Florence Henderson

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Florence Henderson
Henderson in 2012
Florence Agnes Henderson

(1934-02-14)February 14, 1934
DiedNovember 24, 2016(2016-11-24) (aged 82)
Resting placeWestwood Village Memorial Park
Alma materAmerican Academy of Dramatic Arts
  • Actress
  • singer
Years active1952–2016
Known forCarol Brady in The Brady Bunch
A Very Brady Christmas
The Bradys
Ira Bernstein
(m. 1956; div. 1985)
John Kappas
(m. 1987; died 2002)
AwardsTV Land Pop Culture Award

Florence Agnes Henderson (February 14, 1934 – November 24, 2016) was an American actress. With a career spanning six decades, she is best known for her starring role as Carol Brady on the ABC sitcom The Brady Bunch. 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 2016 from heart failure.[1]

Early life[edit]

Henderson, the youngest of 10 children,[2] was born on February 14, 1934,[3] in Dale, Indiana, a small town in the southwestern part of the state.[4] She was a daughter of Elizabeth (née Elder), a homemaker, and Joseph Henderson, a tobacco sharecropper.[5] 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.[6]

Henderson graduated from St. Francis Academy in Owensboro, Kentucky, in 1951[7] and shortly thereafter went to New York City, enrolling in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.[8] She was an Alumna Initiate of the Alpha Chi chapter of Delta Zeta sorority.[9]


Henderson started her career on the stage performing in musicals, such as the touring production of Oklahoma! and South Pacific at Lincoln Center.[10]

Florence Henderson and William Tabbert from the Broadway production of Fanny (1955)

She debuted on Broadway in the musical Wish You Were Here in 1952,[11] and later starred on Broadway in the long-running 1954 musical, Fanny (888 performances) in which she originated the title role.[7] 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).[12] She later appeared in "The Abbe and the Nymph", an episode of the 1950s TV series I Spy[13][14] (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.[15]

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.[16][17] She also appeared in "A Family Alliance",[14] an episodic adaptation of a short story from A Harvest of Stories (1956)[18] by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, which aired on June 4, 1958.[19][20]

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.[citation needed] In 1959, she sang "Don't Let a Be-Back Get Away",[21] in Good News About Olds, an industrial musical for Oldsmobile.[22] Bill Hayes and she also gave a musical performance on the January 13, 1960, broadcast of Tonight Starring Jack Paar.[23] Henderson also appeared on Broadway in The Girl Who Came to Supper (1963).[24]

In 1962, she won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre,[25] 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.[26] 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.[27]

She gave later musical performances on Paar's subsequent talk show in 1963, including the January 25[28] and February 22[29] broadcasts. She performed in the May 19, 1963, broadcast of The Voice of Firestone, alongside baritone Mario Sereni.[30] She also released her albums under RCA Victor as part of her music career.[28][29]

Henderson's most famous role was as Carol Brady – the mother on the classic 1970s sitcom The Brady Bunch.

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 to 1974.[31]

Primarily owing to her role on The Brady Bunch, Henderson was ranked by TV Land and Entertainment Weekly as number 54 on their list of the 100 Greatest TV Icons.[32]

An avid game-show fan, Henderson was a frequent panelist on the original version of Hollywood Squares[33] 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 a panelist and a 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 her Brady Bunch co-star 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.[2][34] During that time, she hosted a cooking show on TNN, Country Kitchen,[34] and did ads for Prange's, a Wisconsin department store chain. She played Diane DeMarzo in "The Love Boat" S2 E11 "Captain's Cup" story 1978. Henderson co-hosted the short-lived NBC morning talk show Later Today (1999–2000), with Jodi Applegate and Asha Blake.[35]

In the 2000s, she was the spokeswoman for Polident.[2] In 2003, Henderson seemed to poke fun at her wholesome image by appearing in a Pepsi Twist television commercial with Ozzy Osbourne.[36]

Henderson's handprints in front of Hollywood Hills Amphitheater at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park

Henderson also appeared with her TV children, as she did with Christopher Knight on the reality television series My Fair Brady.[37] She was also in the sixth season of VH1's The Surreal Life.[38]

Beginning in the mid-1990s, Henderson would perform the song "God Bless America" at the Indianapolis 500, accompanied by the Purdue All-American Marching Band,[39] at the request of the Hulman-George family, the owners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and friends of Henderson's.[40]

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.[41]

From 2007 to 2009, Henderson co-hosted the daily talk show Living Live with former Designing Women star Meshach Taylor on Retirement Living TV.[42] The show was reworked to focus on her and was renamed The Florence Henderson Show.[42] The show was nominated for an Emmy award in 2010.[43] On the July 12, 2010, edition of WWE Raw, Henderson appeared as the night's guest host.[44]

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.[45] On October 19, 2010, she was the fifth contestant eliminated.[46]

Henderson voiced Barbara, Cleveland Brown'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!"

Henderson made a special appearance on May 11, 2012, in a special Mother's Day episode on The Price Is Right with Drew Carey, displaying prizes, as well as one of the showcases.[47]

In February 2013, she began hosting a cooking show, Who's Cooking with Florence Henderson, on Retirement Living TV.[48] Henderson hosted several times the beauty pageants Mrs. America and Mrs. World.

Charity appearances[edit]

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.[49] When Henderson appeared on The Surreal Life, she refused to wear a nun's habit in a comedy skit.[50]

Personal life[edit]

Henderson married her first husband, Ira Bernstein, in 1956. They had four children together before divorcing in 1985. In 1987, she married her second husband, hypnotherapist Dr. John George Kappas, whom she had met when he treated her for depression and stage fright in the early 1980s.[51] They remained married until his death in 2002. Henderson had five grandchildren.[52]


Henderson died on November 24, 2016, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 82.[53][1] She had been hospitalized the previous day.[53] According to her manager, Kayla Pressman, Henderson died of heart failure.[1][54] 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.[55] Pressman stated that Henderson was not ill prior to her sudden hospitalization and that her death was a "shock".[56] She was cremated, and her ashes interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.[57]


At the 33rd Annual Gracie Awards Gala (2008), Henderson won an Individual Achievement Award and an Outstanding Host (Information or Entertainment) for The Florence Henderson Show.[58][59]

She won another Outstanding Host (Information or Entertainment) at the 37th Annual Gracie Awards Gala (2012) for co-hosting Good Food, Good Deeds.[59][60]

A 1+116-mile (1.7 km) turf horse race for 3-year old and older fillies and mares born and bred in Indiana held at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino since 2004 is named in her honor, the Florence Henderson Stakes, on the Tuesday after Labor Day in September.[citation needed]

Selected filmography[edit]


Year Title Role Notes
1970 Song of Norway Nina Grieg
1992 Shakes the Clown The Unknown Woman
1994 Naked Gun 33+13: The Final Insult Herself Cameo appearance
1995 The Brady Bunch Movie Grandma (Carol's mother) Cameo appearance
1996 For Goodness Sake II Video Store Customer
1998 Holy Man Herself Cameo appearance
1999 Get Bruce Herself Documentary
2003 Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star Herself Cameo appearance
2008 For Heaven's Sake Sarah Miller
2010 The Christmas Bunny Betsy Ross
2016 Fifty Shades of Black Mrs. Robinson
2017 Bad Grandmas Mimi Released posthumously


Year Title Role Notes Refs
1954 General Foods 25th Anniversary Show: A Salute to Rodgers and Hammerstein Laurey TV special [12]
1956 I Spy Nymph Episode: "The Abbe and the Nymph" [13][14]
1957 The United States Steel Hour Mary Jane Wilk Episode: "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" [14][17]
1958 The United States Steel Hour Gladys Pratt Episode: "A Family Alliance" [14][20]
1958 Sing Along Herself Regular Cast
1958 Little Women Meg March TV musical special [15]
1958–62 Tonight Starring Jack Paar Herself Regular guest
1959–60 The Today Show Herself Today Girl [27]
1962–67 Password Herself Contestant
1966 The Bell Telephone Hour Self - singer "The Lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner" w/Barbara Harris, Edward Villella, Patricia McBride, John Cullum and Stanley Holloway
1968 The Dean Martin Show Herself Guest appearance
1969–74 The Brady Bunch Carol Ann Brady 117 episodes
1976 The Love Boat Monica Richardson TV movie pilot
1976 The Muppet Show Herself Series 1 Episode 7: "Florence Henderson"
1976 The Paul Lynde Halloween Special Herself TV special
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)"
1982–86 Pyramid (all versions) Herself Celebrity Panelist
1983 Alice Sarah James Episode: "It Had to Be Mel"
1986 Murder, She Wrote Maria Morgana Episode: "Death Stalks the Big Top" (Parts 1 & 2)
1987 It's Garry Shandling's Show Herself Guest appearance
1988 A Very Brady Christmas Carol Ann Brady TV reunion movie
1990 The Bradys Carol Ann Brady 6 episodes; also sang third version of theme song
1990 Murder, She Wrote Patti Sue Diamond Episode: "Ballad for a Blue Lady"
1993 Bradymania: A Very Brady Special Herself (host) TV special
1993–95 Dave's World Maggie Occasional; Beth's mother
1994 Roseanne Flo Anderson Episode: "Suck Up or Shut Up"
1995 Fudge Muriel Episode: "Fudge-a-mania"
1995 Caroline in the City Herself Episode: "Caroline and the Balloon"
1995–96 Our Generation Herself Co-host
1996 Ellen Madeline Episode: "Joe's Kept Secret"
1997 Nightmare Ned Herself Episode: "Monster Ned"
1999–2000 Later Today Herself Presenter
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
2001 Legend of the Candy Cane Thelma (voice) TV movie
2002 Mom's on Strike Betty TV movie
2002 Whose Line Is It Anyway? Herself Guest appearance
2003 Mrs. America Pageant Herself Host
2003 The 26th Annual Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts Herself Special appearance
2004 The Brady Bunch 35th Anniversary Reunion Special Herself TV reunion special
2006 The Surreal Life Herself Cast member
2006 Loonatics Unleashed Mallory "Mastermind" Casey 3 episodes
2007 The Ellen DeGeneres Show Herself Guest appearance
2007–09 The Florence Henderson Show Host 52 episodes [62][63]
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, Season 11
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"
2012 Matchmaker Santa Peggy Hallmark Channel TV movie [64]
2013 Who's Cooking with Florence Henderson Host 12 episodes [62]
2014 Trophy Wife Frances Harrison Episode: "The Wedding - Part Two"
2014 Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off Herself Episode: "Boardwalk Bites"
2016 K.C. Undercover Irma Episode: "Dance Like No One's Watching"
2016 The Eleventh Regina 2 episodes (web series short)
2016 Chelsea Herself Episode: "Ellen Page & Inspiring Role Models"
2016-2018 Sofia the First Grand Mum (voice) 2 episodes


Year Title Role Notes
1949 Carousel Carrie Pepperidge
1952 Wish You Were Here The New Girl
1952 Oklahoma! Laurey
1953 The Great Waltz Resi
1954 Fanny Fanny
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


  • Henderson, Florence (September 20, 2011). Life Is Not a Stage: From Broadway Baby to a Lovely Lady and Beyond. Center Street. ISBN 978-1-599-95388-5.


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External links[edit]