Who was Ann B. Davis?
Ann B. Davis was an American actor who is best remembered for her portrayal of ‘Alice,’ the housekeeper, in the series 'The Brady Bunch.' A medical drop-out, she turned toward acting because of her brother. Ann began her career through theater and eventually made her TV debut. She delivered a 'Primetime Emmy'-winning performance in the sitcom 'The Bob Cummings Show' and then entertained the audience for nearly a decade with 'The Brady Bunch' and its spin-offs. She had also worked in films but had mostly done well on TV. The legendary actor had been honored on several occasions for her remarkable journey in the industry. Apart from being a prolific actor, Ann was a devout Episcopalian and remained so until her death.
Childhood & Early Life
Ann was born Ann Bradford Davis, on May 3, 1926, in Schenectady, New York, to Marguerite (née Stott) and Cassius Miles Davis. She grew up with her identical twin, Harriet, and her older brother, Evans. At the age of 3, Ann and her family moved to Erie in northwestern Pennsylvania.
Ann attended the 'Strong Vincent High School' and later enrolled as a pre-medical major at the ‘University of Michigan' in Ann Arbor. However, she later turned to dramatics and graduated with a degree in drama and speech in 1948. Her interest in acting developed after she saw her older brother perform in the musical 'Oklahoma.'
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Ann was scouted while she performed in cabaret musicals after moving to California in the early 1950s. She made her debut TV appearance as a musical judge in 'Jukebox Jury.' However, Ann's first prominent TV role was as ‘Charmaine "Schultzy" Schultz’ in the sitcom 'The Bob Cummings Show' (1955–1959). Her performance on in the sitcom earned her two 'Primetime Emmy Awards.'
In 1960, she received a “star” on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame.’ Following her success on 'The Bob Cummings Show,' she bagged an appearance in the first and the only season of 'The John Forsythe Show' and also appeared in a 'Ford' commercial.
Ann made a transition to films in 1955. However, she started with uncredited roles in 'A Man Called Peter' and 'The Best Things in Life Are Free.' She was credited as ‘Ann B "Schultzy" Davis’ in the 1960 musical comedy film 'Pepe.' The following year, Ann appeared in the musical film 'All Hands on Deck' and the ‘Eastmancolor’ romantic comedy 'Lover Come Back.'
She was elected to the 'Screen Actors Guild' board of governors in 1958 and remained active on the board during the 1960 actors' strike.
In 1960, Ann replaced Carol Burnett in the musical 'Once upon a Mattress’ and thus made her ‘Broadway’ debut. That decade, she did a lot of regional theater, night club dates, and summer stock. Continuing with her TV appearances, in 1963, she appeared in the short-lived summer replacement series 'The Keefe Brasselle Show.'
In 1965, Ann played ‘Miss Wilson,’ a physical education teacher, in the 'NBC' sitcom 'The John Forsythe Show.' Following her prestigious ‘Ford’ commercial, she was featured in 'Minute Rice' commercials until the mid-1980s.
Ann's most notable TV character came in 1969, when she began her stint as housekeeper ‘Alice Nelson’ in the 'ABC' sitcom 'The Brady Bunch.' She eventually reprised the role in the TV movies based on the show, such as 'The Brady Girls Get Married' (1981), 'A Very Brady Christmas' (1988), 'The Brady Brides' (1981), and 'The Bradys' (1990).
In 1995, Ann reprised the character ‘Schultzy’ in 'The Brady Bunch Movie.' The previous year, she launched a cookbook named 'Alice's Brady Bunch Cookbook,' which contained recipes inspired by 'The Brady Bunch' and its cast members.
In the early 1990s, Ann majorly did theater. She appeared in the revival of 'Arsenic and Old Lace' and a world tour production of the romantic-comedy musical 'Crazy for You.'
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In her later years, she worked as a celebrity spokeswoman in commercials for 'Kraft Food's 'Shake 'n Bake' and 'Swiffer' disposable mops. Ann also made appearances in several 'The Brady Bunch' reunion projects.
On April 22, 2007, Ann shared the 'TV Land Pop Culture Award' with 'The Brady Bunch' cast.
Family, Personal Life & Death
Ann was associated with the 'All Saints' Church' in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. She sold her Los Angeles home in 1976 and moved to Denver, Colorado. There, she devoted herself to the Bishop William C Frey-led Episcopal community. She served the church for several years and also worked at the ‘General Convention.’ She had met William Frey while doing summer stock theater in Denver
In the late 1960s and the early 1970s, Ann was predominantly active in the 'United Service Organisation.'
Ann was neither married nor in any relationship. She fell in her San Antonio residence bathroom and sustained a subdural hematoma. She was then living with Bishop Frey and his wife, Barbara. They received a call from Ann's hairdresser who asked them why she had not shown up for the appointment that day.
Bishop and Barbara found Ann lying in her bathroom and immediately took her to a hospital in San Antonio, Texas. She never regained consciousness and died peacefully on June 1, 2014. She was cremated in 'Saint Helena's Columbarium and Memorial Gardens' in Boerne, Texas.
Ann was not the first choice for the role of ‘Alice.’ The producers wanted Kathleen Freeman for the role but changed their decision after observing the screen compatibility between Ann and Florence Henderson (who played ‘Carol Brady’).
In 1963, Ann did a pilot named 'Get with It,' which was a spin-off of the 'NBC' military-school comedy 'McKeever & the Colonel.' However, it was not picked up to be made into a series. Nevertheless, the filming schedule and the prolonged march scene led Ann to the hospital due to her strained arch.
In 1964, She made a brief appearance in 'Arsenic and Old Lace' at 'Santa Barbara's Lobero Theater' on the day her father died.
Ann was recommended for the role of ‘Schultzy’ by her friend's boyfriend, who was a casting director.