.

Active in dozens of charities, Jane served as a board member of the local branch of the American Cancer Society and in 2003, she received a Living Legacy Award from the Women’s International Center.

When asked how she survived early childhood stardom in Hollywood, Withers credited her faith.

“I always took my troubles to the good Lord, and I never failed to get an answer,” she said in an interview from 1974.


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