Filled Under: Jane Withers
Jane Withers (born April 12, 1926) is an American actress best known for being one of the most popular child film stars of the 1930s and early 1940s. Withers began her career as a child actress, first on local radio broadcasts in Atlanta, Georgia as “Dixie’s Dainty Dewdrop”. By the age of three, she was singing and imitating adult celebrities. Her family moved to Hollywood in the early 30’s and Withers landed bit parts in several movies in 1932 – 1933. Withers’s big break came when she landed a supporting role in the 1934 Shirley Temple film “Bright Eyes”. Her character Joy Smythe was spoiled and obnoxious, a perfect foil to Temple’s sweet personality. In a 2006 interview on TCM’s Private Screenings with Robert Osborne, Withers recalled that she was hesitant to take this role because she had to be so “mean” to Shirley Temple and she thought the public would hate her for it. In the movie, she tells Temple: “There ain’t any Santa Claus, because my psychoanalyst told me!” Withers received positive notices for her work, and was awarded a long-term contract with Fox.
Through the remainder of the 1930s she starred in several movies every year, including “Ginger” (1935), “The Farmer Takes a Wife” (1935), and “Little Miss Nobody” (1936). Moviegoers flocked to see her films, and Withers became one of the top 10 box-office stars in 1937 and 1938. Her “sweet sixteen” birthday party was filmed by Paramount for the Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood series. Withers kept working in the 1940s and she made 16 films for Fox, Columbia, and Republic Pictures, still drawing large crowds to see her movies.
In 1955, while filming the movie “Giant” Jane developed a friendship with James Dean. In the DVD special features she tells the story that Dean had a favorite pink cowboy shirt he wore all the time. He never let it go the laundry for fear it would be lost like the other shirts he had. Withers convinced him to let her wash it for him. She did this often and when he left to go to the race he gave her his shirt to wash and have ready for him when he came back. James Dean died that day in the fateful fatal car wreck in California. Withers still keeps his shirt and the fond memories of him.
In 1947, she married wealthy Texas oil man, William P. Moss Jr., and had three children by him, William, Wendy, and Randy. The marriage was lasted only six years. In 1955, she remarried, this time to Kenneth Errair, one-quarter of the harmonizing group “The Four Freshmen.” They had two children, Ken and Kendall Jane. In June 1968, Errair was killed in a plane crash in California. And then on Jan 15, 1986 Withers lost adult son Walter Randall “Randy” Moss (from her first marriage), just two days after his 34th birthday. Miss Withers often claimed, a strong spiritual faith got her through many personal challenges. Jane Withers is currently living in Los Angeles, California.