Posts Tagged ‘Florence Henderson’

A Salute to 10 Classic TV Moms

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Carol Brady was not going to wear an apron….Everyone wanted to be a Partridge….June Cleaver wore heels for a reason….and “Mrs. C” knows how to get what she wants! In honor of Mother’s Day, the Archive of American Television highlights quotes and clips from 10 interviewees best-known for their roles as iconic sitcom TV moms.

Jane Wyatt on playing Margaret Anderson on Father Knows Best
I did understand wife and mother because I was a wife and mother. Margaret was much nicer than me. I can say that. But then she had all her lines written for her. I was much more independent than she was. She was a very nice person, I enjoyed playing her. And, she had a wonderful rapport with her children.

Barbara Billingsley on playing June Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver
Some people think she was namby-pamby. But no, she used to get teed off with the children. She didn’t always refer to the father as far as punishing is concerned. She was a loving, happy, stay-at-home mom, which I think is great. I’m not for every woman having to be out in the workplace. I had two children at home and I was working. But I think the one that stays home, if she’s doing a good job, it is the best job she’ll ever have, the most important.

Interview clip: Barbara Billingsley on June Cleaver’s wardrobe, high-heels, and pearls

Marion Ross on playing 50s mom Marion “Mrs. C.” Cunningham on Happy Days
Between my childhood in Minnesota, and the 50’s, it’s easy for me to relate to the kind of woman who gets everything she wants, but in a very charming, feminine way, because it’s just easier! That’s kind of the way I was raised and that’s what I saw in my own childhood how women love their husbands and protects her husband from the children. “Be good to your father.” He’s the head of the family, but he really isn’t, of course. She is the head of the family. But that’s the artifice. This is all pre-women’s lib. Now, I still think it’s a kind of a handy way to get things done. We conceal our strength.

Florence Henderson on playing Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch
I know that there were certain things that I brought to the role. I think it was my experience as a young parent and the fact that I understood kids. I felt close to them. I was really the only one on the set that was married, that had children and an ongoing relationship…. I would never wear an apron. I wanted to wear sexy nightgowns. I wanted to make her as human as possible.

Interview clip: Florence Henderson on playing Carol Brady

Mary Tyler Moore on playing Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show
The sponsors had a good deal more to say back then. We had to sleep in twin beds even though we were a married couple. We had to wear pajamas with the little pockets and a shirt. We were not allowed to say pregnant. You had to say “expecting a child” or “expecting a baby.” The big objection was the pants that I wore in The Dick Van Dyke Show. I had seen too many housewives on television who were vacuuming in high heels and a floral printed frock. I said, wait a minute, that’s not the way it really is and I wanted to be real. I wanted to represent something of me. And I was married and a mother, and I’ve walked around barefoot as I still do, and wore pants. So I brought that to the show. I also brought my sense of honesty, my sense of truth.

Diahann Carroll on playing single-mother Julia Baker on Julia
On television, Julia was the first non-conventional, educated, single mother who was outspoken. She dated. She raised her child…But no Black male was the argument. No father. No image for the children to relate to a father. That was a very loud criticism. It’s not that Julia and her son didn’t talk about situations. It may not have been his life, but we did talk about situations. Also, mother dated, and we brought the male into the house to say hello to the son. And, usually it was another professional Black that the young man was exposed to. So, I think that as we look back, that we’re very proud of that, that piece of work. It represented a new thought. It represented something that was subject to a great deal of criticism.

Interview clip: Diahann Carroll discusses Julia

Jean Stapleton on her favorite Edith Bunker “mother” moment on All in the Family
The anniversary episode was one was one of my favorites. Edith was to give marital advice to her daughter. That was great. She and Gloria felt that they should have a mother and daughter talk now that Gloria’s getting married. So of course Edith said nothing. Gloria supplied all of the issues and answered them while Edith would nod in approval “yes, yes of course.” Edith was very, very shy, very timid about discussing such things. It is very funny and very much in character.

Video clip: watch the brilliant scene Jean Stapleton references here:

Shirley Jones on being TV music group mom Shirley Partridge on The Partridge Family
She was a working mom, but wanted her children to have values. The show business thing was secondary. And they made a point of that, because the first couple of shows, the pilot in particular, they were dealing very much with the show-business angle, “where are we going to perform? Let’s rehearse every day.” And finally [producer] Bob Claver said, “we’re going to tone down the show business angle. We’re going to make them real people. We’re going to have stories about teenage sweethearts in school, and we’re going to have stories about Shirley maybe dating one of the local guys. There will always be a song, but the show won’t be built around that performance.” I think that helped because it made us real people. And it also got every teenager in America thinking that they could do this. “We can go to school and we can have a band. And we can get a bus.” The sad part is that every once in a while, I would find some young 16, 15, 14-year-old, sitting on my lawn, just off a bus from Iowa or Michigan or someplace, saying, “I’ve come to be in The Partridge Family. I can play the instrument.” They’d literally run away from home. I just had to tell them the truth and say, “listen, this is a television show. We don’t have a band. It’s all make-believe.”

Interview clip: Shirley Jones on Shirley Partridge

Phylicia Rashad on playing Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show
She had a very normal relationship. She understood the difference in all their personalities. It was a very loving relationship, and there was discipline. She was very, very patient, but very disciplined. She understood the value of discipline. And they, as parents, understood the importance of being on the same page with those people.

Interview clip: Phylicia Rashad on working on The Cosby Show

Patricia Heaton on playing Debra Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond
Debra’s a horrible homemaker, that was what was so wonderful about her is that she couldn’t cook, and a lot of times with the kids it was just like “whatever.” I think there’s a whole movement in our country since Martha Stewart came on the scene of being a perfect and making every small daily task a work of art, which there’s some benefit to trying to lift the mundane out of its mundaneness and making it something because every act of care that you do for your family is actually sort of a sacred thing. But when you’re packing a lunch every morning, you’re not going to cut the sandwich into smiley shapes and starfish, you just throw in that prepackaged crap in their bag and stick it in their backpack. So, I think she tried, but she was like every mom that has it up to here with everything. …But I think she was a good mother, yeah, definitely.

Interview clip: Patricia Heaton discusses the Everybody Loves Raymond family dynamic

Happy Mother’s Day!

“It’s Time to Play the Music…” Again! The Archive Celebrates the Return of the Muppets!

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

“My sister wants to see the world the way John Lennon saw the world. My nephew wants to see the world the way Kermit saw the world.”

- Sonia Manzano, “Maria” on Sesame Street

A child of the ’80s, I was one of those kids who wanted (and still wants) to see the world as Kermit sees it. He believes in dreaming big, following your heart, and in bringing together creatures of all sorts to sing and dance. Kermit was, and still is, the friend you want in your corner – the peace-keeping, loyal frog who also happens to play a mean banjo.

And now he’s back on the big screen! In honor of the new Muppet movie out today, we’ve uncovered memorable Muppet moments in the Archive’s collection, and there are a-plenty! Many of the cast members of Sesame Street, including Roscoe Orman, Loretta Long, Sonia Manzano, and Bob McGrath, spoke with us about working with Muppets. Several interviewees recalled guest appearances on The Muppet Show, and many shared what it was like to work with the Muppet Man himself, Jim Henson. Our collection holds a plethora of Muppet memories, and has once more brought out the Kermit-loving kid in me.

When you hear the word Muppet, a few characters probably come to mind: Kermit, Miss Piggy, Bert and Ernie, maybe Fozzie and Cookie Monster, or even Red from Fraggle Rock. I was always a fan of Snuffleupagus and The Swedish Chef. There are a lot of Muppets out there, and each has its own distinct personality. Yes, technically, they’re puppets fashioned of fabric and rods, but through their facial expressions, voices, movements, and interactions with others, they seem as real as the flesh and blood actors with whom they appear on screen. For inanimate objects, they’re always sooo animated. (Think of Kermit’s “sheesh” and his gulp, when he scrunches up his face, or Miss Piggy’s snout when she’s mad at Kermit.) In his Archive interview, Sesame Street’s Roscoe Orman, who plays “Gordon Robinson,” sheds light on why the Muppets always feel like living, breathing beings: “The Henson puppeteers are extremely talented actors,” Orman explains. “They just happen to act with dolls. Whereas we act with our own selves, our own bodies, they act with these dolls. They become these dolls.” Gifted individuals like Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Kevin Clash, and Carroll Spinney performed the Muppets – skilled actors whose puppets were extensions of their personae. Enjoy for yourself as Orman and others on Sesame Street describe what its like to have Muppets and Muppeteers as co-workers:

The Muppet Show was more adult in nature than Sesame Street, and a hard sell for that very reason. In his 2001 Archive interview, Jim Henson’s manager, Bernie Brillstein shared the difficulty he encountered in convincing people that Muppets did not have to be solely for young audiences. The Muppets appeared on Saturday Night Live in 1975, in sketches that Bernstein described as not a great fit, but the Muppets finally found a primetime home in London, where The Muppet Show was shot in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Brillstein and Archive interviewees Andy Williams and Florence Henderson, who appeared as special guests on the program, recall their experiences with Jim Henson on The Muppet Show:

Statler and Waldorf, “Pigs in Space,” “Mahna mahna”- which my sister and I mistakenly believed was called “Phenomenon…” so many incredible characters and skits emerged from The Muppet Show. Turns out the Muppets were ready-for-primetime players, and Jim Henson knew how to make them shine. So when Henson’s own light went out on that day in May of 1990, his death came as a shock, and many wondered what it would mean for the future of his beloved Muppets. Several of our Archive interviewees reminisced on working with Henson, and on the atmosphere he fostered on his shows:

Though there will never be another quite like Jim Henson, his death did not signify the end of all things Muppet. Disney, Jim Henson Studios, and The Sesame Workshop continue to provide the world with the joy of Kermit, Ernie, and friends, and I sincerely hope that there will never be a world without Muppets. I hope that today’s new Muppet movie is simply the latest adventure in a long list of great Muppet capers yet to come, and that the film honors the characters I cherish from my youth. In my book, every child should have the chance to see the world according to Kermit.

- by Adrienne Faillace

For more on Jim Henson, the Muppets early television appearances, and The Muppet Show, visit manager Bernie Brillstein’s interview

For more on Sesame Street’s Muppets, visit our Sesame Street show page

Blame it on Bulova: Commercial Television turns 70!

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

July 1, 1941: the beginning of life as we know it. Commercial television made its debut in the United States.

Over the next few years, television programs and personalities would become closely identified with their commercial sponsors, some shows even featuring their backer within the title, as in Milton Berle’s Texaco Star Theater. Jack Benny would forever become associated with J-E-L-L-O, and those who loved George Burns and Gracie Allen may still have a special fondness for Carnation milk. Product placement, integrated commercials, and what has come to be known as participating sponsorship (multiple sponsors for one program) still dominate the airwaves. But on that fateful July day, which corporate behemoth snagged America’s first TV commercial? None other than Bulova.

You’re probably picturing something like this: a woman with perfectly coiffed hair showcasing a swanky Bulova watch, Vanna White-style, as a male voiceover touts the product’s virtues. Of course, that’s not even close to what the few thousand people watching television that day saw. Instead, they witnessed a ticking nondescript Bulova clock laid over a map of the United States, with the slogan “America Runs on Bulova Time” placed below. The ad ran at the start of the Philadelphia Phillies/Brooklyn Dodgers game. The amount Bulova paid for the advertisement? A mere $9.

Archive interviewee Ray Forrest narrated that first ad, as he recalls in this interview excerpt:

Additional programming on July 1 consisted of Lowell Thomas reading the news on NBC, Ralph Edwards hosting Ivory Soap’s Truth or Consequences, and several other game and quiz shows including one called Uncle Jim’s Question Bee. Since all television was live at the time, no visual footage remains of these initial broadcasts, but the NBC Archives does contain audio recordings of those historic broadcasts.

Although we will never get to see those first commercial broadcasts, their legacy is evident every time we turn on the tube. Over the 70 years we’ve learned to fast-forward through commercials, mute them, or take bathroom or snack breaks while they air, but with the exception of public broadcasting (which itself has “brought to you by” spots that bear a striking resemblance to advertisements), television and commercials go together like peas and carrots. Unless we’re premium cable subscribers, ad-sponsored television is largely the only kind most of us have ever known.

Nowadays, DVRs, along with Internet and mobile programming, have thrown a wrench into the traditional structure. Seventy years ago the networks faced the dilemma of how to make the new medium of television a lucrative venture, and today they again struggle with how to sustain profits amid burgeoning technology. Commercials provided the solution decades ago, but will they still do so today? Texaco, J-E-L-L-O, Carnation, and (yes) Bulova are still around, and I’m betting commercials won’t entirely go the way of Uncle Jim’s Question Bee.

Happy 70th anniversary, commercial television. Can’t wait to see what you’re like at your 100th.

- by Adrienne Faillace

The Archive of American Television celebrates this historic day with a selection of clips from interviewees talking about commercials they appeared in, below.

Walter Cronkite on the only commercial he ever did (for Winston cigarettes):

Florence Henderson on her Wesson ads:

Michael J. Fox on pitching Pepsi:

Writer Allan Burns on coming up with the “Cap ‘n Crunch” logo and ad:

For more on this topic, visit the Archive’s “Commercials” television genre page at