For five seasons, Robert Reed portrayed the patriarch of one of America’s most beloved television families, The Brady Bunch, as they were known.
While Reed was notoriously unhappy working on the series, his love for his cast members, especially the show’s young actors, was genuine. So much so that, when he discovered he was terminally ill, he couldn’t bring himself to tell them himself.
Reed died in 1992 at the age of 59. Here is what’s known about his death.
Robert Reed was a classically trained actor, which frustrated him
The show’s Alice the housekeeper actor Ann B. Davis, in her 2004 conversation with the Academy of American Television commented on the actor’s frustration in, out of necessity, having to work on a sitcom he didn’t respect. Reed played dad Mike Brady on the series.
“Robert was a very sad man,” she said. “I knew that he was a good actor. He’d been classically trained. He’d done classical things. And he was not happy. Of the shows that Paramount was making, the pilots that they were making, The Brady Bunch was the last one he wanted to do.
“He was a very good actor and he did it very well. But he was never really happy with it and that rubbed off on the set,” she recalled.
His co-star Florence Henderson had to regularly remind Reed what the show was about
According to Reed’s show co-star Florence Henderson, the Mike Brady actor reserved the majority of his venom toward the show’s producers Sherwood Schwartz and his son Lloyd. Henderson played Reed’s on-screen wife Carol Brady.
“It’s widely recorded how much [Sherwood] and Robert Reed fought,” she said. “Really, that was the only negative thing about the show really was the fact that Bob and especially Sherwood did not get along.”
Henderson touched on her regular need to remind Reed that the show was a lighthearted situation comedy.
“I’d have to go, every so often, ‘Bob, this is comedy. This is not Shakespeare.’ It was a situation comedy for television. And for what it was, I think it was good.”
Reed’s cause of death
Reed, weeks before his May 1992 death from colon cancer, asked his co-star Henderson to break the news to the child actors on the show, as she told ABC News in 2000.
“He was very brave, he was very courageous,” she said. “And he asked me if I would call all the kids and tell them. And it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.”
While Reed’s main cause of death was cancer, his death certificate also noted he was infected with HIV.
“I think he was a very brave man, very courageous,” Henderson continued. “He faced his death with such courage and dignity. We should all be able to do that.”
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