Frances Whitfield was a tutor for some of the child stars of the 1960s and early 1970s, including several of the Brady Bunch kids. When she announced her retirement in the spring of 1973, the folks at Paramount Studios decided to honor her by writing an episode where she's a featured character.
And Mrs. Whitfield only appears on-camera in the final act, introduced to friends, family and others in the community as the actors take their final bows after a backyard presentation of "Snow White and the Seven Bradys".
Carol and Cindy come home from school, Carol clearly annoyed that Cindy had done something at school. It's only vaguely hinted at in the opening scene, where Cindy wants to put off telling Mike what she did ... or as it turns out, said ... before Carol snaps back, "I'm not Monty Hall, and making a deal is what got us into all this."
Cindy then explains: Her favorite teacher, Mrs. Whitfield, is retiring. She has been held in such high regard by her students and fellow teachers that they want to give her a retirement present — a set of first-edition books worth $200. She further explains: She raised the idea of putting on a play ("Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"), to be held at the community theater auditorium, and then — without consulting anyone — immediately volunteered her family. She even said her mom would play Snow White and Mike would be Prince Charming. Although a bit annoyed at her jumping the gun like this, Mike agrees to do it for Cindy... but as for her siblings, that's up to her to negotiate.
Which is successful; after all (as a nod to real life), the older five each had Mrs. Whitfield back in the day and all liked her, and quickly they agree to do the play (and so does Alice, who wants to play the Wicked Queen). But then they get into an argument over playing the signature "dwarf" role ... Dopey, leading the folks to have the kids draw names out of a hat for who will play the role. When in the end none of the kids drew the slip that had Dopey's name written on it ... who should pop in but Sam, delivering meat. Alice immediately tells him what's going on, and on the spot, Sam agrees and takes the Dopey role.
All seems to be going well ... until the telephone rings. It's Mr. Gunther, who said that there was a conflict on the day Cindy wanted to rent the theater. It's been rented, and there's no getting out of this commitment.
Cindy is crushed and wants to call the whole thing off. But Carol gives Cindy a pep talk, noting that "No problem was even solved by crawling into a hole." So, the family scrambles to get a replacement theater, but they can't get one. However, Mike comes to a good idea - the Brady backyard with AstroTurf lawn is good enough to put the play on. And so, looks like the play really is on.
Or not. You heard of the phrase "Don't celebrate too early?"
Comes the day of the play, and just at it is about to begin, Alice comes in, saying that she accidentally ate the apple, which was meant to be the prop for the poisoned apple. Not a problem, though, Mike and Sam can rush to the store. However, when Sam stops in front of the store in a no-parking area, he is confronted by a police officer. Whilst the cop is about to let them go, he asks what theater they are putting the play on, in case his kids would also love to see the bizarre version of the Snow White. And that's where the problem comes, you see, Mike had forgotten to obtain a permit for the play, for it was going to be one-time only anyway.
However, all proceeds to the plan, as in the next scene, Mike and Sam arrive at the Brady house, and the play is on. And in the end, Mrs. Whitfield gets her present, and a sendoff from her former students.
Tropes present in this episode:
- Backyard Play: The family's presentation of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" albeit in the family's back yard instead of the intended auditorium.
- Companion Cube: After all these years, Cindy still has Kitty Karry-All, her doll from the earliest episodes, to hold on to when she was upset. Kitty makes her first on-screen appearance since at least the second season, and last one on the series.
- Real Person Cameo: Although she wasn't exactly famous, Frances Whitfield — the real-life tutor of the six Brady kid actors — made a quick appearance at the end of the "Snow White" play, accepting a gift from the Bradys. Since Whitfield was 65 in real life and close to the age of most grandmotherly type retiring teachers (those who remain teachers into their 70s), she graciously agreed to play the role of her fictional counterpart; her role was ... who else — Mrs. Whitfield.
- Shout-Out: To Monty Hall and fellow ABC game show Let's Make a Deal, where Cindy tries to put off telling her family that she had promised (to her school) that they would be starring in a play to honor a soon-to-be-retiring teacher at Clinton Avenue Elementary School.
The cast of "Snow White":
- Carol: Snow White.
- Mike: Prince Charming.
- Alice: The Wicked Queen.
- Greg: Doc.
- Peter: Sneezy.
- Bobby: Bashful.
- Marcia: Sleepy.
- Jan: Happy.
- Cindy: Grumpy.
- Sam: Dopey.