In a year that has seen so many entertainment icons taken from us, another beloved Hollywood star has passed away. Florence Henderson, who played the iconic TV matriarch Carol Brady on the hit series The Brady Bunch, has died at the age of 82. The actress' publicist David Brokaw confirmed that she passed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, with her family confiring that she succumbed to heart failure. Here's what David Brokaw had to say in a brief statement about his client's passing.
"She was quite active until she started not feeling well several days ago. It was felt that she would just bounce back from it."
The New York Times broke the news on the actress' passing. Florence Henderson was born February 14, 1934 in Dale, Indiana, the youngest of 10 children born to a tenant farmer named Joseph Henderson and his wife, a homemaker named Elizabeth Henderson. The family often struggled with money, with Florence Henderson recalling that she started working at the age of 8, babysitting, cleaning homes or even performing songs in exchange for groceries. She was brought up as a Roman Catholic, attending St. Frances Academy in Owensboro, Kentucky, where she learned how to sing the Latin Mass and other various Gregorian chants.
During her time at St. Francis, Florence Hendrson befriended Christine Johnson, a former Broadway actress who suggested that she study acting and singing. With the help of a friend's wealthy father, she made it to New York City, where she studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts for a year, before she was cast in the musical comedy Wish You Were Here in 1952, which centered on a summer camp for adults. She ended up leaving that role early when she was cast as the female lead in the national touring production of Oklahoma!. Her theater work lead to several TV appearances on music-driven shows like The Bell Telephone Hour, Oldsmobile Music Theater and The Dean Martin Show. She was also a regular on The Tonight Show, and in between the hosting tenures of Jack Paar and Johnny Carson, she became the show's first ever female guest host.
While filming the movie Song of Norway in 1969, Florence Henderson was asked to play Carol Brady in the pilot episode of a new series entitled The Brady Bunch. The show ran for five seasons between 1969 and 1974, but its legacy lived on far beyond its initial run on the small screen. Florence Henderson would return to reprise her role as Carol Brady in The Brady Bunch Variety Hour in 1976, the 1981 TV spin-off The Brady Brides, the 1988 TV movie A Very Brady Christmas, the 1990 spin-off series The Bradys and the 1995 feature film The Brady Bunch Movie, although she did not return for the 1996 follow-up A Very Brady Sequel. Here's what she had to say about the show to its detractors in an interview, defending the show's wholesome plots and family life.
"It was really a show that was seen through the eyes of a child, and it was supposed to have a little soft glow about it."
Florence Henderson married Ira Bernstein, a Broadway casting director and general manager, in 1956, while she starred in the hit play Fanny, but they divorced in 1985. She then married Dr. John Kappas in 1987, who had introduced her to hypnotherapy, until he passed away in 2002. The actress is survived by two daughters, Barbara and Elizabeth; two sons, Joseph and Robert; and five grandchildren. We have collected a number of tweets below from several members of the entertainment community after work of Florence Henderson's death broke. Take a look at these tweets below as the world mourns the loss of Florence Henderson, including tributes from her Brady Bunch co-stars Maureen McCormick and Barry Williams.