Sybil Jason was supposed to rival the biggest child star of her generation, but rather than an ongoing cat fight, the two little girls established a friendship that lasted until the end.
In 1935, when she was six, she was spotted in the British film Barnacle Bill by Irving Asher, then in charge of Warner Bros at Elstree. Asher telephoned Jack Warner to say: "I've seen this kid, she'll be bigger than Shirley Temple." She had a screen test and Jack Warner signed her.
Sybil Jacobson was born in Cape Town, South Africa, on November 23 1927. When she was two the family moved to England, where she was soon picking out tunes on the piano; at three she was impersonating Maurice Chevalier, Greta Garbo and Jeanette MacDonald on stage; at four, she was headlining at London night clubs, singing, dancing, doing impressions and playing the piano.
Her uncle, the bandleader Harry Jacobson, was also piano accompanist to Gracie Fields, and it was Gracie who was responsible for getting Sybil her first film part in London.
Once in Hollywood, Sybil was top-billed in Little Big Shot (1935), for which she sang the title song, Rolling in Money. The film bore a striking similarity to Little Miss Marker (1934), starring Shirley Temple, and was a success with critics and audiences alike.
To see some crying scenes, go here. You also might remember as Becky, the scullery maid who befriended Shirley Temple in The Little Princess. I wish we knew more about what grounded her so that she didn't become shredded by the fame machine, though WW2, which grounded her in South Africa, may have played its part. May she rest in peace.