The Brady Bunch’ matriarch Florence Henderson dies at 82

The Brady Bunch’ matriarch Florence Henderson dies at 82

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Florence Henderson, who went from Broadway star to become one of America’s most beloved television moms in “The Brady Bunch,” has died. She was 82.

Henderson died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Thursday night, a day after she was hospitalized, said her publicist, David Brokaw. Henderson had suffered heart failure, her manager Kayla Pressman said in a statement.

Family and friends had surrounded Henderson’s hospital bedside, Pressman said.

On the surface, “The Brady Bunch” with Henderson as its ever-cheerful matriarch Carol Brady resembled just another TV sitcom about a family living in suburban America and getting into a different wacky situation each week.

But well after it ended its initial run in 1974, the show resonated with audiences, and it returned to television in various forms again and again, including “The Brady Bunch Hour” in 1977, “The Brady Brides” in 1981 and “The Bradys” in 1990. It was also seen endlessly in reruns.

“It represents what people always wanted: a loving family. It’s such a gentle, innocent, sweet show, and I guess it proved there’s always an audience for that,” Henderson said in 1999.

Premiering in 1969, it also was among the first shows to introduce to television the blended family. As its theme song reminded viewers each week, Henderson’s Carol was a single mother raising three daughters when she met her TV husband, Robert Reed’s Mike Brady, a single father who was raising three boys.

The eight of them became “The Brady Bunch,” with a quirky housekeeper, played by Ann B. Davis, thrown into the mix.

Mourners flooded social media with memories of Henderson.

Maureen McCormick, who played the eldest Brady daughter, Marcia, tweeted, “You are in my heart forever Florence.” ”Dancing With the Stars” host Tom Bergeron tweeted, “Heartbroken. I’ll miss you, my friend.” Henderson’s last public appearance was Monday at the “Dancing With The Stars” taping where she was in the audience to support McCormick, who competed this season.

The blond, ever-smiling Henderson was already a Broadway star when the show began, having originated the title role in the musical “Fanny.” But after “The Brady Bunch,” she would always be known to fans as Carol Brady.

“We had to have security guards with us. Fans were hanging on our doors. We couldn’t go out by ourselves. We were like the Beatles!” she said of the attention the show brought the cast.

Like the Beatles, there was even a Saturday morning cartoon version called “Brady Kids,” though Henderson was not in that show.

She and Reed did return, however, for “The Brady Bunch Hour, “The Brady Brides” and “The Bradys.” So did most of the original cast.

She was also back again in 1995 when a new cast was assembled for “The Brady Bunch Movie,” a playful spoof of the original show. This time she was Grandma Brady opposite Shelley Long’s Carol. Numerous memoirs also kept interest in the show alive as cast members revealed they were more than just siblings off camera. Barry Williams, who played eldest son Greg Brady, would confess to having a crush on his TV stepmom. Henderson, in her own book, denied having any relationship with Williams but did acknowledge a fling with former New York City mayor John Lindsay.

Henderson was a 19-year-old drama student in New York when she landed a one-line role in the play “Wish You Were Here.”

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were so impressed they made her the female lead in a 1952 road tour of “Oklahoma!” When the show returned to Broadway for a revival in 1954, she continued in the role and won rave reviews.

“She is the real thing,” wrote Walter Kerr of the New York Herald Tribune.

To broaden her career, Henderson took acting, dancing, singing and guitar lessons, even studying French and Italian.

She went on to play Maria in a road production of “The Sound of Music,” was Nellie Forbush in a revival of “South Pacific” and was back on Broadway with Jose Ferrer in “The Girl Who Came to Supper” in 1963.

She made her movie debut in 1970 in “Song of Norway,” based on the 1944 operetta with music by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.

Her career nearly came to an end in 1965 when she suddenly lost her hearing while appearing in “The King and I” in Los Angeles. She was diagnosed with a condition linked to heredity.

“Corrective surgery in both ears restored my hearing,” she said in 2007.

As her TV career blossomed with “The Brady Bunch,” Henderson also began to make frequent TV guest appearances. She was the first woman to host “The Tonight Show” for the vacationing Johnny Carson.

For eight years she also commuted to Nashville to conduct a cooking and talk series, “Country Kitchen,” on The Nashville Network. The show resulted in a book, “Florence Henderson’s Short Cut Cooking.”

After “The Brady Bunch” ended its first run, Henderson alternated her appearances in revivals of the show with guest appearances on other programs, including “Hart to Hart,” ”Fantasy Island” and “The Love Boat.”

In later years she also made guest appearances on such shows as “Roseanne, “Ally McBeal” and “The King of Queens.”

She also became a commercial spokeswoman and co-produced “Country Kitchen,” a Nashville Network series, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Florence Agnes Henderson was born Feb. 14, 1934, in the small town of Dale in southern Indiana. She was the 10th child of a tobacco sharecropper of Irish descent.

In grade school, she joined the choir at a Catholic church in Rockport, Indiana.

After high school she moved to New York, where she enrolled in a two-year program at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, her studies financed by a theatrical couple who had been impressed by her singing when they saw her perform in high school.

She dropped out of the program after one year, however, to take the role in “Wish You Were There.”

Henderson married theater executive Ira Bernstein and the couple had four children before the union ended in divorce after 29 years.

Her second husband, John Kappas, died in 2002.

Pressman said she is survived by her children, Barbara, Joseph, Robert and Lizzie, their spouses and five grandchildren.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

The Brady Bunch’ matriarch Florence Henderson dies at 82

Just Posted

Red Deer Public Schools says that in the absence of additional funds from the provincial government, there was no consideration of using alternate classroom sites in the district. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Red Deer Public Schools launches online engagement process

Red Deer Public schools is seeking community input to help ensure a… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels defenceman Mason Ward battles with a Medicine Hat Tigers’ forward during the WHL Central Division season opener. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers come back to spoil Red Deer Rebels home opener

It’s been nearly 345 days since the Red Deer Rebels last played… Continue reading

Students walk into Hunting Hills High School, which is one of the Red Deer Public Schools with solar panels on its roof. (Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff)
Red Deer high school was placed in lockdown following potential threat

Hunting Hills High School was placed in a lockdown Friday after Red… Continue reading

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says some details of the provincial government’s 2021-22 budget need to be ‘sorted out’ when it comes to the hospital expansion funding. (File photo by Advocate staff)
More detail needed regarding hospital funding, says Red Deer mayor

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says some information is unclear regarding the… Continue reading

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Runner Melissa Bishop-Nriagu speaks to the media at the opening news conference at the Canadian Track and Field Championships Thursday, July 25, 2019 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canadian athletes struggling to find competition as they try to qualify for Tokyo

Canadian athletes struggling to find competition as they try to qualify for Tokyo

New York Red Bulls midfielder Jared Stroud, right, vies for the ball against Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio during an MLS soccer match in Harrison, NJ., Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. Entering his ninth season with Toronto FC, Jonathan Osorio said his off-season regimen was no different than in the past. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Eduardo Munoz Alvarez
Veteran TFC midfielder Jonathan Osorio looks to take it to the next level this season

Veteran TFC midfielder Jonathan Osorio looks to take it to the next level this season

Powell, Lowry help depleted Raptors beat Rockets

Powell, Lowry help depleted Raptors beat Rockets

Edmonton Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen (19) makes the save on Toronto Maple Leafs' Zach Hyman (11) as Tyson Barrie (22) defends during third period NHL action in Edmonton, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. Toronto continues to lead the North Division standings, but hard-charging Edmonton is now just four points back on the all-Canadian circuit heading into a three-game series between the teams in Alberta's capital beginning Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Maple Leafs, Oilers set for key three-game series atop North Division

Maple Leafs, Oilers set for key three-game series atop North Division

Angela James stands on centre ice in front of the Toronto Maple Leafs team after being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame before Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday November 6, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Hall of Famers James, Lowe, Hay named to Order of Hockey in Canada

Hall of Famers James, Lowe, Hay named to Order of Hockey in Canada

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse talks to center Aron Baynes (46) and guard Norman Powell (24) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris O'Meara
Nurse, five Raptors assistants sidelined to due COVID-19 health and safety protocols

Nurse, five Raptors assistants sidelined to due COVID-19 health and safety protocols

Team Ontario skip Rachel Homan, centre, makes a shot against Team Wild Card 1 as second Sarah Wilkes, left, and lead Joanne Courtney sweep at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. Ontario's Rachel Homan kicked off play in the championship pool Friday with a 7-6 victory over Chelsea Carey of Team Wild Card One at the Canadian women's curling playdowns. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Homan and Einarson improve to 8-1 at Canadian women’s curling championship

Homan and Einarson improve to 8-1 at Canadian women’s curling championship

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
New vaccine brings optimism amid rising threat of variants, high case counts

New vaccine brings optimism amid rising threat of variants, high case counts

Most Read