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Florence Henderson

Florence Henderson

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Also Known As: Florence Agnes Henderson Died:
Born: February 14, 1934 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Dale, Indiana, USA Profession: actor, radio host, singer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Indelibly, and by most accounts, happily linked in the minds of television audiences with upbeat suburban mom Carol Brady on "The Brady Bunch" (ABC, 1969-74), Florence Henderson began her acting career in numerous musical theater productions during the 1950s. Her effervescent personality and knack with a quip made her a likable guest star on television variety programs throughout the 1960s. But it was her role on "The Brady Bunch" that became the most defining of her career. Her calming, good-natured presence on the show endeared her to generations of young viewers. Henderson tapped into that same maternal warmth for a wide variety of guest appearances, hosting gigs, and promotional opportunities. Despite a lifetime of trying to branch out from her "Brady" persona, Henderson remained ever the trooper, gamely poking fun at her alter ego on numerous occasions throughout the years.Born on Feb. 14, 1934 in Dale, IN, Henderson was raised one of ten siblings by her father, Joseph, a tobacco farmer, and her mother, Elizabeth. Vocally gifted at an early age - she reportedly knew and could sing note-perfect renditions of over 50 popular tunes at the age of two - Henderson attended St. Francis Academy in...

Indelibly, and by most accounts, happily linked in the minds of television audiences with upbeat suburban mom Carol Brady on "The Brady Bunch" (ABC, 1969-74), Florence Henderson began her acting career in numerous musical theater productions during the 1950s. Her effervescent personality and knack with a quip made her a likable guest star on television variety programs throughout the 1960s. But it was her role on "The Brady Bunch" that became the most defining of her career. Her calming, good-natured presence on the show endeared her to generations of young viewers. Henderson tapped into that same maternal warmth for a wide variety of guest appearances, hosting gigs, and promotional opportunities. Despite a lifetime of trying to branch out from her "Brady" persona, Henderson remained ever the trooper, gamely poking fun at her alter ego on numerous occasions throughout the years.

Born on Feb. 14, 1934 in Dale, IN, Henderson was raised one of ten siblings by her father, Joseph, a tobacco farmer, and her mother, Elizabeth. Vocally gifted at an early age - she reportedly knew and could sing note-perfect renditions of over 50 popular tunes at the age of two - Henderson attended St. Francis Academy in Owensboro, KY, before making her way to New York's American Academy of the Dramatic Arts. Henderson landed her first professional acting role on stage at 17 in the 1952 musical "Wish You Were Here," and her skills soon attracted the attention of legendary composers Rodgers and Hammerstein, who tapped her to play the lead in the national touring company of "Oklahoma!"

More roles in prestigious stage productions soon followed. She was top-billed in "The Great Waltz" at the Civic Opera in Los Angeles, then soon returned to New York to star in the Broadway musical "Fanny" (1954). There was a brief setback in the mid-1950s when, while starring opposite Ricardo Montalban in "The King and I" in Los Angeles, she began losing her hearing. The condition progressed swiftly and dramatically, requiring Henderson to have surgery to repair a hereditary condition called otosclerosis. Her health quickly improved, however, and she returned to a busy performing schedule, which counted numerous appearances on television variety programs like "The Ed Sullivan Show" (CBS, 1948-71) and "The Dean Martin Show" (NBC, 1965-74), the latter of which allowed her to demonstrate light comedy alongside her musical abilities.

In 1969, producer Sherwood Schwartz cast Henderson as single mom Carol Brady, whose three daughters came together with new husband Mike (Robert Reed) and his three sons to form "The Brady Bunch." A genial family sitcom in the vein of "Father Knows Best" (CBS-ABC, 1954-63) and the feature "Yours, Mine and Ours" (1968), "The Brady Bunch" rarely offered Henderson much dramatic material beyond the simplest of household conflicts. But her even-keeled and kind-hearted presence did much to endear her to the show's vast audience of younger viewers, who kept the show alive in reruns for generations to come. Its enduring popularity in syndication led to numerous revivals, with Henderson gamely returning as Carol in nearly all of the TV-movies, reunion specials, variety show appearances and tributes. Most of the original cast reunited for three subsequent series - "The Brady Bunch Hour" (ABC, 1976-77), a stunningly awful variety show with the cast in musical numbers and sketch comedy; "The Brady Brides" (NBC, 1980-81), which saw Carol pass sage marriage advice on to her grown daughters; and "The Bradys" (CBS, 1989-90), which attempted to place the happy-go-lucky family into a more dramatic scenario. None of these efforts repeated the success of the original series, even though it appeared that audiences simply could not absorb enough Brady-related entertainment.

Being Carol Brady consumed much of Henderson's acting career for the next three decades, though she did manage to appear in other projects along the way. She made her feature debut in the ill-fated film adaptation of "Song of Norway" (1970), a biopic about composer Edvard Grieg, and appeared sporadically in features after that, often as herself, as in "Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult" (1994). She deflated her sunshine-streaked persona on several occasions, including a turn as a slatternly fan of rodeo clowns in Bob Goldthwait's cult comedy "Shakes the Clown" (1991) and delivered tough love to Jennifer Elise Cox's delusional Jan as the Brady's grandmother in the popular parody film "The Brady Bunch Movie" (1995). In that film and its subsequent sequels, actress Shelly Long gave an eerily accurate portrayal of Henderson's Carol Brady.

Audience affection for Henderson as Carol Brady also allowed her to enjoy a popular and lucrative side career as a television spokesperson and hostess. In 1976, she began pitching Wesson Oil in television commercials and remained the company's on-air spokesperson for the next three decades. She also appeared in spots for the Midwestern department store Prange's, Polident denture fixture and Rainsoft Water Treatment Systems. In 1985, she began a nine-season run as the hostess and co-producer of "Country Kitchen" (The Nashville Network, 1985-94), which featured chats and recipe swaps with celebrity guests. The show later inspired a book, A Little Cooking, A Little Talking and a Whole Lot of Fun, and preceded a second cooking show, "Short Cut Cooking," which aired briefly on PBS in 1998. A talk show, "Living Live," aired on the Retirement Living Television network in 1997 before Henderson signed on as co-host of "Later Today" (NBC, 1999-2000), a morning roundtable talk show. In 2008, "Living Live" was reworked as "The Florence Henderson Show."

Over the years, Henderson made several guest spots on series television, including episodes of "Roseanne" (ABC, 1988-97), "Dave's World" (CBS, 1993-97), "Ellen" (ABC, 1994-98) and "The King of Queens" (CBS, 1998-2007), Henderson's status as America's favorite mom even carried her into the turbulent waters of reality television. In 2005, she gave reluctant counsel to former television son Christopher Knight on his series "My Fair Brady" (VH1, 2005-08), though she later recounted her disgust at the show's circus-like atmosphere in newspaper reports. The experience apparently did not prevent her from serving as mother hen/relationship therapist for the 2006 season of "The Surreal Life" (The WB-VH1, 2003- ), though "Brady" fans were appalled to see her verbally abused by contestant Tawny Kitaen in one artificially tense episode. In 2008, she landed her own series on the Retirement Living TV channel called "The Florence Henderson Show," while the following year Henderson earned an Emmy Award nomination for her guest starring role on an episode of "Samantha Who?" (ABC, 2007-09). Meanwhile, it was announced in mid-2010 that Henderson would take part as a contestant for the 11th season of "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ), joining the ranks of celebrities like Michael Bolton, former NFL star Kurt Warner and comedian Margaret Cho.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
2.
4.
 Get Bruce (1999) Herself
5.
 Holy Man (1998) Herself
6.
 Fudge-A-Mania (1995) Muriel
7.
 Shakes the Clown (1991) The Unknown Woman
8.
 Very Brady Christmas, A (1988) Carol Brady
10.
 Love Boat, The - Pilot Movie (1976) Monica Richardson
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1952:
Made Broadway debut in "Wish You Were Here"
1954:
Played title role in the Broadway musical "Fanny"
1957:
TV debut, "U.S. Steel Hour" (CBS)
1958:
Debut series, "Sing Along" (CBS)
1958:
Was a regular on "The Jack Paar Show" (NBC)
1959:
With Bill Hayes, co-hosted "Oldsmobile Music Theatre/Hayes and Henderson," a seven episode variety series on NBC
1960:
Made regular appearances on NBC's morning show "Today"
1961:
Played Maria in the road company tour of "The Sound of Music"
1962:
Became the first woman to guest host "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (NBC)
1964:
Starred in Noel Coward's final Broadway musical "The Girl Who Came to Supper"
1969:
Best known for her role as Carol Brady on ABC's "The Brady Bunch"
1970:
Feature film debut, "Song of Norway"
1976:
Was the spokeswoman for Wesson cooking oil
1977:
Reprised role of Carol Brady on the ABC variety series "The Brady Bunch Hour"
1981:
Again played Carol Brady on the NBC sitcom "The Brady Brides"
1985:
Hosted "Country Kitchen" on TNN
1988:
Appeared in the CBS variety special "A Very Brady Christmas"
1990:
Reprised the role of Carol Brady in the CBS sitcom "The Bradys"
1992:
Returned to features after a 22-year absence in "Shakes the Clown"
1995:
Appeared as Carol Brady's mother in "The Brady Bunch Movie"
1995:
Co-hosted "Our Generation" with daughter Barbara Chase on the Faith & Values Network
1997:
Hosted a radio program on KGIL radio in Los Angeles
2000:
Co-hosted NBC's short-lived "Later Today"
2002:
Starred alongside Faith Ford in the ABC Family series "Moms on Strike"
2006:
Joined the sixth season of VH1's "Surreal Life" as the house therapist
2008:
Co-hosted the daily talk show "Living Live" with former Designing Women star Meshach Taylor on Retirement Living TV; the show was reworked and renamed "The Florence Henderson Show"
2010:
Joined the 11th season of "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC) as a contestant
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

St Francis Academy: Owensboro , Kentucky -
American Academy of Dramatic Arts: New York , New York -

Notes

The Carol Brady flip-shag hairdo was created by hairdresser Kaye Pownall

Florence Henderson has lived on a yacht docked in Marina del Rey for many years.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Ira Bernstein. Producer. Married on January 9, 1956; divorced; father of Henderson's four children.
husband:
John Kappas. Married in August 1987.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Joseph Henderson.
mother:
Elizabeth Henderson.
daughter:
Barbara Chase. TV host. Co-hosted TV talk show "Our Generations" with mother on Family Values Channel.
son:
Joseph Bernstein.
son:
Robert Norman Bernstein.
daughter:
Elizabeth Bernstein.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"A Little Cooking, A Little Talking and a Whole Lot of Fun

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