Hollywood Flashback: 50 Years Ago, America Loved 'The Partridge Family'

The Partridge Family
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From left: 'The Partridge Family' stars Shirley Jones, Jeremy Gelbwaks (replaced in season two by Brian Forster), Suzanne Crough (who died in 2015 at 52), Susan Dey, Danny Bonaduce and David Cassidy.

Oscar winner Shirley Jones signed on to play the mother after passing on the role of Carol Brady in 'The Brady Bunch': "I didn't want to exclusively be the mother at home doing the domestic stuff. 'The Partridge Family' had the added component of music."

The Partridge Family, which premiered Sept. 25, 1970, was dreamed up by former Bewitched writer Bernard Slade after he saw the family singing group The Cowsills on The Tonight Show.

Screen Gems, the studio behind Bewitched, was looking for a follow-up to The Monkees, which wrapped its NBC run in 1968, and ABC was looking for a wholesome hit to pair with The Brady Bunch on Fridays. Partridge Family, about a Northern California widow who starts a (literal) garage band with her five kids, fit the bill.

Oscar winner Shirley Jones was cast as the mother; unlike the role of Carol Brady, on which she'd passed, Jones said yes to Shirley Partridge.

"As much as I enjoyed The Brady Bunch, I didn't want to exclusively be the mother at home doing the domestic stuff," Jones, 86, tells The Hollywood Reporter. "The Partridge Family had the added component of music, which I loved."

Jones' stepson, David Cassidy, child of her musical-theater star husband, Jack Cassidy, was cast as eldest son Keith. "I actually think our true-life relationship, our closeness, helped us in the show," says Jones. As for the other siblings, the studio was less sure.

"When we auditioned, they had four Partridge Families ready to cast," recalls Danny Bonaduce, who was 10 when he tried out for middle child Danny Partridge. "They shot a version without me. And then with me." (That version, in which Bonaduce pretended to sing and pluck a bass, stuck.)

The Hollywood Reporter's positive review claimed Bonaduce had "perhaps the most straightforward acting talent of any of the child stars." In the series, "I Think I Love You" launches the band; in real life, the song hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart in November 1970 and turned Cassidy into a Justin Bieber-level pop idol. (The actual show never made it past No. 16, averaging 14 million viewers weekly.)

"He was the most famous person on the planet," Bonaduce says of Cassidy, who died of liver failure in 2017 at 67 after battling alcoholism. "Everything he did meant a great deal to many people."