Florence Henderson: Brady Bunch matriarch dies at 82

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Henderson made her first stage appearance at the age of 19

Florence Henderson, known to millions for her role as matriarch Carol Brady in The Brady Bunch, has died aged 82.

According to her representatives, she died on Thursday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles, a day after being admitted to hospital.

First shown in 1969, The Brady Bunch told of single parents with children who marry to form a “blended” family.

Born in 1934 in southern Indiana, the actress began her career in theatre before turning to television.

She made her first stage appearance in New York at 19 – a one-line role in a play called Wish You Were Here.

She went on to land the female lead in a tour of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!, which eventually took her to Broadway in 1954.

She subsequently played Maria in The Sound of Music and Nellie Forbush in South Pacific.

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The Brady Bunch told of parents whose marriage brings their six children together into one family

But her career nearly ended in 1965 when she suddenly lost her hearing while appearing in The King and I in Los Angeles.

She was diagnosed with a hereditary condition called osteosclerosis and had corrective surgery in both ears.

The Brady Bunch, which initially ran until 1974, brought her and her co-stars international fame.

“We had to have security guards with us,” she later recalled. “We couldn’t go out by ourselves. We were like the Beatles!”

The show went on to return in various forms, among them a 1995 film in which she played the mother of her former character.

“It’s such a gentle, innocent, sweet show, and I guess it proved there’s always an audience for that,” the actress said in 1999.

Oscar-winning actresses Marlee Matlin and Patricia Arquette are among those who have marked her passing on Twitter.

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Pop star Boy George has also paid tribute, saying he “grew up with the Brady Bunch”, while talk show host Larry King described her as “America’s mom“.

Maureen McCormick, who played Brady’s oldest daughter Marcia in the hit TV series, said she had been “a dear friend for so very many years”.

Henderson was a contestant on Dancing in the Stars in 2010 and appeared on the show days before her death in support of McCormick, a contestant in the most recent series.

The actress made numerous TV appearances outside of The Brady Bunch and was the first female guest host of The Tonight Show.

She also made cameo appearances in such comedy films as Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star and Fifty Shades of Black.

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