The passing of Ann B. Davis at the age of 88 seems like more of a loss than the typical older actor's death. Davis had that way of reaching across the screen and, from the vantage point of a supporting role, capturing the hearts of all viewers.
Many first knew her as Schultzy, from The Bob Cummings Show (aka Love That Bob). Bob played a photographer usually surrounded by a bevy of beauties, and Schultzy was his plain looking, wise cracking confidant. Davis won two emmys (out of four nominations) for the role, which was said to be the inspiration for Pepper Pots in the Iron Man comics. Schultzy was the type of pal we all wanted to have -- someone who was dry and funny but at the same time loyal and supportive.
Davis kept active on TV, theater, and commercials after the Cummings show left the air in 1959, only to show up ten years later as the housekeeper Alice on the popular Brady Bunch. Alice was a lot like Schutzy -- always a peripheral character, always in support, always loyal, and frequently dry and funny.
Allen Melvin told this writer in a 1985 interview: "I had known Ann for a long time, and she helped get me the job as Sam the Butcher on The Brady Bunch."
Those of us old enough to recall The Brady Bunch first-run would never have imagined it would achieve classic or iconic status over the decades, to the point where a couple of feature film parodies were made. In one of them, Ann B. Davis appears. But not as Alice. The producers had a pretty savvy frame of reference -- they cast Davis as Schultzy.
Ann B. Davis was 88 years old, and, by all accounts, in "perfect health" when she fell in her bathroom at home, hitting her head and never regaining consciousness. She died hours later.
The shocking, random abruptness of her death saddened a nation. What we lost was an actress who brought her TV characters to life with such depth, they continue to resonate decades later. And her passing is like losing an old friend.
RIP Schultzy and Alice......