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Thursday, May 14, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Robert Reed, Actor Who Gained Fame As Patriarch Of `The Brady Bunch'

AP

PASADENA, Calif. - Robert Reed, who trained as a Shakespearean actor only to gain fame as the father of television's "The Brady Bunch," died of colon cancer at age 59, his family said.

He died Tuesday night at Huntington Memorial Hospital, said his daughter, Karen Baldwin. "He fought a very tough battle for about six months," she said.

Mr. Reed appeared in movies, on Broadway and in several TV shows, but was best known for his role as widower Mike Brady, the father of three boys, who married a widow, Carol, played by Florence Henderson, with three daughters.

"A few weeks ago, he asked me to call all the kids to tell them it didn't look good for him," said Henderson. "We were all devastated. We cried. We are a family, and we have lost our father."

It was a vintage American family show, in which events such as driving tests and jilted dates were the basis for entire episodes, but an uncomfortable role for Mr. Reed, who had attended acting schools in London with Diana Rigg, Albert Finney and Peter O'Toole.

"We fought over the scripts," he said in a 1983 interview. "Always over the scripts. The producer, Sherwood Schwartz, had done `Gilligan's Island' . . . Just gag lines. That would have been what `The Brady Bunch' would have been if I hadn't protested."

The series made its debut Sept. 26, 1969, and was an ABC Friday night fixture until Aug. 30, 1974. It lives on in reruns.

A "Brady Bunch Hour" was broadcast briefly by ABC in 1977, with much of the original cast, including Mr. Reed. In 1990, CBS presented "The Bradys," which also featured Mr. Reed. A stage version of "The Brady Bunch" has played in New York and is now playing in Los Angeles.

Barry Williams, who played big brother Greg, wrote in his new book "Growing Up Brady" that despite sticking with the role, Mr. Reed never really reconciled himself to the low-brow sitcom format.

Mr. Reed, who was born in Highland Park, Ill., studied drama at Northwestern University and attended London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and the University of London. He was nominated for three Emmy Awards, including one for his 1975 work on "Medical Center," in which he played a transsexual doctor. He played a decadent playboy in the TV mini-series "Rich Man, Poor Man" and a plantation owner in "Roots." Other TV credits include "Nightmare in Badham County," "Revenge for a Rape" and "Boy in the Plastic Bubble."

On Broadway, he appeared in "Barefoot in the Park," "Death Trap" and "Avanti." He appeared in the movies "Hurry Sundown" and "Star."

He is survived by his daughter; his mother, Helen Rietz; and a grandson, William Ryan.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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