Mrs. Beasley is the favorite doll of Buffy Patterson-Davis, a young orphan girl on the TV sitcom A Family Affair (CBS, 1966-1971). Buffy, her twin brother Jody, and teenage sister Cissy move to Manhattan from Indiana to live with their bachelor uncle Bill and his butler, Mr. French, after their parents are killed in a car accident (note 1). Buffy insists that the doll talks to her (note 2), and she is quite adamant that "Mrs. Beasley is not a girl--she's a grown-up lady." (note 3). More than a prop, Mrs. Beasley is one of the show's central characters, with entire episodes revolving around her "adventures" (note 3).
Mrs. Beasley is grandmotherly-figure with big blue eyes, yellow hair, square spectacles, and a “happy-face” smile. From 1967 to 1972, Mattel marked a line of toys featuring Mrs. Beasley and A Family Affair characters, including replica of Buffy’s doll (notes 2 and 4). Mrs. Beasley stands about 20” tall; her head and hands are molded plastic, while the rest of her body is stuffed cloth. She is dressed entirely in blue-with-white-polka-dots and solid-yellow “shoes,” with a removable collar and apron that have yellow rick-rack trim. Perhaps her most notable feature is a pull-string mechanism on her back, which when pulled makes her “talk” (notes 5, 6, 7).
In 2000, the Ashton-Drake Galleries produced a replica of the Talking Mrs. Beasley doll (note 8). Unlike the original, which was intended and used as a child’s toy, the new Mrs. Beasley is a collector’s item, marketed to nostalgic adults--who have been buying and selling original dolls on eBay, etc. for decades (see notes 9-10), and priced accordingly. The Ashton-Drake box extols Mrs. Beasley as "TV's most famous doll" and notes that "She talks - just like you remember!” A notice on the bottom of the box warns, “THIS IS NOT A TOY. Not recommended for children under eight (8) years of age.”
One has to wonder if such warnings are the result of a society grown increasingly more litigious over the past forty years. Perhaps Ashton-Drake’s corporate lawyers advised that young children might strangle themselves with Mrs. Beasley’s apron or collar ties or pull-string, or poke themselves with her plastic spectacles… Somehow, thousands of very young girls in the late ’60s and early ’70s managed not to harm themselves, and Mrs. Beasley was not just a possession, but a treasured friend (see notes 9-13). I was one such child: Mrs. Beasley was, I believe, one of my very first dolls, whom I received before the age of 3 (likely 1970 or ’71). I clearly remember her creaky, old-lady voice - different from Cheryl Ladd's recordings for the collectors' doll. I dragged her everywhere, and neither creaky voice nor wide smile seemed to bother me. Such was not the case for everyone - some people find the doll to be “creepy” (notes 14-16). I was devastated when my dog chewed her beyond repair; her glasses and collar disappeared, but I recently found the apron in a box of old toys I resurrected for my daughter. I wonder how much I might get for it on eBay??
notes (all URLs accessed 11/16/10):
(1) "A Family Affair," Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_Affair
(2) "Anissa Jones," Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anissa_Jones
(3) A Family Affair, season 1, episode 7, "Mrs. Beasley, Where Are You?" YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuXKK-iQDDo
(4)"Mrs. Beasley Doll," Vintage Bliss Web site: http://www.vintage-bliss.com/Mrs-Beasley-Doll.html
(5) "Mrs. Beasley Talks! Voice Samples," available at http://ftp.wi.net/~candrews/Voice_Samples/voice_samples.html
(6) "Chatty Cathy," Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chatty_Cathy
(7) "Remember Mrs. Beasley?" YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_ahJtyVuz8
(8) "Mrs. Beasley Replica Collector Doll," Ashton-Drake Galleries Web site: http://www.ashtondrake.com/products/327614001_mrs-beasley-vinyl-doll.html?searchTerm=Mrs%20%20Beasley&N=9047
(9) "eBay? hOoray!" The Onion, available at http://www.theonion.com/articles/ebay-hooray,16447/ http://www.feelingretro.com/toys/Girl-Toys/mrs-beasley.php
(10) "Mom getting her childhood toy! Mrs. Beasley. Funny." YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzrLFTtIU0o
(11) RETROtoys: Mrs. Beasley memories. http://www.feelingretro.com/toys/Girl-Toys/mrs-beasley.phphttp://islandlife808.com/random-thoughts/my-friend-mrs-beasley/
(12) "Toys of the Seventies, Mrs. Beasley", available at http://www.inthe70s.com/toys/mrsbeasley1.shtmlhttp://www.theonion.com/articles/ebay-hooray,16447/
(13) "My Friend Mrs. Beasley" An Island Life blog, available at http://islandlife808.com/random-thoughts/my-friend-mrs-beasley/http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzrLFTtIU0o
(14) "Mrs. Beasley, the Perfect Christmas Gift"; YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWLmMYop8H4
(15) message board for Sitcoms Online Web site: http://www.sitcomsonline.com/boards/showthread.php?t=273594
(16) see comments on "Good evening. So nice of you to join us," Bye Bye, Pie blog, 24 September 2010: http://byebyepie.typepad.com/bye_bye_pie/2010/09/good-evening-so-nice-of-you-to-join-us.html