Robert Reed

For other people named Robert Reed, see Robert Reed (disambiguation).
Robert Reed

Reed in 1971
Born John Robert Rietz, Jr.
(1932-10-19)October 19, 1932
Highland Park, Illinois, U.S.
Died May 12, 1992(1992-05-12) (aged 59)
Pasadena, California, U.S.
Cause of death Colon Cancer complications due to HIV
Resting place Memorial Park Cemetery
Education Central High School
Alma mater Northwestern University
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
Occupation Actor, television director
Years active 1957–1992
Spouse(s) Marilyn Rosenberger (m. 1954; div. 1959)
Children 1

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

From 1961 to 1965, he portrayed Kenneth Preston on the popular legal drama The Defenders, alongside E. G. Marshall. He is best known as the father Mike Brady, opposite Florence Henderson's Carol 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

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 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 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 led to guest roles on Men into Space and Lawman, as well as his first credited film appearance in Bloodlust!. In 1961, Reed landed his first television starring role in The Defenders alongside fellow Studebaker Theater performer E.G. Marshall, with the two playing a father-and-son team of defense attorneys.[8] Marshall was also one of the founding members of the Actors Studio in New York; around this time, Reed himself became a member of the Studio, of which he would remain a member for 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 Saturday nights to Thursday 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

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 widow, also with three children from a previous marriage. The show's creator, Sherwood Schwartz, said 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] (Although this situation had in fact been seen for years on The Danny Thomas Show, on which Reed has appeared as a guest star in 1959.)

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 two television reunion movies.[19]

From the show's debut in September 1969, Reed was unhappy with his role as 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 in 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, although in an attempt to alleviate tension, Reed was allowed to direct some episodes.[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 were 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] Reed's final appearance in the series was in the penultimate episode, "The Hustler". His final line in that episode was "Now I can get my car in the garage."

During the run of The Brady Bunch, Reed also had a recurring role as Lieutenant Adam Tobias on Mannix, from 1969 to 1975,[2] and typically appeared in three to five Mannix episodes each season. He also directed several episodes of The Brady Bunch during its run.[26][29] After Reed's agents overbooked him for a film with Anglia Television, his cancellation led to the 1972 court case of Anglia Television Ltd v Reed.

Later career

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 comes out as transgender, in a two-part episode of Medical Center in 1975.[30] The episode also earned him a Primetime Emmy Award nomination.[31] Reed appeared in the 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, the 1981 television film, The Brady Girls Get Married, and the 1988 television film A Very Brady Christmas.[22] In 1989, he guest-starred as Mike Brady in "A Very Brady Episode" of the NBC sitcom Day by Day. Also in 1989, Reed reteamed with his Brady Bunch co-star 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

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 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. 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 and Josh Miller 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 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 age 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 is buried at Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie, Illinois.[44]


Year Title Role Notes
1957 Pal Joey Boy Friend Uncredited
1958 The Hunters Jackson Uncredited
1958 Torpedo Run Woolsey Uncredited
1961 Bloodlust! Johnny Randall
1967 Hurry Sundown Lars Finchley
1968 Star! Charles Fraser
1969 Journey into Darkness Hank Prentiss (episode 'The New People')
1969 The Maltese Bippy Lt. Tim Crane
1991 Prime Target Agent Harrington
Year Title Role Notes
1959 Make Room for Daddy Airline Pilot Episode: "Terry Comes Home"
1959 Father Knows Best Tom Cameron Episode: "The Impostor"
1960 Men into Space Russell Smith Episode: "Earthbound"
1960 Bronco Tom Fuller Episode: "Volunteers from Aberdeen"
1960 Lawman Jim Malone Episode: "Left Hand of the Law"
1961 Tallahassee 7000 Episode: "Hostage"
1961–1965 The Defenders Kenneth Preston 132 episodes
1965 Dr. Kildare Judd Morrison 6 episodes
1965 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Lt. Chris Callahan Episode: "The Admiral"
1966 Preview Tonight Lieutenant John Leahy Episode: "Somewhere in Italy... Company B!"
1966 Operation Razzle-Dazzle Lieutenant John Leahy Television movie
1966 Family Affair Julian Hill Episode: "Think Deep"
1966 My Husband Tom...and John John Unaired preview film for Paramount
1967 Li'l Abner Senator Cod Unsold pilot
1967 Hondo Frank Davis Episode: "Hondo and the Superstition Massacre"
1967 Ironside Jerry Pearson Episode: "Light at the End of the Journey"
1968 Journey to the Unknown Hank Prentiss Episode: "The New People"
1968–1975 Mannix Lt. Adam Tobias 22 episodes
1969–1974 The Brady Bunch Mike Brady 116 episodes
1969–1971 Love, American Style Various roles 4 episodes
1971 The City Sealy Graham Television movie
1972 Assignment: Munich Doug "Mitch" Mitchell Television movie
1972 The Mod Squad Jerry Silver Episode: "The Connection"
1972 Haunts of the Very Rich Reverend John Fellows Television movie
1972 Mission: Impossible Assistant D.A. Arthur Reynolds Episode: "Hit"
1973 Snatched Frank McCloy Television movie
1973 Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law Episode: "They've Got to Blame Somebody"
1973 Intertect Blake Hollister Television movie
1973 The Man Who Could Talk to Kids Tom Lassiter Television movie
1973 The World of Sid & Marty Krofft at the Hollywood Bowl Audience member Television special (Uncredited)
1974 Pray for the Wildcats Paul McIlvain Television movie
1974 Chase Dr. Playter Episode: "Remote Control"
1974 Harry O Paul Virdon Episode: "Accounts Balanced"
1975 The Secret Night Caller Freddy Durant Television movie
1975 Medical Center Dr. Pat Caddison Episode: "The Fourth Sex" (parts 1 and 2)
1975 McCloud Jason Carter Episode: "Fire!"
1976 The Streets of San Francisco Dr. Arnold Stephen Episode: "The Honorable Profession"
1976 Jigsaw John Alan Bellamy Episode: "Promise to Kill"
1976 Wonder Woman Fallon, the "Falcon" Episode: "The Pluto File"
1976 Rich Man, Poor Man Teddy Boylan Miniseries
1976 Law and Order Aaron Levine Television movie
1976 Lanigan's Rabbi Morton Galen Pilot episode
1976 Nightmare in Badham County Supt. Dancer Television movie
1976 The Boy in the Plastic Bubble Johnny Lubitch Television movie
1976 Revenge for a Rape Sheriff Paley Television movie
1976–1977 The Brady Bunch Hour Mike Brady 9 episodes
1977 Roots Dr. William Reynolds Miniseries
1977 Kit Carson and the Mountain Men Capt. John C. Frémont Television movie
1977 The Wonderful World of Disney Capt. John C. Frémont 2 episodes
1977 The Love Boat II Stephen Palmer Television movie
1977 SST: Death Flight Captain Jim Walsh Television movie
1977 Barnaby Jones DeWitt Robinson Episode: "Death Beat"
1977 The Hunted Lady Dr. Arthur Sills Television movie
1977–1986 The Love Boat Various roles 6 episodes
1978 The Runaways David McKay 4 episodes
1978 Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery Jack Kimball Television movie
1978 Bud and Lou Alan Randall Television movie
1978–1979 Vega$ Various roles 2 episodes
1978–1983 Fantasy Island Leo Drake 2 episodes
1979 Mandrake Arkadian Television movie
1979 The Paper Chase Professor Howard Episode: "Once More with Feeling"
1979 Love's Savage Fury Commander Marston Television movie
1979 Hawaii Five-O Various roles 2 episodes
1979 The Seekers Daniel Clapper Television movie
1980 Galactica 1980 Dr. Donald Mortinson 3 episodes
1980 Scruples Josh Hillman Miniseries
1980 Nurse Dr. Kenneth Rose Television movie
1980 Charlie's Angels Glenn Staley 2 episodes
1980 Casino Darius Television movie
1981 The Brady Girls Get Married Mike Brady Television movie
1981 Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story David Palmer Television movie
1981–1982 Nurse Dr. Adam Rose 25 episodes
1982 ABC Afterschool Specials Henry Forbes Episode: "Between Two Loves"
1983–1986 Hotel Various roles 3 episodes
1984 The Mississippi Tyler Marshall Episode: "Abigail"
1984 Matt Houston Bradley Denholm Episode: "Stolen"
1984 Cover Up Martin Dunbar Episode: "A Subtle Seduction"
1985 Finder of Lost Loves Tim Sanderson Episode: "From the Heart"
1985 International Airport Carl Roberts Television movie
1985 Glitter Episode: "Suddenly Innocent"
1986 Crazy like a Fox Episode: "Just Another Fox in the Crowd"
1986 Search for Tomorrow Lloyd Kendall 2 episodes
1987 Hunter Judge Warren Unger 3 episodes
1987 Duet Jim Phillips 2 episodes
1987, 1992 Jake and the Fatman Various roles 2 episodes, (Last appearance)
1988 "Murder She Wrote" Jackson Episode; "Murder Through The Looking Glass"
1988 The Law & Harry McGraw Episode: "Beware the Ides of May"
1988 A Very Brady Christmas Mike Brady Television movie
1989 Day by Day Mike Brady Episode: "A Very Brady Episode"
1989 Free Spirit Albert Stillman Episode: "The New Secretary"
1990 The Bradys Mike Brady 6 episodes

Award nominations

Year Award Category Title of work
1976 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actor for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series Medical Center (For episode "The Fourth Sex: Parts 1&2")
1976 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Continuing Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Rich Man, Poor Man
1977 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Single Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Comedy or Drama Series Roots (For part V)


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