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Jane Withers, Josephine the Plumber in Comet Ads and ’30s Child Star, Dies at 95

Withers became a big box office draw as the foil to bubbly Shirley Temple in ”Bright Eyes“

Jane Withers, an actress on both the silver screen and television commercials, died Aug. 7 in Burbank, California. She was 95.

Withers’ daughter, Kendall Errair, confirmed her death to the New York Times. A cause of death was not disclosed.

Withers’ first major Hollywood role came at just 8 years-old in the Shirley Temple movie “Bright Eyes,” a breakout role for Withers that set her on the path of playing rousing, tomboyish girls in films throughout the 1930s. The 20th Century Fox film came out in 1934 and saw Withers playing the role of Jane, a rich kid who delighted in tormenting her toys and wanted a machine gun for Christmas — the exact opposite of the film’s star Shirley Temple, who played her typical role of the adorable, upbeat kid, despite being an orphan.

Withers was born April 12, 1926 in Atlanta, Georgia. As a child and in the span of only three years, Withers starred in five films — 1937’s “The Holy Terror” and “Wild and Woolly,” “Always in Trouble” in 1938 and “The Arizona Wildcat” in 1939.

She also acted in several hit television shows including stints on “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,” “Murder, She Wrote” and “The Love Boat.” As a 13-year-old in 1939, Withers was invited to make a permanent mark in Hollywood history by displaying her handprints and signature in concrete outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

After getting an early start in Hollywood, Withers later began acting in commercials and came to be known for her role as Josephine the Plumber in commercials for Comet cleanser during the 1960s. Withers’ distinctive voice made her recognizable years after the ads stopped airing. She told the Long Beach Press-Telegram, “I can be at a market and I’ll be talking to somebody there about a can of peas and all of a sudden they’ll say, ‘I knew that was you! I recognized your voice right away.'”

According to the New York Times, Withers was also an avid teddy bear and doll collector. She had a vast trove of dolls including mini replicas of film and radio stars from the 1930s including herself, Temple, Snow White and the Lone Ranger. Withers reportedly had about 8,000 dolls but many of them were sold at auction in August 2004.

Withers is survived by her daughter Errair and three other children.