Mar 15, 2021
Ann B. Davis, Maid To Brady Family And An Entire Generation Of Children, Dead At 88
If you’re Generation X, the family you often came home to was The Brady Bunch running on an infinite syndication loop after school. Unless you were a rich kid, you were consistently confused and pleased by the prospect of the live-in maid, Alice, played by Ann B. Davis. Davis died yesterday at age 88.
Thanks to that syndication loop and the fact that there only used to be three or four channels to watch, Alice is embedded in our consciousness as one of those characters that somehow never aged. She’s forever some indeterminate spinster age that seemed MAD OLD to little kids, especially with that firmly curled helmet of greying hair. Was she 40? 50? 60? (She was actually in her mid-40s when the show aired, which is an age some of us here at Happy have experienced, and it does not yet appear to involve a grey hair helmet, thankfully.) She was forever in a uniform, so her character never went through the devolution of style that the rest of the characters of the show did, which gave her this sense of being utterly outside the time frame of the show. Everyone else changed, but Alice stayed the same.
So completely did we identify Davis with that role that it’s only from ubiquitous obituaries today that most of us (present company included) even learned that Davis had a rich and full career prior to becoming the gently comic foil for the Brady household.
Her big break in Hollywood came when she won the role of Charmaine “Schultzy” Schultz, the secretary on the 1950s sitcom “The Bob Cummings Show,” IMDb said.
It was that character that won her two Emmy awards, two additional nominations for best supporting actress and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.
When you watch footage from that show — which was NOT on in an infinite syndication loop after school and therefore remains utterly unfamiliar — you can already see that Davis was built to crack wise.
See? Weird, right? Even in the 1950s, you could already see the nascent Alice-ness in the eyes and the sassiness and the spinsterhood.
As all the Brady children grew up into less attractive and interesting people than they were as kids, they showed up often enough in the public eye to remind us they’d become adults, causing a weird disconnect between who they turned into and who they were in our hearts, or at least that region of our brain where nostalgia lives. But because Davis largely retired from public life, she could remain forever Alice, the maid we never stop wishing we had.