Ann B. Davis, best known as Alice the housekeeper in The Brady Bunch, died June 1 at the age of 88.
Davis was an integral part of the cheesy ’70s sitcom, playing her role with earnest warmth and a mile-wide smile that doubled as a way of letting the audience know she’s in on the jokes with us. Her self-deprecating, sly, dry humor was markedly different from the aw-gee-whiz zingers tossed around by the curly haired family. In a way, Davis’ eccentric banality was like a prototype of the kind of delivery used by Ellen DeGeneres. Can’t you see Ellen sitting on that tank, flailing her arms and saying, “Far out?”
Davis appeared in more Brady-based films and shows than any other actor. She featured in the original show, which ran from 1969 to 1974 (though its legacy makes it seem like the show spanned the entire decade, kind of like how Miami Vice seemed to be the entirety of the ’80s); The Brady Bunch Hour, which only lasted 9 episodes; The Brady Girls Get Married, a TV movie; The Brady Brides, which lasted 6 episodes; A Very Brady Christmas, another TV movie; an episode of Day by Day (called “A Very Brady Episode”); The Bradys, 4 episodes; an episode of Honey, I’m Home!; and a cameo in The Brady Bunch Movie.
In a 2004 interview with the Archive of American Television, Davis described how she created Alice:
I made up a background story. I did have a twin sister, so I used that as a basis. … I cared very much about this family. It was my family. It was as close to my family as Alice would ever get. I would have died for any single one of them at any point,” she said. “You know, they wrote me such gorgeous things to do, as the intermediary between the kids and the adults, and between the boys and the girls. And they gave me funny things to do.
Davis claimed to be a bad comedian, never improvising any lines. It was all in the screenplay, she said; however, her timing and delivery were nothing short of exact. Though she claimed to know nothing about children, cleaning, or cooking, women flocked to her for advice on all things home-related. That’s the mark of an iconic performance.