Wednesday, April 24, 2024

RIP Jane Withers Who Turned Acting Career into Gold with Josephine the Plumber Commercials, Dies at 95


Anyone who was alive and watching television from 1963 to 1974 approximately knows Josephine the Plumber. Jane Withers played character in Comet commercials, possibly 30 a year. She was a one woman blockbuster, and indelibly etched in our minds when TV was just a few channels.

Withers died over the weekend at age 95.

The Comet commercials came to her when she was already 40 years old. She’d had a 30 year career by then at least in movies and TV, and stage work before that.By he age of 21, she’d already made 38 films as a child star. She retired at 21 and got married. Her parents had to relinquish her fortune to her, around $40,000. They’d been squandering the money on themselves. Sound familiar?

After a divorce, she returned to work in 1955, appearing in the classic movie, “Giant,” in 1956. That led to a lot of TV and movie work, and eventually Josephine. The plucky plumber was so popular it made her a fortune. I’m thinking now of the girl from the Progressive insurance commercials, who reminds me of Jane Withers. It’s possible there are 300 Josephine commercials. She was everywhere.

Even after Josephine she went on to a whole new career doing voice work and audio books. She was married twice and had five children. It’s not clear if any of them need to call the plumber!

Thanks for everything, Jane Withers!


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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