OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Ann B. Davis' smile and humor live on after her passing

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2014-06-03T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Ann B. Davis' smile and humor live on after her passingBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Long before she donned her white apron and blue housekeeper uniform on "The Brady Bunch" in 1969, actress Ann B. Davis had already achieved her television comedy claim-to-fame.

A decade earlier, she played quick-witted secretary Schultzy on the NBC TV sitcom, "The Bob Cummings Show" until 1959, a role which earned her dual Emmy Awards in 1958 and 1959.

According to Variety, the consecutive wins prompted her twin sister Harriet to wire her the message: "One of us was bound to have twins."

Davis, who is known to generations as the Brady Family's devoted housekeeper Alice Nelson, died Sunday at a San Antonio hospital. She was 88.

Bexar County, Texas, medical examiner's investigator Sara Horne said Davis died Sunday morning at University Hospital according to the Associated Press wire report.

Bill Frey, a retired Episcopal bishop and a longtime friend of Davis, said she suffered a fall Saturday in the bathroom of her San Antonio home, which she shared with Frey and his wife Barbara, since 1976.

Frey told the Associated Press Davis became part of his and his wife's "household community" after she re-embraced her Christian faith and left Hollywood behind.

"The public image of her that people have is an accurate image of a strong, wonderful, lively human being," he told AP.

"The only part that's inaccurate about that is she had trouble relating to small children, and she doesn't cook."

In February, actress Florence Henderson, who played Carol Brady on the ABC series with Davis, celebrated her 80th birthday with a mini-reunion with her TV family on the CBS daytime show "The Talk." While Davis didn't attend in person, she shared a video tribute and seemed in good health. Frey said Davis used a walker while at home.

In a blunt self-appraisal early in her career, Davis called her ordinary look an asset.

"I know at least a couple hundred glamour gals who are starving in this town," she told the Los Angeles Times in 1955, the year the Cummings show began its four-year run. "I'd rather be myself and eating."

"I'm shocked and saddened! I've lost a wonderful friend and colleague," Henderson said in a statement Sunday.

"The Brady Bunch" had a successful run until 1974, and was then resurrected by TV producer brothers Sid and Marty Krofft in 1977 as a musical variety show called "The Brady Bunch Hour." (Davis remained a good sport and participated in the venture, including having to join Las Vegas-style production numbers around a swimming pool saluting music and dance of the day like "The Hustle," but was reportedly not pleased to have silly comedian Rip Taylor cast as her boyfriend).

She also reprised her role of Alice in "The Brady Brides" (1981) and "A Very Brady Christmas" in 1988, along with the short-lived series relaunch called "The Bradys" in 1990.

"The Brady Bunch Movie," with Shelley Long and Gary Cole as the parents, was a surprise box-office hit in 1995 and included Davis in a bit part as a trucker named "Schultzy."

Born Ann Bradford Davis in 1926, in Schenectady, New York, she attended the University of Michigan and graduated in 1948 with a degree in theater.

Besides her work connected with "The Brady Bunch," and an occasional guest starring appearance on "Love, American Style" and "The Love Boat," Davis led a quiet religious life, affiliating herself with a group led by Frey.

"I was born again," she told the AP in 1993. "It happens to Episcopalians. Sometimes it doesn't hit you till you're 47 years old.

Davis never married, nor did her twin sister Harriet, who survives her.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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