Robert Reed

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Robert Reed
Robert Reed 1971.JPG
Reed in 1971
BornJohn Robert Rietz, Jr.
(1932-10-19)October 19, 1932
Highland Park, Illinois, U.S.
DiedMay 12, 1992(1992-05-12) (aged 59)
Pasadena, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Colon cancer
Resting place
Memorial Park Cemetery
EducationCentral High School
Alma materNorthwestern University
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
OccupationActor, television director
Years active1957–1992
Spouse(s)Marilyn Rosenberger (m. 1954; div. 1959)
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For other people named Robert Reed, see Robert Reed (disambiguation).
Robert Reed
Robert Reed 1971.JPG
Reed in 1971
BornJohn Robert Rietz, Jr.
(1932-10-19)October 19, 1932
Highland Park, Illinois, U.S.
DiedMay 12, 1992(1992-05-12) (aged 59)
Pasadena, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Colon cancer
Resting place
Memorial Park Cemetery
EducationCentral High School
Alma materNorthwestern University
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
OccupationActor, television director
Years active1957–1992
Spouse(s)Marilyn Rosenberger (m. 1954; div. 1959)

Robert Reed (October 19, 1932 – May 12, 1992) was an American stage, film and television actor and television director.

From 1961 to 1965, Reed portrayed the role of Kenneth Preston on the popular legal drama, The Defenders, alongside E. G. Marshall. He is best known as Mike Brady on the ABC sitcom The Brady Bunch, which aired from 1969 to 1974. He reprised the role of Mike Brady in later reunion programs. In 1976, he earned two Primetime Emmy Award nominations for his guest starring role in a two-part episode of Medical Center and for his work on the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man. The following year, Reed earned a third Emmy nomination for his role in the miniseries Roots.

Early life[edit]

Reed was born John Robert Rietz, Jr., in the northern Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Illinois.[1] He was the only child of Helen (née Teaverbaugh) and John Robert Rietz, Sr.,[2] who were high school sweethearts and had married at 18. Reed attended the West Division School in Community Consolidated School District 62 until 1939. His father worked for the government, and his mother was a homemaker. Reed spent his later childhood years in Muskogee, Oklahoma, as well as Navasota, Texas. In Oklahoma his father, John Sr., worked as a turkey and cattle farmer.[3]

In his youth, Reed joined the 4-H agricultural club and showed calves but was more interested in acting and music.[4] While attending Central High School in Muskogee, he participated in both activities. Reed also took to the stage, where he performed and sang. He also worked as a radio announcer at local radio stations and also wrote and produced radio dramas.[5] Reed graduated from Muskogee Central in 1950, and enrolled at Northwestern University to study drama.[6] During his years at Northwestern, Reed appeared in several plays under the direction of Alvina Krause, a celebrated Northwestern drama coach.[4] Reed performed in more than eight plays in college, all with leading roles.

He later studied for one term at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.[7] Upon returning to the United States, Reed appeared in summer stock in Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania.[8] He later joined the off-Broadway theatre group "The Shakespearewrights", and played Romeo in Romeo and Juliet and had a lead role in A Midsummer Night's Dream.[9] After leaving the Shakespearewrights, Reed joined the Studebaker Theatre company in Chicago.[8] He eventually adopted the stage name Robert Reed and moved to Los Angeles in the late 1950s to further pursue his acting career.[5]


Reed and E. G. Marshall in a publicity shot for The Defenders, 1961

Reed made his first guest-starring appearance in an episode of Father Knows Best in 1959.[10] This lead to guest roles on Men into Space and Lawman, as well as his first credited film appearance in Bloodlust!. In 1961, producers of The Defenders saw Reed's performance in Father Knows Best and cast him as Kenneth Preston, one of the lead roles in the series. E.G. Marshall was also a member of Studebaker Theatre company with Reed and was cast opposite Reed.[8] Marshall was also one of the founding members of The Actors Studio in New York; it was around this time that Reed himself became a member of the Studio which he would remain a member of the next 30 years.[3][11] The Defenders was a hit with audiences and earned a total of 22 Primetime Emmy Award nominations (E.G. Marshall won two Emmys for his performance while the show won twice for Outstanding Drama Series). Ratings for the series were high during its first three seasons but fell when CBS moved the series from Thursday nights to Saturday nights. CBS canceled The Defenders in 1965.[12]

While appearing on The Defenders in 1964, Reed made his Broadway stage debut as Paul Bratter in Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park, replacing Robert Redford.[11][13] For the remainder of the decade, Reed appeared primarily in television guest spots, including roles in Family Affair, Ironside, The Mod Squad, and Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theatre. He also appeared in the 1968 film Star! and in the Broadway production of Avanti!.[11]

The Brady Bunch[edit]

Appearing in the Neil Simon play Barefoot in the Park led to two new contracts at Paramount Studios and ABC, both in 1968. When Paramount had decided to turn the television version of Barefoot in the Park into a predominantly African-American show, they planned for Reed to star in something else. The new series was entitled The Brady Bunch and featured a widowed man with three children from a previous marriage, marrying a divorcee, also with three children, from a previous marriage. According to the show's creator, Sherwood Schwartz, he was inspired to create the show after reading a news item in The Los Angeles Times stating that "more than 29 percent of all marriages included a child or children from a previous marriage". Schwartz thought the idea was "[...] the key to a new and unusual TV series. It was a revelation! The first blended family! His kids and her kids! Together!"[14]

Reed was the producers' second choice for the role of Mike Brady, after Gene Hackman was rejected because he was too unfamiliar at the time.[15] Also starring on The Brady Bunch was actress Florence Henderson, who played the role of Mike's wife Carol Brady after her best friend Shirley Jones turned down the role in favor of The Partridge Family.[16] Also cast on the show was Ann B. Davis as the Bradys' maid Alice Nelson.[17] Despite earning poor reviews from critics and never cracking the Top 30 during its five-season run, The Brady Bunch remained an audience favorite of the 1970s.[17][18] Since its cancellation in 1974, the show has led a healthy afterlife in syndication and spawned several spin-off series and one television reunion movie.[19]

From its debut in September 1969, Reed was unhappy with his role of Mike Brady. He felt that acting in the often silly sitcom was beneath his serious Shakespearean training. Producers and directors found Reed difficult to work with both on and off the set; the cast, however, got along well with him. In his efforts to bring more realism to the show, Reed often locked horns with the show's creator and executive producer, Sherwood Schwartz.[20][21] Reed regularly presented Schwartz with hand-written memoranda detailing why a certain character's motivation did not make sense or why it was wrong to combine elements of farce and satire. Schwartz generally ignored Reed's suggestions.[22] In a 1983 interview, Reed admitted that he often butted heads with Schwartz stating, "We fought over the scripts. 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."[23]

Reed and Florence Henderson in a publicity shot for The Brady Bunch, 1973

Reed was particularly appalled by what would turn out to be the show's final episode, "The Hair-Brained Scheme". He sent Schwartz a memo picking apart the episode,[24] but Schwartz did not receive the memo promptly enough to change the show as Reed wanted. As a result, Reed refused to appear in the episode altogether.[21] Though Schwartz had decided to replace Reed if the series was picked up for a sixth season, the show ended up being cancelled shortly thereafter.[25] Reed later indicated he took the role for financial reasons,[26] but tried to remain positive despite his creative differences with Schwartz by reminding himself the series was primarily about the children. Reed masked his dissatisfaction in front of the camera, always performing professionally without any indication of his unhappiness. Despite his discontent with the show, Reed genuinely liked his co-stars and was a father figure to the younger cast members.[27] Co-star Susan Olsen became friends with Reed's daughter Karen, who made a guest appearance in the episode "The Slumber Caper".[28]

During the run of The Brady Bunch, Reed also had a recurring role as Lieutenant Adam Tobias on Mannix from 1969 to 1975,[2] typically appearing in 3 to 5 Mannix episodes each season. He also directed several episodes of The Brady Bunch during its run.[26][29]

Later career[edit]

After the end of The Brady Bunch in 1974, Reed acted on the stage and made guest star appearances on other television shows and television movies, including Pray for the Wildcats and SST: Death Flight. He won critical acclaim for his portrayal of Pat Caddison, a doctor who wants to undergo a sex change operation, in a two-part episode of Medical Center in 1975.[30] The episode also earned him a Primetime Emmy Award nomination.[31] Reed also appeared in television film The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (1976), the 1976 miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man and the 1977 miniseries Roots.[20] Reed was again nominated for an Emmy for his work in Rich Man, Poor Man and Roots.[31] He also guest-starred on Wonder Woman, Hawaii Five-O, Charlie's Angels, Galactica 1980, and Vega$.

In 1981, Reed won the lead role of Dr. Adam Rose on the medical drama Nurse.[32] Despite being critically acclaimed, the series was canceled the following year. In 1986, he played the role of Lloyd Kendall on the daytime soap opera Search for Tomorrow. He also made multiple appearances on Fantasy Island, Hunter, The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote.

Despite his dislike of The Brady Bunch, Reed continued to appear in Brady Bunch spin-offs and sequels for the remainder of his career. In 1976, Reed reprised the role of Mike Brady in the variety show The Brady Bunch Hour, as well as the 1981 television film, The Brady Girls Get Married, and the 1988 television film A Very Brady Christmas.[22] Also in 1988, he guest-starred as Mike Brady in "A Very Brady Episode" of the NBC sitcom Day by Day. In 1989, Reed re-teamed with his Brady Bunch co-star Florence Henderson in a guest starring role on the sitcom Free Spirit.[33] In 1990, he reprised the role of Mike Brady for the final time in the drama series, The Bradys.[22] The series was canceled after six episodes. Reed made his last onscreen appearance in the April 1992 episode of Jake and the Fatman, "Ain't Misbehavin'".[2]

Shortly before his death, Reed appeared in the touring production of Love Letters, opposite Betsy Palmer and taught classes on Shakespeare at UCLA.[11][27]

Personal life[edit]

Reed was gay, but kept this fact private, fearing it would damage his career.[34][35] In July 1954, Reed married fellow Northwestern student Marilyn Rosenberger.[36] The couple had one daughter, Karen, before divorcing in 1959.[37]

After his death, Reed's Brady Bunch co-stars — most notably Barry Williams and Florence Henderson — publicly acknowledged Reed's sexual orientation, and admitted that most of the cast and crew of The Brady Bunch were aware, but they did not discuss it with Reed. Barry Williams said, "Robert didn't want to go there. I don't think he talked about it with anyone. I just don't think it was a discussion – period."[34]


In November 1991, Reed was diagnosed with colon cancer.[38] When he became ill, he allowed only his daughter and his close friend actress Anne Haney to visit him.[37][38] Haney later said of Reed, "He came from the old school, where people had a sense of decorum. He went the way he wanted to, without publicity."[37] Weeks before his death, Reed called his former co-star Florence Henderson and asked her to inform the rest of the Brady Bunch cast that he was terminally ill.[23] He died on May 12, 1992, at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, California at the age of 59.[7]

Reed's death was initially attributed solely to cancer, but details from his death certificate were made public revealing that Reed was HIV positive.[39] It is unknown when Reed contracted HIV because he kept his condition private, telling only a few close friends.[40] While Reed did not have AIDS at the time of his death,[9][34][41] his doctor listed his HIV positive status as a "significant condition[s] that contributed to death" on the death certificate.[39][42][43]

Reed was interred at Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie, Illinois.[44]


1957Pal JoeyBoy FriendUncredited
1958Torpedo RunWoolseyUncredited
1961Bloodlust!Johnny Randall
1967Hurry SundownLars Finchley
1968Journey into DarknessHank Prentiss
1968Star!Charles Fraser
1969The Maltese BippyLt. Tim Crane
1991Prime TargetAgent Harrington
1959Make Room for DaddyAirline PilotEpisode: "Terry Comes Home"
1959Father Knows BestTom CameronEpisode: "The Impostor"
1960Men into SpaceRussell SmithEpisode: "Earthbound"
1960BroncoTom FullerEpisode: "Volunteers from Aberdeen"
1960LawmanJim MaloneEpisode: "Left Hand of the Law"
1961Tallahassee 7000Episode: "Hostage"
1961–1965The DefendersKenneth Preston132 episodes
1965Dr. KildareJudd Morrison6 episodes
1965Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler TheatreLt. Chris CallahanEpisode: "The Admiral"
1966Preview TonightLieutenant John LeahyEpisode: "Somewhere in Italy... Company B!"
1966Operation Razzle-DazzleLieutenant John LeahyTelevision movie
1966Family AffairJulian HillEpisode: "Think Deep"
1966My Husband Tom...and JohnJohnUnaired preview film for Paramount
1967Li'l AbnerSenator CodUnsold pilot
1967HondoFrank DavisEpisode: "Hondo and the Superstition Massacre"
1967IronsideJerry PearsonEpisode: "Light at the End of the Journey"
1968Journey to the UnknownHank PrentissEpisode: "The New People"
1968–1975MannixLt. Adam Tobias22 episodes
1969–1974The Brady BunchMike Brady115 episodes
1969–1971Love, American StyleVarious roles4 episodes
1971The CitySealy GrahamTelevision movie
1972Assignment: MunichDoug "Mitch" MitchellTelevision movie
1972The Mod SquadJerry SilverEpisode: "The Connection"
1972Haunts of the Very RichReverend John FellowsTelevision movie
1972Mission: ImpossibleAssistant D.A. Arthur ReynoldsEpisode: "Hit"
1973SnatchedFrank McCloyTelevision movie
1973Owen Marshall: Counselor at LawEpisode: "They've Got to Blame Somebody"
1973IntertectBlake HollisterTelevision movie
1973The Man Who Could Talk to KidsTom LassiterTelevision movie
1973The World of Sid & Marty Krofft at the Hollywood BowlAudience memberTelevision special
1974Pray for the WildcatsPaul McIlvainTelevision movie
1974ChaseDr. PlayterEpisode: "Remote Control"
1974Harry OPaul VirdonEpisode: "Accounts Balanced"
1975The Secret Night CallerFreddy DurantTelevision movie
1975Medical CenterDr. Pat CaddisonEpisode: "The Fourth Sex" (parts 1 and 2)
1975McCloudJason CarterEpisode: "Fire!"
1976The Streets of San FranciscoDr. Arnold StephenEpisode: "The Honorable Profession"
1976Jigsaw JohnAlan BellamyEpisode: "Promise to Kill"
1976Wonder WomanFallon, the "Falcon"Episode: "The Pluto File"
1976Rich Man, Poor ManTeddy BoylanMiniseries
1976Law and OrderAaron LevineTelevision movie
1976Lanigan's RabbiMorton GalenPilot episode
1976Nightmare in Badham CountySupt. DancerTelevision movie
1976The Boy in the Plastic BubbleJohnny LubitchTelevision movie
1976Revenge for a RapeSheriff PaleyTelevision movie
1976The New Adventures of Wonder WomanThe FalconEpisode: "The Pluto File"
1976–1977The Brady Bunch HourMike Brady9 episodes
1977RootsDr. William ReynoldsMiniseries
1977Kit Carson and the Mountain MenCapt. John C. FrémontTelevision movie
1977The Wonderful World of DisneyCapt. John C. Frémont2 episodes
1977The Love Boat IIStephen PalmerTelevision movie
1977SST: Death FlightCaptain Jim WalshTelevision movie
1977Barnaby JonesDeWitt RobinsonEpisode: "Death Beat"
1977The Hunted LadyDr. Arthur SillsTelevision movie
1977–1986The Love BoatVarious roles6 episodes
1978The RunawaysDavid McKay4 episodes
1978Thou Shalt Not Commit AdulteryJack KimballTelevision movie
1978Bud and LouAlan RandallTelevision movie
1978–1979Vega$Various roles2 episodes
1978–1983Fantasy IslandLeo Drake2 episodes
1979MandrakeArkadianTelevision movie
1979The Paper ChaseProfessor HowardEpisode: "Once More with Feeling"
1979Love's Savage FuryCommander MarstonTelevision movie
1979Hawaii Five-OVarious roles2 episodes
1979The SeekersDaniel ClapperTelevision movie
1980Galactica 1980Dr. Donald Mortinson3 episodes
1980ScruplesJosh HillmanMiniseries
1980NurseDr. Kenneth RoseTelevision movie
1980Charlie's AngelsGlenn Staley2 episodes
1980CasinoDariusTelevision movie
1981The Brady Girls Get MarriedMike BradyTelevision movie
1981Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten StoryDavid PalmerTelevision movie
1981–1982NurseDr. Adam Rose25 episodes
1982ABC Afterschool SpecialsHenry ForbesEpisode: "Between Two Loves"
1983–1986HotelVarious roles3 episodes
1984The MississippiTyler MarshallEpisode: "Abigail"
1984Matt HoustonBradley DenholmEpisode: "Stolen"
1984Cover UpMartin DunbarEpisode: "A Subtle Seduction"
1985Finder of Lost LovesTim SandersonEpisode: "From the Heart"
1985International AirportCarl RobertsTelevision movie
1985GlitterEpisode: "Suddenly Innocent"
1986Crazy like a FoxEpisode: "Just Another Fox in the Crowd"
1986Search for TomorrowLloyd Kendall2 episodes
1987HunterJudge Warren Unger3 episodes
1987DuetJim Phillips2 episodes
1987, 1992Jake and the FatmanVarious roles2 episodes; final appearance
1988The Law & Harry McGrawEpisode: "Beware the Ides of May"
1988A Very Brady ChristmasMike BradyTelevision movie
1989Day by DayMike BradyEpisode: "A Very Brady Episode"
1989Free SpiritAlbert StillmanEpisode: "The New Secretary"
1990The BradysMike Brady6 episodes

Award nominations[edit]

YearAwardCategoryTitle of work
1976Primetime Emmy AwardOutstanding Lead Actor for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy SeriesMedical Center (For episode "The Fourth Sex: Parts 1&2")
1976Primetime Emmy AwardOutstanding Continuing Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Drama SeriesRich Man, Poor Man
1977Primetime Emmy AwardOutstanding Single Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Comedy or Drama SeriesRoots (For part V)


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  28. ^ Schwartz 2010 p.134
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  44. ^ Hucke, Matt; Bielski, Ursula (1999). Graveyards of Chicago: The People, History, Art, and Lore of Cook County Cemeteries. Lake Claremont Press. p. 70. ISBN 0-964-24264-8. 

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