Sybil Jason (born Sybil Jacobson; 23 November 1927 – 23 August 2011) was a South African-born American child film actress who, in the late 1930s, was presented as a rival to Shirley Temple.[2]

Sybil Jason
Sybil Jacobson

(1927-11-23)23 November 1927
Died23 August 2011(2011-08-23) (aged 83)[1]
OccupationActress, singer
Years active1931–1940
Spouse(s)Anthony Drake
(m. 1947–2005; his death)


Born in Cape Town, South Africa, she began playing the piano at age two and, a year later, began making public appearances doing impersonations of Maurice Chevalier. She was introduced to the theatre-going public of London by way of her uncle, Harry Jacobson, a then-popular London orchestra leader and also pianist for Gracie Fields. The apex of her career came with a concert performance with Frances Day at London's Palace Theatre. Her theatre work led to appearances on radio and phonograph records, and a supporting role in the film Barnacle Bill (1935).

Irving Asher, the head of Warner Bros.' London studio, saw Jason's performance in Barnacle Bill and subsequently arranged for her to make a screen test for the studio. The test was a success, resulting in Warner Bros. signing her to a contract. Her American film debut came as the lead in Little Big Shot (1935), directed by Michael Curtiz and co-starring Glenda Farrell, Robert Armstrong, and Edward Everett Horton.

Jason followed this with supporting roles opposite some of Warner Bros. most popular stars, including Kay Francis in I Found Stella Parish (1935), Al Jolson in The Singing Kid (1936), Pat O'Brien and Humphrey Bogart in The Great O'Malley (1937), and again with Kay Francis in Comet Over Broadway (1938). Warners also starred her in The Captain's Kid (1937), and four Vitaphone two-reelers filmed in Technicolor: Changing of the Guard, A Day at Santa Anita, Little Pioneer, and The Littlest Diplomat.

Jason, however, never became the major rival to Shirley Temple that Warner Bros. had hoped for, and her film career ended after playing two supporting roles at 20th-Century Fox. These films — The Little Princess (1939) and The Blue Bird (1940) — were in support of Temple, who became her lifelong friend.

Personal lifeEdit

Jason married Anthony Albert Fromlak (aka Anthony Drake) on 30 December 1950. He died in 2005.[3] Their daughter, Toni Maryanna Rossi, is married to Phillip W. Rossi, producer of The New Price is Right.[4]

Sybil Jason became a naturalized United States citizen in 1952.[5]


  • Sybil Jason was an active member in the International Al Jolson Society and also made frequent appearances at celebrity shows throughout the United States.
  • Her autobiography, My Fifteen Minutes: An Autobiography of a child star of the Golden Era of Hollywood, was published in 2005. She also authored a stage musical entitled Garage Sale.


Year Title Role Notes
1934 He Was Her Man Little Girl Uncredited
1935 Barnacle Bill Jill as a child
Dance Band Girl on train
Broadway Gondolier (scenes deleted)
Little Big Shot Gloria "Countess" Gibbs
A Dream Comes True Herself Uncredited
I Found Stella Parish Gloria Parish
1936 The Singing Kid Sybil Haines
Changing of the Guard Sybil Short
The Captain's Kid Abigail Prentiss
1937 The Great O'Malley Barbara "Babs" Phillips
A Day at Santa Anita Peaches Blackburn Short
Little Pioneer Betsy Manning Short
The Littlest Diplomat Sybil Hardwick Short
1938 Comet Over Broadway Jacqueline "Jackie" Appleton
1939 Woman Doctor Elsa Graeme
The Little Princess Becky
1940 The Blue Bird Angela Berlingot (final film role)



  1. ^ Pershing, Ben (28 August 2011). "Sybil Jason, child star and screen rival to Shirley Temple, dies at 83 - The Washington Post". The Washington Post. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
  2. ^ Jason, Sybil (2005). My Fifteen Minutes: An Autobiography of a Child Star of the Golden Era of Hollywood. Bear Manor Media. ISBN 1-59393-023-2.
  3. ^ Slotnik, Daniel E. (29 August 2011). "Sybil Jason, Cherubic Child Actress, Dies at 83". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 December 2011.
  4. ^ Sybil Jason on IMDb
  5. ^ Sybil Jason Fromlak's Petition for Naturalization as a United States Citizen (dated 16 September 1952), #154384,; accessed 14 October 2015.


  • Best, Marc (1971) Those Endearing Young Charms: Child Performers of the Screen, South Brunswick and New York: Barnes & Co, pp. 128-133.

External linksEdit