Florence Agnes Henderson (February 14, 1934 – November 24, 2016) was an American actress and singer with a career spanning six decades. She is best remembered for her starring role as matriarch Carol Brady on the ABC sitcom The Brady Bunch from 1969 to 1974. Henderson also appeared in film, as well as on stage, and hosted several long-running cooking and variety shows over the years. She appeared as a guest on many scripted and unscripted (talk and reality show) television programs and as a panelist on numerous game shows. She was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars in 2010. Henderson hosted her own talk show, The Florence Henderson Show, and cooking show, Who's Cooking with Florence Henderson, on Retirement Living TV during the years leading up to her death at age 82 on Thanksgiving Day, 2016 from heart failure.
Henderson in 2012
|Born||Florence Agnes Henderson
February 14, 1934
Dale, Indiana, U.S.
|Died||November 24, 2016
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery|
|Alma mater||American Academy of Dramatic Arts|
|Known for||Carol Brady (The Brady Bunch)|
Henderson, the youngest of 10 children, was born on Valentine's Day, 1934, in Dale, Indiana, a small town in the southwestern part of the state. She was a daughter of Elizabeth (née Elder), a homemaker, and Joseph Henderson, a tobacco sharecropper. During the Great Depression, she was taught to sing at the age of two by her mother, who had a repertoire of 50 songs. By the time she was eight, her family called her "Florency", and by age 12, she was singing at local grocery stores.
Henderson graduated from St. Francis Academy in Owensboro, Kentucky, in 1951; and shortly thereafter, went to New York City, enrolling in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She was an Alumna Initiate of the Alpha Chi chapter of Delta Zeta sorority.
She debuted on Broadway in the musical Wish You Were Here in 1952, and later starred on Broadway in the long-running 1954 musical, Fanny (888 performances) in which she originated the title role. Henderson appeared with Gordon MacRae in the Oklahoma! segment of the 90-minute television special, General Foods 25th Anniversary Show: A Salute to Rodgers and Hammerstein (1954). She later appeared in "The Abbe and the Nymph", an episode of the 1950s TV series I Spy (not to be confused with the 1960s series of the same name). She also portrayed Meg March in a CBS-TV musical adaptation of Little Women, which aired October 16, 1958.
Henderson appeared in two episodes of The United States Steel Hour. She portrayed Mary Jane in an episodic adaptation of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which aired on November 20, 1957. She also appeared in "A Family Alliance", an episodic adaptation of a short story from A Harvest of Stories (1956) by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, which aired on June 4, 1958.
Henderson, along with Bill Hayes, appeared in the Oldsmobile commercials from 1958 through 1961 on The Patti Page Show for which Oldsmobile was the sponsor. Hayes and she also made a musical performance in the January 13, 1960, broadcast of Tonight Starring Jack Paar. Henderson also appeared on Broadway in The Girl Who Came to Supper (1963).
In 1962, she won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre, and the same year became the first woman to guest host The Tonight Show in the period after Jack Paar left as the show's host, and before Johnny Carson began his 30 years as the show's longest serving host in October 1962. She also joined the ranks of what was then called The Today Girl on NBC's long-running morning show, doing weather and light news, a position also once held by Barbara Walters.
She made later musical performances in Paar's subsequent talk show in 1963, including the January 25 and February 22 broadcasts. She performed in the May 19, 1963, broadcast of The Voice of Firestone, alongside baritone Mario Sereni. She also released her albums under RCA Victor as part of her music career.
Her most widely recognized role was as Carol Brady in The Brady Bunch which aired on ABC from 1969 until 1974. Henderson's best friend, Shirley Jones, had turned down the role, but the following year, she accepted the similar role of a mother with five children, named Shirley Partridge, in The Partridge Family, which aired from 1970–1974.
An avid game-show fan, Henderson was a frequent panelist on the original version of Hollywood Squares and made occasional appearances on The $25,000 Pyramid. Her other game show appearances include Password, the original Match Game, What's My Line (as panelist and mystery guest), To Tell The Truth, I've Got A Secret, Snap Judgment, Personality, The Magnificent Marble Machine, and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?. She also appeared alongside Robert Reed on the John Davidson-hosted version of Hollywood Squares and teamed with Reed, Maureen McCormick, Christopher Knight, and Susan Olsen on one of the original Family Feud's All-Star weeks, where they finished in second place.
Henderson was the spokeswoman for Wesson cooking oil from 1974 to 1996. During that time, she hosted a cooking show on TNN, Country Kitchen, and did ads for Prange's, a former Wisconsin department store chain. Henderson co-hosted the short-lived NBC morning talk show Later Today (1999–2000), with Jodi Applegate and Asha Blake.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, the song "God Bless America" was performed by Henderson at the Indianapolis 500 accompanied by the Purdue All-American Marching Band, at the request of the Hulman-George family, the owners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and friends of Henderson's.
She appeared in the "Weird Al" Yankovic video for "Amish Paradise". In 2002, she made a memorable guest appearance on improvisational comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, participating in on-screen kisses with Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie.
From 2007 to 2009, Henderson co-hosted the daily talk show Living Live with former Designing Women star Meshach Taylor on Retirement Living TV. The show was reworked to focus on her and was renamed The Florence Henderson Show. The show was nominated for an Emmy award in 2010. In May 2010, Henderson did a series of promotional radio ads for Fox. On the July 12, 2010, edition of WWE Raw, Henderson appeared as the night's guest host.
Henderson was one of 12 celebrities competing on the 11th season of Dancing with the Stars, which premiered on September 20, 2010. Her professional partner was Corky Ballas, father of two-time champion, Mark Ballas. On October 19, 2010, she was the fifth contestant eliminated.
Henderson voiced Barbara, Cleveland's childhood nanny, in the episode "The Men In Me" of The Cleveland Show, which originally aired on March 25, 2012. The episode features a depressed and confused Cleveland singing a parody version of his show's theme before Barbara interjects and gets Cleveland to realize it does not matter who he is or who others perceive him to be as long as he accepts himself for who and what he is. At the end of the episode, Cleveland says "Florence Henderson, everyone!"
In the 2000s, Henderson became a public benefactor to the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand, Indiana. Some of the nuns there had been early educators of Henderson. She appeared in a number of their promotional videos and helped in fundraising efforts. She won money for the sisters on the game show Weakest Link and on a classic television-themed episode of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire in 2001, winning $32,000 in their name. When Henderson appeared on The Surreal Life, she refused to wear a nun's habit in a comedy skit.
Henderson married Ira Bernstein in 1956; the couple divorced in 1985. They had four children together. She married her second husband, Dr. John George Kappas, in 1987. He died in 2002. Henderson had five grandchildren.
Henderson died on November 24, 2016, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California at the age of 82. She had been hospitalized the previous day, According to her manager, Kayla Pressman, Henderson died of heart failure. Three days before her death, Henderson had attended the recording of Dancing with the Stars to support her friend and former on-screen daughter Maureen McCormick, who was a contestant. Pressman reported that Henderson had not been ill prior to her sudden hospitalization and that her death was a "shock". She was interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.
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|1970||Song of Norway||Nina Grieg|
|1992||Shakes the Clown||The Unknown Woman|
|1994||Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult||Cameo|
|1994||Richie Rich||Richie's mother|
|1995||The Brady Bunch Movie||Grandma (Carol's mother)||Cameo|
|1996||For Goodness Sake II||Video store customer|
|2003||Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star||Herself|
|2008||For Heaven's Sake||Sarah Miller|
|2010||The Christmas Bunny||Betsy Ross|
|2016||Fifty Shades of Black||Mrs. Robinson|
|1954||General Foods 25th Anniversary Show: A Salute to Rodgers and Hammerstein||Laurey||TV Movie|||
|1956||I Spy||Nymph||Episode: "The Abbe and the Nymph"|||
|1957||The United States Steel Hour||Mary Jane||"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (1957)|||
|1958||The U.S. Steel Hour||"A Family Alliance" (1958)|||
|1958||Little Women||Meg March||TV musical special|||
|1958–62||Tonight Starring Jack Paar||Herself||Regular guest|
|1959–60||The Today Show||Herself||Today Girl|||
|1968||The Dean Martin Show||Guest appearance|
|1969–74||The Brady Bunch||Carol Ann Brady||117 episodes|
|1976||The Love Boat||pilot for series|
|1976||The Muppet Show||Herself||Episode: "Florence Henderson"|
|1976||The Paul Lynde Halloween Special||Herself|
|1976–77||The Brady Bunch Hour||Carol Ann Brady||9 episodes|
|1981||The Brady Girls Get Married||Carol Ann Brady||TV reunion movie|
|1981||The Love Boat||Annabelle Folker||Episode: "Country Cousin Blues"|
|1981||The Brady Brides||Carol Ann Brady||5 episodes|
|1982||Police Squad!||Shot woman||Episode: "Rendezvous at Big Gulch (Terror in the Neighborhood)"|
|1982–85||The $25,000 Pyramid||Herself||Contestant|
|1983||Alice||Sarah James||Episode: "It Had to Be Mel"|
|1985–86||The $100,000 Pyramid||Herself||Contestant|
|1986, 1990||Murder, She Wrote||Maria Morgana / Patti Sue Diamond||2 episodes|
|1987||It's Garry Shandling's Show||Guest appearance|
|1988||A Very Brady Christmas||Carol Ann Brady||TV movie|
|1990||The Bradys||Carol Ann Brady||TV series; canceled after six episodes. Also sang third version of theme song|
|1993–95||Dave's World||Maggie||Occasional; Beth's mother|
|1994||Roseanne||Flo Anderson||Episode: "Suck Up or Shut Up"|
|1996||Ellen||Madeline||Episode: "Joe's Kept Secret"|
|2000||Saturday Night Live||Herself (parody)||Guest appearance (uncredited)
Episode: "Jackie Chan/Kid Rock" (May 20, 2000)
|2000||The King of Queens||Lily||Carrie Heffernan's stepmother
Episode: "Dark Meet"
|2001||Who Wants to Be a Millionaire||Herself||Contestant|
|2002||Mom's on Strike||Betty||TV movie|
|2002||Whose Line Is It Anyway?||Herself||Guest appearance|
|2003||The 26th Annual Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts||Herself||Special appearance|
|2006||The Surreal Life||Herself||Cast member|
|2006||Loonatics Unleashed||Mallory "Mastermind" Casey||3 episodes|
|2007||The Ellen DeGeneres Show||Herself||Guest appearance|
|2007–2009||The Florence Henderson Show||Host||52 episodes|||
|2008||Ladies of the House||Rose Olmstead||TV movie|
|2009||Samantha Who?||Loretta||Guest appearance|
|2010||WWE Raw||Herself||Guest host|
|2010||Dancing with the Stars||Herself||Contestant|
|2012||The Cleveland Show||Nanny Barbara (voice)||Episode: "The Men in Me"|
|2012||Handy Manny||Aunt Ginny||Episode: "Handy Manny and the Seven Tools"|
|2012||Happily Divorced||Elizabeth||Episode: "Meet the Parents"|
|2012||30 Rock||Herself||Episode: "My Whole Life Is Thunder"|
|2013||Who's Cooking with Florence Henderson||Host||12 episodes|||
|2014||Trophy Wife||Frances Harrison||Episode: "The Wedding - Part Two"|
|2014||Rachael v Guy: Celebrity Cook Off||Herself||Episode: "Boardwalk Bites"|
|2016||K.C. Undercover||Irma||Episode: "Dance Like No One's Watching"|
|2016||Chelsea||Herself||Episode: "Ellen Page & Inspiring Role Models"|
|1952||Wish You Were Here||The New Girl|
|1953||The Great Waltz||Resi|
|1961–62, 1968, 1978||The Sound of Music||Maria Rainer|
|1963–64||The Girl Who Came to Supper||Mary Morgan|
|1965||The King and I||Anna|
|1967||South Pacific||Nellie Forbush|
|1974, 1981||Annie Get Your Gun||Annie Oakley|
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Henderson is in her 17th year touting "Wessonality" for Wesson Oil. For eight years she has been host of Florence Henderson's Country Kitchen, a cooking show on the Nashville Network.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Florence Henderson.|
- Official website
- Florence Henderson on IMDb
- Florence Henderson at the TCM Movie Database
- Florence Henderson at Find a Grave
- Florence Henderson at the Internet Broadway Database
- Florence Henderson at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Florence Henderson interview video at the Archive of American Television