Ann B. Davis, Alice of The Brady Bunch, died yesterday. While some might look at her age of 88 and dismiss her passing as a life well traveled, I can’t help but picture the vibrant maid named Alice who spent five TV years keeping the Brady family in line.
The legacy of The Brady Bunch has defied logic for the past 40 years. The show was never a hit when it ran on ABC from 1969-1974. In fact, it never even climbed into the Top 30 when was airing original episodes; but when it hit syndication in 1975, it developed a loyal following that exists even to this day.
I was one of the fans who started watching The Brady Bunch in syndication, and I couldn’t get enough of it. My brother, sister and I would watch it over and over again to the point where we knew every episode by memory. We could recite the lines — “Mom always said don’t play ball in the house” — and we knew the words to all of the songs. (Who can forget the Brady kids singing “It’s a Sunshine Day”?)
I still find myself gravitating to reruns on TV Land, and now I have my 8-year-old daughter hooked as well. While the clothes and phrases are most definitely entrenched in the ’70s — “Groovy, Marcia!” — the entertaining plots and family values still hold up in 2014.
Florence Henderson and Robert Reed emerged as the biggest stars of the show, but it was Ann B. Davis who came in with the most impressive resume due to her Emmy-winning work on The Bob Cummings Show (hence her billing in the center square in the opening theme song). Almost every plot of The Brady Bunch included Alice, which is why she reportedly appeared in all 117 episodes.
Immediately after word spread of Davis’ passing, condolences from fans and cast members went viral online. Henderson, who played mother Carol Brady, tweeted yesterday: “I’m so shocked & saddened to learn my dear friend & colleague Ann B Davis died today. I spoke with her a few months ago & she was doing great.”
Maureen McCormick, also known as Marcia Brady, released this statement to The Hollywood Reporter: “I admired Ann B so much as an actor. … She was one of the greats. Most of all, I admired her heart. She was a dear friend … deep, honest and true. She was one of my earliest role models, and that continues to this day. She made me a better person. How blessed I am to have had her in my life. She will be forever missed.”
In a separate statement to THR, Eve Plumb (annoying middle child Jan) said: “Ann was an amazing lady. She was great to work with, and I have wonderful memories of our scenes together on The Brady Bunch. She was kind and generous to all of us on set. Although we hadn’t seen each other as often as we may have wanted to in the last few years, I am sure she knew she held a very important place in my heart. My thoughts are with her family and friends.”
On her Facebook page, Susan Olsen spoke of her memories of playing youngest child Cindy: “Yes, it’s true, our beloved Ann B. passed away this morning … She always treated us kids with respect and we knew we were working with greatness. I’m happy to know that she never lost her beautiful mind and razor sharp wit. She will be dearly missed by the many who knew her and the many more who felt like they did.”
Barry “Greg Brady” Williams echoed those sentiments on The Today Show this morning: “She was a wonderful, wonderful woman, a great friend. She lived a full life, she lived it on her terms and in service to the Lord. I’m just happy that people will be able to continue enjoying her on television, because I expect The Brady Bunch to air for many years to come.”
Generations of TV viewers have their favorite Brady Bunch memories, and thanks to syndication those memories of America’s favorite maid will never fade. RIP, Ann and Alice.