Florence Henderson, the actress who was best known for her role as Carol Brady in the hit sitcom The Brady Bunch, has passed away at the age of 82.
Henderson’s publicist David Brokaw confirmed that she died, one day after being hospitalized for heart failure at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
The actress’ manager, Kayla Pressman, said that family and friends were with Henderson at the hospital when she died. Henderson’s career spanned several decades and included roles on Broadway, television, and in films. She was also a beloved figure in the entertainment industry and will be sorely missed.
Henderson’s rise to fame began in the 1950s when she originated the title role of Fanny in the Broadway musical of the same name. She went on to become a “Today Girl” on NBC’s popular morning program, Today. In 1962, she made history as the first female guest host on The Tonight Show when she filled in for Johnny Carson. Over the course of her career, Henderson was a regular on variety and game shows and was a pitchwoman for a vegetable cooking-oil product.
However, it was her role as Carol Brady in The Brady Bunch that made Henderson a household name. From 1969 to 1974, she played the matriarch of the blended Brady family on the hit ABC sitcom.
The show followed the lives of a newlywed couple, Mike and Carol Brady, as they navigated the challenges of raising their six children together. Although the show only ran for five seasons, it went on to become a cultural phenomenon and has remained popular in syndication.
Henderson wasn’t the first actress to be considered for the role of Carol Brady. Creator Sherwood Schwartz had originally cast Joyce Bulifant to play the character but decided to make a change after realizing that the chemistry wasn’t working. Henderson was asked to read for the part and was initially reluctant to take on a series.
However, she was eventually persuaded to do a screen test, which she did on the Star Trek set, before jetting off to Houston for a nightclub gig. The next day, Henderson was called back to Los Angeles to do The Brady Bunch pilot, and the rest is history.
Henderson’s performance as Carol Brady was a defining moment in her career, and it was one that she was proud of. In a 1999 interview with the Archive of American Television, Henderson said, “There were certain things I brought to the role … my experience as a young parent, the fact that I understood kids, that I felt close to them. I was really the only one on the set who was married, who had children. In a way, I sort of became the stability of the show.”
The Brady Bunch wasn’t the only success story for Henderson. She appeared in a number of films, including Song of Norway (1970), and also had a successful stage career.
Her love of musical theater began in high school, and she went on to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. Her talent was evident, and she soon landed her first Broadway role in the musical comedy Wish You Were Here.
Henderson was also a regular on game shows and talk shows throughout her career.
She appeared on shows like I’ve Got a Secret, To Tell the Truth, Password All-Stars, and The Hollywood Squares. In recent years, she continued to work in television, appearing in shows like The King of Queens, 30 Rock, and Samantha Who?
Florence Henderson will be sorely missed by many fans. We love you Florence!