Date of Birth: February 14, 1934
Best known for her role as Carol Brady on the hit sictom The Brady Bunch, Florence Henderson was born in Dale, Indiana and got her start in stage musicals.
Growing up during the Great Depression, she sang at local grocery stores to make a little extra cash for the family, which consisted of nine older brothers and sisters in addition to her parents.
She made her Broadway debut in 1952 at age 18, in the chorus of the musical Wish You Were Here.
She had one line: "Can I see the game?"
Roles in more musicals followed, and by 1954 she made her TV debut in the TV movie General Foods 25th Anniversary Show: A Salute to Rodgers and Hammerstein
, playing the role of Laurie opposite Gordon MacRae
as Curly in a segment devoted to the Broadway musical Oklahoma!
(Ironically, another iconic future TV mom played Laurie in the 1955 movie musical adaptation of Oklahoma!
: Shirley Jones
of The Partridge Family
The following year, Florence played a guest role on the TV series I Spy
, but for the most part, she mostly appeared on stage, although she became the first woman to guest host The Tonight Show
after Jack Paar left (before Johnny Carson was hired). She also appeared as "The Today Girl" on NBC's Today Show
for a while, presenting news stories and weather.
When Shirley Jones turned down the role of Carol on The Brady Bunch
(only to take on the role of mom Shirley Partridge on The Partridge Family
the following year, which followed The Brady Bunch
each Friday night on ABC to the delight of North American pre-teens and teenagers), Florence Henderson
became a household name.
The series lasted five seasons and forever after, Florence would be identified as "Carol Brady." The Brady Bunch Variety Hour
followed from 1976 to '77, which in turn was followed by several TV movies, another series titled The Brady Brides
in 1981 and the series The Bradys
in 1990, which further followed the story of the grown up Brady children.
Bio photo credit: Billy Bennight/Keystone Press via ZUMA Press