Most television shows rely heavily on their stars to entertain an audience and keep viewers tuned in week after week. Sure, the lines given to the actors can influence a show's success, but it's the appeal of the people on the small screen that draws a crowd. There was one hit TV show, however, that used a different approach. Family Affair had its share of talent, including television veterans Brian Keith and Sebastian Cabot, two adorable co-stars in Johnny Whitaker and Anissa Jones, and the attractive Cathy Garver. However, the biggest star of the show that kept young girls glued to the set was an inanimate object a doll named Mrs. Beasley.
Mrs. Beasley was a large rag doll that belonged to Anissa Jones' character, Buffy. Wearing a distinctively blue dress with white polka dots, black square-rimmed glasses and sporting short blond hair, Mrs. Beasley was Buffy's inseparable best friend. Although Mrs. Beasley never uttered a word, she became an instant star with youthful viewers and was the driving force behind the marketing of toys related to the show. She was nice, intelligent, a good listener, dependable and faithful all the things a best friend should be. Little girls everywhere wanted a Mrs. Beasley doll of their own, and toy giant Mattel quickly filled their requests.
In 1967 Mattel produced a 21-inch talking doll in a pink display box. A color photo was attached, showing Buffy smiling as Mrs. Beasley whispers in her ear just as she did on television. Mattel made it possible for young fans to finally hear the comforting words imaginatively spoken by the show's unexpected star. Unfortunately, the Mrs. Beasley doll has not held up well over the years. Most Mrs. Beasley dolls today are found mute and without their glasses, which were easily lost. Even dolls found in the original box can be non-functional due to the vulnerability of the voice box mechanism. For many collectors, the mysterious words of Mrs. Beasley remain a secret.
The enormous impact Mrs. Beasley had on children almost 30 years ago is still evident as Family Affair collectors participate in a never-ending quest to obtain the talking doll in a box. It is the program's most desirable and valuable artifact. If found in the original box and still working, she can fetch up to $500.
For the more enthusiastic collector, there are three additional versions of Mrs. Beasley that can be found. One is Mattel's 10" talking Buffy with a 4" Mrs. Beasley. This version came with an added bonus. Maureen McCormick loaned her voice to the pint-sized doll's voice box just before she took on the role of Marcia in The Brady Bunch. The mini-doll is worth about $225 if found in the box in mint condition. For those who think smaller is cuter, Mattel also produced a 6" non-talking, bendable Buffy with a 3" Mrs. Beasley. It goes for about $150.
In 1973, two years after the series ended, Mattel was still making America's favorite TV doll. This time she was a 14" non-talking rag doll, complete with removable, fully-washable clothes. It is the least valuable of the Mrs. Beasley dolls, fetching in the $50-$75 range. The best place to begin looking for an original Mrs. Beasley would be a local collectible doll show.
Mattel was not the only toy company to capitalize on Mrs. Beasley's popularity. Whitman Publishing Company transformed the lovable rag doll into a paper figure on more than two dozen items. They included nine coloring books, seven paper doll sets, a jigsaw puzzle, two sticker books, two hardbound books, a magic slate and a boxed activity set. Whitman even designed an entire board game based on the polka-dotted celebrity. Entitled Where's Mrs. Beasley? the game allows children to travel around the board with Mr. French, searching for the card under which Mrs. Beasley is hidden. With a little perseverance, the game can be found at an antique swap meet or toy show for $30-$40.
Other Family Affair collectibles include the 1969 lunch box and thermos by King-Seeley Thermos. The illustration on the box shows Buffy and her older sister, Cissy, celebrating Mrs. Beasley's birthday. A Halloween costume by Ben Cooper was modeled after the series' second-biggest star, Buffy. But Mrs. Beasley steals the spotlight by jumping out of a pumpkin on the front of the dress. Both items are in the $100-$125 range. The Cartoon Kit by Colorforms features all of the characters on the box top, with Mrs. Beasley in the foreground, held tightly in her owner's arms. A writing tablet also was produced, again featuring Anissa Jones as Buffy, prominently displaying her best friend. The cartoon kit and tablet can be found for about $40.
Whether she was talking or non-talking, just a rag doll or simply made out of paper, Mrs. Beasley was every girl's best friend. She was one of the most recognizable figures of the late 1960s, and quickly became Family Affair's biggest little star. Most actors can only wish they had it so good.