Emmy-winning actress Ann B. Davis, who became the country’s favorite and most famous housekeeper as the devoted Alice Nelson of "The Brady Bunch," 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. Horne said no cause of death was available and that an autopsy was planned Monday.
Bill Frey, a retired Episcopal bishop and a longtime friend of Davis, said she suffered a fall Saturday at her San Antonio home. Frey said Davis had lived with him and his wife, Barbara, since 1976.
More than a decade before scoring as the Bradys’ loyal Alice, Davis was the razor-tongued secretary on another stalwart TV sitcom, "The Bob Cummings Show," which brought her two Emmys. Over the years, she also appeared on Broadway and in occasional movies.
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."
As "The Brady Bunch" theme song reminded viewers each week, the Bradys combined two families into one. Florence Henderson played a widow raising three daughters when she met her TV husband, Robert Reed, a widower with three boys.
Cleaning up messes
In her blue and white maid’s uniform, Davis’ character, Alice Nelson, was constantly cleaning up messes large and small, and she was a mainstay of stability for the family.
"I’m shocked and saddened! I’ve lost a wonderful friend and colleague," Henderson said in a statement Sunday.
"The Brady Bunch" debuted in 1969 had a successful run until 1974, but it didn’t fade away then. It returned as "The Brady Bunch Hour" (1977), "The Brady Brides" (1981), "The Bradys" (1990). It even appeared as a Saturday morning spinoff (1972-1974).
Older TV viewers remember Davis for another non-glamorous role, on "The Bob Cummings Show," also known as "Love That Bob." She played Schultzy, the assistant to Cummings’ character, a handsome, swinging bachelor photographer always chasing beautiful women.
It brought Davis supporting actress Emmy Awards in 1958 and 1959.
Between her two better-known shows, she played a gym teacher at an exclusive girls’ school in 1965-66 in "The John Forsythe Show."
She was born Ann Bradford Davis in 1926, in Schenectady, N.Y., and grew up in Erie, Pa.
She was stage-struck since the age of 6 when she and her twin sister, Harriet, earned $2 with their puppet show. She attended the University of Michigan, joking that she was a premed student "until I discovered chemistry."
She graduated in 1948 with a degree in theater and later joined a repertory theater in Erie, Pa. She told the AP in 1993 that she got her big break while doing a cabaret act in Los Angeles, singing and telling jokes.
"Somebody said, ‘Get your agent to call the new Bob Cummings show. They’re looking for a funny lady.’ Within three hours I had the job. That was January 1955. I had such fun with that show.
"I did a couple of pilots that didn’t sell, a few movies and one year of nightclub work, which I hated. Then I did the pilot of ‘The Brady Bunch’ and never had to do another nightclub."
For many years after "The Brady Bunch" wound up, Davis led a quiet religious life, affiliating herself with a group led by Frey.
Davis never married, saying she never found a man who was more interesting than her career.
Elber reported from Los Angeles. AP National Writer Hillel Italie in New York and AP Radio reporter Jackie Quinn in Washington contributed to this report.