The Brady Bunch
A multi-faceted American actress, Florence Henderson broke new ground on television as the star one of the medium’s most adored and longest-running situation comedies “The Brady Bunch” (1969-1974), playing the typical American mother Carol Brady. Since the end of the Brady Bunch series, she has mostly made her living playing and occasionally spoofing Carol Brady like in “The Brady Bunch Hour” (1976-1977), “The Brady Brides” (1981), “The Bradys” (1990) and the reunion TV movie A Very Brady Christmas (1988). She also appeared as a lively grandmother, the antithesis of Carol, in the feature-film spoof The Brady Bunch Movie (1995). At the zenith of her success as Carol Brady, Henderson became the first woman to substitute host for Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” (1969-1975).
However, Henderson’s image was so ineradicably connected with Carol Brady that she faced some difficulties to find other roles. She became host and co-host for several shows, including TNN’s “Country Kitchen” (1985), Faith & Values Network’s “Our Generation” (1995-1996, with daughter Barbara) and NBC’s “Later Today” (1999-2000, opposite Jodi Applegate and Asha Blake). She made sporadic performances on the silver screen, such as appearing as a clown groupie in Shakes the Clown (1992) and starring as a successful writer in For Heaven’s Sake (2006).
Prior to becoming Mrs. Brady, Henderson had worked on television during the 1950s and made regular guest appearances on the Tonight Show through the early 1960s. She also became a fruitful star of Broadway musicals, thank to her notable performances on such shows as “Fanny” (1954), “The Sound of Music” (1961) and “The Girl Who Came to Supper” (1963).
As for her private life, Henderson has been married twice. She was married to Ira Bernstein from 1956 to 1985 and Dr. John Kappas from 1987 until his death in 2002. She has four children with her first husband, Elizabeth, Barbara, Joseph and Robert.
Childhood and Family:
The youngest of 10 children to Joseph Henderson, an Indiana sharecropper, and Elizabeth Henderson, a homemaker, Florence Agnes Henderson was born on February 14, 1934, in Dale, Indiana. She graduated from St. Frances School in Owensboro, Kentucky, in 1951, and after that studied at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. She got a scholarship to AADA due to her singing ability.
Florence married Ira Bernstein on January 9, 1956, but they divorced in 1985, after almost 20 years of marriage. The two have four children: two sons, Joseph and Robert Norman Bernstein, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Barbara Bernstein. On August 4, 1987, Florence married Dr. John Kappas, a hypnotherapist, whom she met when he helped her fight depression during the mid-1980s. She remained with him until the death of her husband on September 26, 2002. Florence is a certified hypnotherapist, qualifications she learned from her late husband.
For Heaven’s Sake
A graduate of NYC’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Florence Henderson began her career on the stage, performing in musicals, like the touring production of “Oklahoma!,” where she played Laurey, and “South Pacific” at Lincoln Center. Her Broadway debut came in 1952 when she landed a small role in “Wish You Were Here,” and she later starred in such remarkable productions as “Fanny” (1954) and “The Girl Who Came to Supper” (1963). The actress also has nabbed such classic roles as Maria in “The Sound of Music” (1961), Anna in “The King and I” and Nellie Forbush in “South Pacific.”
Henderson was no stranger to television, having first guest starred in two episodes of “The U.S. Steel Hour” in the 1950s, before scoring a semi-regular on the NBC series “The Jack Paar Tonight Show,” which ran from 1957 to 1962. Teaming up with Bill Hayes, she co-hosted “Oldsmobile Music Theatre,” a varieties show aired by NBC in 1959, and even emerged as Today Girl in NBC’s “Today” (1959-1960), a program that offered the latest in news, sports, and entertainment. She went on to appear as herself in such variety shows as “The Bell Telephone Hour” 1962-1966), “Toast of the Town” (1954-1970) and “The Dean Martin Show” (1966-1974).
However, the actress did not make great impact on TV audience until she was cast as Carol Brady on the ABC sitcom “The Brady Bunch,” which was produces from 1969 until 1974. An international success, the show continues to be screened in numerous countries through syndication. As for Henderson, she was invited to reprise her role in such programs as ABC’s variety show “The Brady Bunch Hour” (1976-1977), NBC’s “The Brady Brides” (1981), the CBS holiday special A Very Brady Christmas (1988) and CBS’s “The Bradys” (1990). At the height of her fame as Carol Brady, Henderson even was hired to replace Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” (1969-1975), in which she became the first woman to substitute the host.
Unfortunately, Henderson became stereotype by her triumph on “The Brady Bunch” and good roles were hard to find. By the late 1980s, she was hosting a cooking show on TNN called “Country Kitchen,” and became known as the spokeswoman for Wesson cooking oil (from 1976 to 1996). Along with her daughter Barbara, she hosted a brief informational series on the Faith & Values Network, “Our Generation” (1995-1996), and co-hosted the talk show “Later Today” (1999-2000), with Jodi Applegate and Asha Blake. Henderson has maintained to make guest appearances on various sitcoms, frequently trading on her image as Mrs. Brady.
Aside form stage and television, Henderson has tried her hand in features. She made her film debut in her mid-30 by playing Nina Grieg on the biography Song of Norway (1970), opposite Toralv Maurstad. She did not appear in another project until 1992’s Shakes the Clown, the unsuccessful Bobcat Goldthwait vehicle. While most critics discharged the comedy, some eulogized Henderson for her presentation as a clown groupie who involves in a one-night stand with the title character. In 1995, she made a cameo appearance as Carol’s mother in The Brady Bunch Movie. In a more recent time, she starred as Sarah Miller, a successful author, in the comedy film For Heaven’s Sake (2006), opposite Kathryn Gordon and Stephanie Patton, and in 2007, she plays a role in the action film Venus & Vegas, directed by Demian Lichtenstein and written by Eddie Guerra.