If you grew up watching television in the ’70s, chances are you have watched the hit show Family Affair. The show features actor Brian Keith who plays the role of Bill Davis, an engineer that is forced to raise his brother’s orphaned children in his luxurious Manhattan apartment. This tragic situation creates a lot of humorous moments where his children adapt to their new house guests who aren’t used to living such luxurious lives. Let’s take a look at some best anecdotes that this classic television show produced on and off the screen.
36 Family Affair Facts That Will Take You Behind the Scenes of One of America's Favorite SitcomsPublished 3 months ago
After five seasons of delightful comedy, fans were shocked to hear that the Family Affair adventure was coming to an end. The CBS network announced in 1971 that they would be airing the fifth and last season of the hit television show.
It was later found out that one of the reasons behind the cancellation of the show was a scheduling conflict with a competing iconic show The Brady Bunch. Even though it could be argued there was enough room for the two shows, the network was formal about their decision.
When a show is canceled it is most often the result of a decrease in the engagement of spectators that lose interest. However, in the case of Family Affair, it came as a surprise to all as the show had good ratings and a very loyal fanbase.
The cancelation of the show also came as a surprise to the actors and led to many rumors about the real reasons behind it to arise. However, the network always kept their silence and refused to answer any questions regarding the cancelation of their show.
Annisa Jones was praised and internationally recognized for her role as Buffy in Family Affair. The young actress started her adventure on the show at the age of eight and as is the case for many child actors, the weight of celebrity would prove too heavy for her to carry.
On August 28, 1976, five years after the end of the Family Affair, Anissa Jones was found dead at the age of 18 years old. The cause of her death was declared to be overdose with traces of PCP, Cocaine, and quaaludes found in her blood.
After the tragic death of Jones at the age of 18, Kathy Garver, who played alongside her for five years did not hold back when she was asked about how she perceived the experience for the young actress.
Garver stated that Jones was pushed too much and as her character had to stay a certain age she had to carry around a doll at the age of eight. Directors went as far as taping parts of her body to hide any signs of her maturing. This experience was traumatizing for the young actress who was denied a childhood and was constantly running from sets to press conferences.
The quality of the Family Affair show did not only reside in its great dialogues but also in the team’s attention to details and will to keep their show as close to reality as possible. In order to keep the show as close to reality as possible and make it credible, the producers decided to hire consultants.
In order to make the role of engineer credible and use proper terminologies, the President of the National Society of Professional Engineers was hired to overlook both the work of actor Brian Keith and of the writers.
For those fans with incredible attention to detail, the television show will have them raising their eyebrows. Throughout the show and especially in the first season, many changes to wardrobe and characters were made.
The most observant of you will have noticed a small change to Mrs. Beasly, Buffy’s doll. In the television show’s pilot, the doll is not wearing the big pair of glasses she would later become famous for. This change was a last-minute decision that was made by the head of wardrobe.
At the age of 14, Sebastian Cabot dropped out of school and went to work in a car garage. After years of manual labor, Cabot decided it was time for him to pursue his passion for theater as he integrated the repertory company.
Later in his career, Cabot admitted that he had lied about a past acting experience on his resume in order to obtain his first audition. A strategy that paid off as the actor gained international recognition and was praised for his talent.
Although lying about his work experience allowed him to obtain his first acting opportunity, Cabot would soon realize that his behavior was also a risk. On his first day filming for the television show On The Spot, the actor was fired after production was informed that he had lied about attending drama school.
However, the actor would not let this minor setback keep him from his dream of becoming a big actor. Cabot turned to an agency for representation and finally got hired to act in Family Affair after years of auditioning and improving his acting skills.
The television show’s great success in the United States and England went on to attract the attention of other countries. Even though the show had been voice doubled into many languages, the rights to create a remake were bought by a French television network.
The majority of the show was kept the same in the French version. However, all the names were changed except for that of Uncle Bill who kept the same name. As one could expect, the name of Mr.French was changed to Mr.Felix. Other changes to the show were also made to adapt it to the French public and their customs.
Filming hours and conditions have an effect on everyone, even dolls. Buffy was devastated when she discovered that her favorite doll Mrs.Beasley had her arm torn off. However, this injury would be no match for the determination of her family to save the little girl’s best friend.
Thanks to the dedicated work of a surgeon the arm was sewn back onto the injured Mrs. Beasley which brought a sigh of relief to spectators and the worried buffy. A heartwarming scene.
Things aren’t always what they seem, especially in television shows. Fans would soon realize this when they discovered that there was bad blood between Kathy Garver and Johnny Whitaker. The two actors that played alongside each other for over five years did not speak for over 50 years when the show ended.
However, after decades of silence, Whitaker thought that Garver deserved an explanation for his behavior and decided to put an end to the silence separating the once close actors.
We all know that no problems get past Oprah Winfrey. The talk show host would prove this to be right in her show “Oprah: Where are they now?” where she got Whitaker to admit there had been bad blood between him and his co-star Garver.
Of course, nobody would expect Oprah Winfrey to leave matters unresolved and she did not disappoint. After hearing Whitaker’s confession she decided it was time for him to confront his demons and reach out to Garver in what would become a cult television moment.
In an effort to put an end to five decades of bad blood, Whitaker confronted Garver on live television. When Garver heard a knock on her door she was shocked to see Whitaker. It wasn’t long before the two addressed the reasons behind the tension surrounding their relationship.
Garver confronted Whitaker for not reaching out all these years and for never thanking her for the auditions she had obtained for him. After Whitaker apologized for a number of times, it seemed like the pair were finally over their bad blood. A heartwarming moment for viewers and fans of the show all over the world.
After Anissa Jones passed in tragic circumstances in 1976, many fans were left shocked and looking for ways in which they could pay tribute to the famous child star. A Canadian band by the name of the Diodes decided to pay tribute in the only way they knew.
As an homage, the punk rock band wrote a touching tribute called child star. The song that has a Ramones vibe to it was a big success in Canada and with fans of the show all over the world.
After Anissa Jones earned a big fanbase for her role as Buffy, it had become difficult for her to be perceived as anyone other than her iconic role. The child actress had been typecast as the innocent young Buffy.
After the end of Family Affair, Anissa Jones was set on pursuing an acting career in Hollywood. The young actress was very closely considered to portray Regan in The Exorcist, a role she would not obtain because the director William Friedkin was afraid that fans and spectators would not accept to see the young innocent actress we know as Buffy play a possessed child.
It might come as a shock to many that the actress Kathy Garver was 20 years old when she was portraying the 15-year-old Cissy on Family Affair. With the help of a team of makeup artists and wardrobe specialists, Kathy, who was in her second year at UCLA, was able to change her appearance and fit the role of a young teenager.
Garver would stop at nothing to get to play alongside some of her childhood heroes such as Brian Keith who played her uncle Bill Davis in the show.
In each sitcom, directors and writers work hard on creating a universe in which their story and characters can evolve. In some cases, various different sitcoms can share a universe as was the case for Cheers and Frasier.
Family affair creator and producer Don Fedderson was also the creator of two other successful shows My Three Sons and To Rome With Love who all shared the same universe. As a result of this common universe, Jody and Buffy from Family Affair appeared on the show To Rome With Love with characters from My Three Sons as well.
Six years after the cancellation of the show in 1977, fans were heartbroken when they heard the tragic news that Sebastian Cabot had suffered a fatal stroke. This news came only one year after the death of Anissa and led many to believe in a curse.
Though premature, the death of the actor at the age of 59 years old came after years of fighting health issues even while filming the cult television show. The stroke he had, that was the second in three years, would prove too difficult for his weak health to overcome.
We all picture Cindy Brady as a little innocent girl with her signature pigtails. Inspired by Pippi Longstocking, the creators of the show paid a lot of attention to the looks of their characters to keep it consistent and create very recognizable looks that spectators would not forget.
This strict attention to detail was also applied to Mrs.Beasley, Buffy’s doll who also had a signature look with pigtails throughout the television show. It is safe to say that the makeup team had their hands full.
It seems obvious that the names of the main characters of Family Affair, Cissy, Jody, and Buffy are nicknames that are used to create a family, informal atmosphere between the family members.
Cissy’s real name was Catherine, Jody’s was Jonathan and Buffy’s real name was Ava but it is unlikely any fan would recognize any of these names as they were very rarely used on the television show. On top of these nicknames, the characters often call each other different affectionate names. A normal occurrence in families.
In September 2002, years after the cancelation of Family Affair, fans were surprised with the release of a remake of the show. After suffering from the loss of a few actors on the show, the writers cast new members, even hiring acclaimed actor Tim Curry to play Mr. French.
However, even though the show received good critics, it would go on to be canceled after airing only 14 episodes out of the 16 they had filmed. It seems like the show could not compete with other popular shows at the time such as Friends or Survivor. Yet another disappointment for the show that never received the recognition it deserved.
In order to keep production costs down and work within a tight budget, it was essential for the director of Family Affair to film their show quickly. It is reported that one season was set to be filmed in only 60 days.
This tight production schedule had an effect on actors and team members. It was also difficult to find a director that would be available to film long hours for 60 days in a row and that was available for such a long period of time. As a result of these constraints, a different director was used for each season.
Onset, it was clear that the biggest star was Brian Keith. Other actors have gone on to say that the whole show was created around him as he was able to film each season in 30 days only in order to allow him to dispose of enough time to pursue other roles.
Actors and members of the television show working alongside him all expressed their admiration for the actor who was a firm believer in the art of improvisation. Unlike other actors, it is said that Keith would show up on set in the mornings without knowing his lines but would always find a way of making it work.
Unfortunately for Brian Keith, his fantasy life of a successful, healthy actor would come to an end when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. A tragic and ironic fate for the actor that was the face of the Camel tobacco company in their 1995 campaign.
The news of his illness came as a shock after the actor had stopped smoking for 10 years after being warned about the dangers of tobacco. Faced with this tragic turn of events, it is said that the actor kept a positive mindset and surrounded himself with his loved ones.
In 1997, news broke out that Brian Keith, the actor that played the beloved Uncle Bill had taken his life. Fans and family all over the world were shocked that the 75-year-old would take his life after years of fighting emphysema and cancer.
Refusing to believe that he committed suicide, the Keith family think that the actor’s death was the result of a gun cleaning accident as the actor was said to be a positive person who often spoke with much hope about the future.
As Keith’s family struggled to cope with the idea of their beloved family member taking his own life, Kathy Garver had a more poetic and realistic point of view of the tragic turn of events. When asked about her feelings about her late friend she stated that she believed it was his way of leaving on his terms.
Before taking his life it is said that Keith was given two weeks to live. Garver states that Keith was always a man that enjoyed having control over his life, until his last moments.
The cast and writers of Family Affair had to quickly adapt to a tragic unexpected event. Sebastian Cabot, who plays the important role of Giles French in the show was unexpectedly sick during the filming of season one.
Cabot’s illness prevented him from being able to film the majority of the season and forced the show to make a quick decision. In the show, the character is summoned back to England to explain the disappearance of the actor and British actor John Williams joins the show as Niles, the brother of French that takes care of the children. Williams went on to replace Cabot for nine episodes.
There is very limited room for last-minute changes and mistakes when working on a set that is operating with time and budget constraints. When the unexpected happens there is only one option: adapt.
The crew would have to show their skills when Anissa Jones who we all know as Buffy broke her leg during the film period. This expected turn of events meant the crew had to incorporate the injury in the show’s story as the actress was in a cast she could not remove.
Family Affair’s popularity and loyal fan base meant that merchandising opportunities were big for the television show. What better than commercializing Mrs. Beasley, Buffy’s favorite doll that appears on camera on a regular basis and is very recognizable for her big eyes, pigtails, and glasses.
In partnership with Mattel two Mrs. Beasley dolls were released, the traditional doll and the talking Mrs. Beasley. The dolls were an instant success and a must-have for many little girls all over the world.
Timelines can be a big challenge when filming television shows, especially when dealing with children. In the story, Buffy is supposed to stay a child that is six years old throughout the show.
This would prove difficult to deal with as kids grow a lot at young ages and the television show was filmed over five years. In order to keep the actress looking young, the makeup and wardrobe team had to work on hiding some older looking aspects of the growing actress.
After five years of working together, Kathy Garver and Brian Keith’s professional paths crossed again when they were both hired to work as voice actors in the cartoon spiderman movie in 1994.
Brian Keith went on to be the voice actor for Uncle Ben, ironic after playing the role of Uncle Bill in Family Affair. On her side, Kathy Garver was hired to play Madeline Joyce who many are familiar with for her alias Wonder Woman. An unexpected reunion for the two actors who had not stayed in touch after the cancellation of Family Affair.
The tragic fate that surrounded the lives of many Family Affair actors was not a curse as proven by the successful careers Johnny Whitaker and Kathy Garver pursued after the cancellation of the show.
Although Whitaker’s career was off to a bumpy start as the actor had a brief encounter with substance abuse, both he and his co-star Kathy Garver went on to have successful careers as Broadway actors. The actors are still performing on stage to this day with careers spanning over 50 years.
Some people have a drive-in them that pushes them to accomplish great things. Brian Keith was one of these people. In an interview, he stated that he was unable to stay at home and indulge in unproductive activities to pass time. For Keith, it was important to continually better himself and learn.
Thanks to his mindset and determination, Keith was able to learn Russian which allowed him to obtain various roles in Hollywood. In 1979 Keith portrayed a Soviet scientist in the movie Meteor before also landing a role of a Soviet in the movie World War III in 1982.
After his role in Family Affair at the age of three, Whitaker went on to play in the musical version of Tom Sawyer in 1973. After filming this movie, the young actor grew increasingly interested in religion and decided it was time for him to take a break from Hollywood and his acting career.
After graduating from high school, the talented actor moved to Portugal where he worked for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for over two years. After this experience, the actor joined his sister in Los Angeles and became an agent for big Hollywood stars such as Dana Plato.
In 1984, four years after marrying his wife Symbria Wright, Whitaker was in shock when she filed for divorce. The news would only get worse when she admitted she was leaving him for his best friend that had even organized his bachelor’s party.
This major betrayal led to the actor losing his faith in God and giving up on life. In an interview, he stated that his divorce also led him towards drugs and substance abuse for the next nine years of his life.
When Whitaker overcame his drug addiction, he was a changed person. He felt that he needed to put his new, regained, energy to good use, and help addicts in need. As is often the case, recovered addicts are best suited to communicate with addicts looking to get their lives back on track as they have a better understanding of the process.
Whitaker went on to become a counselor at the Tarzana Treatment Centers in California’s San Fernando Valley before founding his own NGO that aims to help homeless Hispanic addicts.