Brady Bunch Mom Florence Henderson Dead at 82

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Henderson as Carol Brady, in the upper row's center square, with the members of her TV family

Henderson as Carol Brady, in the upper row’s center square, with the members of her TV family

Florence Henderson, whose career took her from the Broadway stage to millions of homes as Carol Brady, the matriarch of The Brady Bunch, is dead. The actress was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles Wednesday and died yesterday, Nov. 24. The cause of death, confirmed by Henderson’s publicist, was heart failure. She was 82.

Variety reported that Henderson was seen in public as recently as Monday, when she attended a taping of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, where fellow Brady Bunch alumnus Maureen McCormick is a contestant. (Henderson herself had been a contestant in 2010.)

Florence Agnes Henderson, born February 14, 1934, in Dale, Indiana, performed in touring musicals before making her Broadway debut in 1952, in Wish You Were Here. She played the female lead in a 1952 road tour of Oklahoma!, then continued in the role when the musical reached Broadway.  Henderson also starred in the title role of the long-running Fanny beginning in 1954, as well as in several subsequent productions. In 1962, she became the first woman to guest-host The Tonight Show.

The Brady Bunch debuted on ABC Television in 1969, with Henderson portraying the mother in the Sherwood Schwartz-created sitcom about an all-American family with six children. The premise of the show was simple but effective: widower Mike Brady (Robert Reed, who died in 1992), with three sons (Barry Williams as Greg, Christopher Knight as Peter and Mike Lookinland as Bobby), marries Carol Martin, who has three daughters (Maureen McCormick as Marcia, Eve Plumb as Jan and Susan Olsen as Cindy). Add one housekeeper, Alice (Ann B. Davis). Hilarity ensues in suburbia on a weekly basis.

The series ran for five seasons, then went into syndication in 1975, where it maintained its popularity through generations of viewers, particularly children and teens. The series spawned several reunions and spinoffs: The Brady Bunch Hour (1976-77), The Brady Girls Get Married (1981), The Brady Brides (1981), A Very Brady Christmas (1988), and The Bradys (1990).

Henderson became a television icon due to the ongoing popularity of the program and although she appeared, usually in a guest role, on many other programs in the four decades since the cancellation of The Brady Bunch, as well as in several films and commercials, she remained primarily associated with that successful program.

Watch a classic scene from The Brady Bunch

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