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 fan, 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 in department stores and bit parts, she was chosen to play Joy Smythe in âBright Eyesâ.
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.