Anne Whitfield, 'White Christmas' Star, Dead at 85

Anne Whitfield
Paramount Pictures

The stage, screen and radio star died after an 'unexpected accident' near her home in Washington on Feb. 15.

Actress Anne Whitfield, best known for her role in the 1954 holiday classic White Christmas, has died. She was 85.

Whitfield died on Feb. 15 at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital in Washington, surrounded by her family, according to her obituary. She had been hospitalized after an "unexpected accident while on a walk in her neighborhood."

"Through the kindness of neighbors who provided expert medical support, family had the gift to say goodbye and express love and gratitude, a gift we will always cherish," her family wrote.

Whitfield was born in Oxford, Mississippi, in Aug. 27, 1938. When she was 4, her father was deployed overseas as an Army Band director, and Whitfield's mother brought her to Hollywood to pursue her showbusiness dreams. Whitfield got into acting in radio dramas as a child, and went on to study at UCLA while still acting and working on radio shows.

A 1956 press photo of Anne Whitfield from when she played Harriet Conklin on the CBS Radio program, 'Our Miss Brooks.' - CBS via Getty Images

She began working in the theater in 1949 and appeared in numerous stage productions, including Annie Get Your Gun. She began booking small roles on TV shows the following year, with bit parts in Racket Squad, One Man's Family, and Hollywood Opening Night, as well as several small film roles.

Her most memorable role came in 1954, when Whitfield was only 15, in the beloved musical comedy White Christmas, in which she played Susan Waverly, the granddaughter of Major General Thomas Waverly (Dean Jagger), who owns the Columbia Inn hotel where Bing Crosby's Bob Wallace and Danny Kaye's Phil Davis perform.

According tom Whitfield's obituary, "Just this past December during the holidays, Annie was able to watch White Christmas with her family on the movie’s 70th anniversary."

"Although Annie was a talented actor, Los Angeles didn’t have enough trees for her and she left Hollywood for her new life 'up north' in the 1970's. During this transition, Annie became devoted to causes that promote Peace and preserve nature," her family shared. "After 'retiring', Annie worked tirelessly as an activist and community organizer, working right up until the day she passed away."

Anne Whitfield played a small role on the Western drama 'Tate' in 1960. - NBCU Photo Bank

Whitfield continued acting through the 1980s and '90s in small roles, with her final appearance coming in the 1999 Robert Altman dramedy Cookie's Fortune.

"The most precious part of Annie’s life were her 3 children and 7 grandchildren. She was beloved by her family, who were always her first priority," the family shared. Whitfield is survived by daughters Julie and Allison, her son Evan, as well as her beloved grandchildren.

The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, those wishing to pay tribute to Whitfield make a charitable donation to an organization of their choice or honor her memory by "planting a memorial tree through The Tribute Store."