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, 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.
Henderson started her career on the stage performing in musicals, such as the touring production of Oklahoma! and South Pacific at Lincoln Center.
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.
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.
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.
In the 2000s, she was the spokeswoman for Polident. In 2003, Henderson seemed to poke fun at her wholesome image by appearing in a Pepsi Twist television commercial with Ozzy Osbourne.
Henderson also appeared with her TV children, as she did with Christopher Knight on the reality television series My Fair Brady. She was also in the sixth season of VH1's The Surreal Life.
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!"
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.
In February 2013, she began hosting a cooking show, Who's Cooking with Florence Henderson, on Retirement Living TV. Henderson hosted several times the beauty pageants Mrs. America and Mrs. world.
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.
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.
She won another Outstanding Host (Information or Entertainment) at the 37th Annual Gracie Awards Gala (2012) for co-hosting Good Food, Good Deeds.
Year Title Role Notes
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
1998 Holy Man Cameo
1999 Get Bruce Herself Documentary
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
2017 Bad Grandmas Mimi
Year Title Role Notes Refs
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 
1962–67 Password Herself Contestant
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"
1995 Fudge Muriel Episode: "Fudge-a-mania" 1995–96 Our Generation Herself Co-host
1996 Ellen Madeline Episode: "Joe's Kept Secret"
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
2002 Mom's on Strike Betty TV movie
2002 Whose Line Is It Anyway? Herself Guest appearance
2003 Mrs. America Herself Host
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 and Inspiring Role Models"
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
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