Florence began her career with appearances on Broadway and musicals. Later, she also appeared in shows and won the 1962 "Sarah Siddons Award" for her work in the Chicago Theatre. In the same year she was the first female presenter of a show (called "The Johnny Carson Show"). Later, they also included, due to their dance, song and comedy performance to the returning guests of the "Dean Martin Variety Show". Worldwide announced it was in 1968 with the role of Carol Brady in the ABC-TV sitcom series "The Brady Bunch". Florence has also appeared in numerous TV shows and movies on (among other things, "The Naked Gun 33 1/3").
Florence, the youngest of ten children, was born in Dale, Indiana, a small town in the southwest region of the state. Henderson was a daughter of Elizabeth (née Elder), a homemaker, and Joseph Henderson, a tobacco sharecropper. Raised a Roman Catholic, she graduated from St. Francis Academy in Owensboro, Kentucky, in 1951; shortly thereafter, she went to New York City, enrolling in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She is an Alumna Initiate of the Alpha Chi chapter of Delta Zeta sorority.
Florence started her career on the stage, performing in musicals, such as the touring production of Oklahoma! and South Pacific at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts|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 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 Starring Johnny Carson. 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.
Her most widely seen role was as Carol Brady in The Brady Bunch which aired on ABC from 1969 until 1974. Henderson's best friend, Shirley Jones, had previously turned down the role as at the time she wasn't ready to do a TV series and she needed to spend more time with her children and stepchild. Primarily owing to her role in The Brady Bunch, Henderson was ranked by TV Land and Entertainment Weekly as one of the 100 Greatest TV Icons. Florence was also a frequent panelist on the original version of the television game show Hollywood Squares and made occasional appearances on The $25,000 Pyramid.
Henderson was the spokeswoman for Wesson cooking oil from 1976 to 1996. During that time, she hosted a cooking show on TNN called Country Kitchen, and also did ads for Prange's, a former Wisconsin department store chain. Henderson co-hosted the talk show Later Today on NBC (1999–2000) with co-hosts Jodi Applegate and Asha Blake. In the 2000s, she was the spokeswoman for Polident denture cleanser. In 2003, Henderson seemed to poke fun at her wholesome image by appearing in a Pepsi Twist television commercial with Ozzy Osbourne. Florence also guest appeared on the long-running CBS-TV series The King of Queens as Lily, Arthur's ex-wife, in the episode "Dark Meet" Florence has also appeared with her TV children, as with Christopher Knight, who played Peter Brady on The Brady Bunch, on the reality television series My Fair Brady. She is also in the sixth season of VH1's The Surreal Life.
In most years since the mid-1990s, the song "God Bless America" has been performed by Henderson at the Indianapolis 500 accompanied by the Purdue All-American Marching Band, Henderson being a friend of the Hulman-George family, the owners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. She appeared in the "Weird Al" Yankovic video for "Amish Paradise" and co-hosted the daily talk show "Living Live" with former Designing Womenstar Meshach Taylor on Retirement Living TV. The show was reworked to focus on her and was renamed "The Florence Henderson Show". In 2002, Florence made a memorable guest appearance on the comedy/improv game show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, participating in on-screen kisses with Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie. Since 2008, Henderson has been the host of her own television series, The Florence Henderson Show, which airs on RLTV (Retirement Living TV). 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. Florence was one of twelve celebrities competing on Dancing with the Stars (U.S. season 11)|the eleventh season of ABC-TV's Dancing with the Stars which premiered on September 20, 2010. Her professional partner was Corky Ballas. On October 19, 2010 she was voted off the show. 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.
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 cremated, and interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.
- ↑ Florence Henderson Biography (1934)
- ↑ The Brady Bunch Book (page 63), by Andrew J. Edelstein and Frank Lovece, 1990, Warner Books Publishers, New York City, ISBN 0-446-39137-9
- ↑ Florence Henderson on WLIIA at youtube.com
- ↑ Florence Henderson Show
- ↑ DWTS Women: Jennifer Grey, Florence Henderson, Britol Palin, Brandy and More
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