Though it only aired for four seasons, The Partridge Family left its mark on the world thanks to its lovable characters, incredible music, and wholesome image. The show was like a breath of fresh air for viewers, bringing talent and a sense of innocence that wasn't present on TV at the time. Of course, the show exploded in popularity and launched the careers of several actors and musicians. However, behind the show's pure visage lies many hidden facts and dark secrets that will probably surprise you.
Though pretty much everything about the Partridges was an exaggeration or fictional, both Shirley Jones and David Cassidy shared an actual relationship. Shirley was married to David's father, Jack Cassidy. When David first showed up on set, he was shocked to see Shirley. Though David initially had a rough relationship with his stepmother, the two grew closer over the years, thanks in part to their roles on The Partridge Family.
Growing up as a child actor and musician can be frustrating, especially when you feel the impression people want to see doesn't reflect who you actually are. At the height of his success, David Cassidy chose to rebel and get rid of his good-boy image. He posed nude on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in 1972. In an interview for the magazine, he talked about experimenting with drugs like marijuana and psychedelics. The photoshoot and interview lost him many sponsors, and TV networks refused to work with him. He later stated that he didn't regret the interview as it allowed him to move on in his life.
There's no doubt that The Partridge Family was a big deal. Even though they were technically a "fake" band, many of their songs got radio play and even managed to find places on the music charts. In fact, their biggest hit, "I Think I Love You," hit number one on the Billboard top 100 charts in 1970, outselling The Beatles' "Let It Be" and knocking it off of the chart.
When the showrunners first began to plan the show, the only thing they were really sure of was that they wanted Shirley Jones to play the lead role. In the original, unaired pilot, Shirley's husband, Jack Cassidy, portrayed her boyfriend on the show. However, the network ultimately chose to go in a different direction and ditched the character —and Jack. As the show rose in popularity, Jack became extremely jealous of Shirley's success. According to David, his father had issues with anger and alcohol and would abuse him and his brothers. Jack's behavior was one of the main reasons that his marriage with Shirley ended.
According to his castmates, Danny Bonaduce had immense difficulty with his lines when the show first began. He once had to do 36 takes to complete a relatively uncomplex scene. The problems were even more evident during script readings, which he could barely make it through. As it turns out, Danny had dyslexia and couldn't read and learn the lines properly. Once the cast and crew realized this, they took extra steps to help the child actor learn his lines. It was then that they realized that he had an impeccable memory and could remember every line in the show relatively quickly. He would even correct cast members when they got lines wrong.
It's no secret that Hollywood and the music industry demand a lot from their talents. Susan Dey quickly received national fame thanks to her portrayal of Laurie Partridge. However, that fame came with a cost. As the show grew in popularity, Susan received more and more comments about her body and weight. This caused her to try extremely unhealthy diets to stay thin, such as eating nothing but carrots. The cast and crew even noticed that her fingers had started to turn orange from eating so many carrots. Her weight supposedly dropped to 92 pounds during one season as a result of her eating habits. It wasn't until Danny Bonaduce saw her in a bikini and off-handedly called her "disgusting" that she realized she had a problem. Susan later talked about her issues with her body image and eating disorders, openly admitting that she had anorexia.
Some people might not know that a real family inspired the characters of the Partridges. The Cowsills were a family pop music group that had found significant fame in the late 1960s. The show's producers originally wanted to have the Cowsills play the characters, but the family's lack of acting training and age proved to be too troublesome. Despite this, it wasn't until 2004 that the Cowsills met Shirley Jones when she introduced the family at the El Rey Theatre. The song from that night remains the only piece of music that the Cowsills and the Partridge Family recorded together.
During filming, Susan Dey reportedly had a massive, unrequited crush on co-star David Cassidy. Thinking the two were simply good friends, David would frequently regale her with stories of all the women who pined after him while Susan listened and kept her feelings hidden. David only learned about her crush after Shirley Jones took him aside and told him that the stories were hurting Susan. After the show ended, the two tried to have a romantic relationship, but it wasn't meant to be. Whatever happened during that period caused Susan significant distress, and she refused to ever appear at The Partridge Family reunion events.
Many cast members were children or teenagers while filming The Partridge Family, and they were very new to show business. As a result, they signed contracts that were heavily in the network and studio's favor. For example, David Cassidy received only $600 weekly with no royalties or merchandise rights. According to David, the studio sometimes gave him elaborate gifts to distract him from his low salary. By 2011, David had received only $5000 from merchandise and chose to sue the show's distributor, Sony. His lawyer argued that the original contract was predatory due to David's young age, which caused the court to award David over $150,000 in lost earnings.
During The Partridge Family's first season, the character of Chris Partridge originally belonged to Jeremy Gelbwaks. However, Jeremy proved to be a nuisance on set, running into people, destroying props, and generally being disruptive. This caused the showrunners to recast the nine-year-old, giving the role to Brian Forster, who was much more respectful. Despite the change in cast, the network received almost no letters asking about the change.
Sharp-eyed viewers might notice that the Partridge family's house looks very familiar, especially if they happen to be fans of other shows of the same era. Nosey neighbors took up residence in the home in Bewitched, while the block of houses itself appears on shows like I Dream of Jeannie and The Donna Reed Show. Over the years, the house has undergone remodeling and several paint jobs, but it still pops up in various media.
Danny Bonaduce had a difficult home life, often leading to him acting up on set and irritating the cast and crew. Shirley Jones remembers feeling exasperated and ordering him to go upstairs to his room, despite the set not actually having an upstairs. Danny's behavior especially bothered the other children. During a particularly rough period, the cast convinced Susan Dey to pour milk over Danny's head to teach him a lesson. This even found its way into the show, though it happened to Keith instead of Danny.
Though it might seem strange that a "fake" band had actual success, the Partridge family was extremely popular at the time. They even received a nomination for the Best New Artist Grammy Award in 1970. While they ultimately lost the award to The Carpenters, the nomination provided a massive morale boost for the fictitious band.
Television-only viewers might not realize just how popular Shirley Jones was before she starred in The Partridge Family. Her very first audition put her in the sights of Broadway legends Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers, who cast her in South Pacific the very same day. Within a year, she had a leading role in the film adaptation of Oklahoma! and was rapidly becoming a big star. She even won an Oscar in 1961. Because of her talent, she had her choice of roles. She received an offer for the role of Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch, but she turned it down because she didn't want to spend all her scenes cooking and being a stereotypical character.
Not all of the members of the Partridge family are members of the band. Initially, none of the cast played any music on the show, and only Shirley Jones would sing on the soundtrack albums. Instead, session musicians provided the real music and vocals, and the cast simply mouthed along. Eventually, the crew discovered that David Cassidy could sing, and both he and Shirley took on more responsibilities. While the showrunners tried to have the other actors perform the songs themselves, the crew decided the cast simply wasn't good enough.
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