Ann Wedgeworth, ‘Three’s Company’ Actress, Dead At 83
Ann Wedgeworth, the Tony Award-winning Broadway actress, best remembered by her extensive TV portfolio, including Three’s Company” and Evening Shade, died on November 16 at 83. Her daughter, Dianna Martin, confirmed the death but did not provide a cause.
Wedgeworth was born in Abilene, Texas, on January 21, 1934. Her mother died when she was two, so she was raised by her father who was a school’s superintendent. After studying drama at a Texas college, she moved to New York in the mid-1950s with her first husband, Rip Torn. She told People, “We were too mean to live together.” They divorced in 1961. In 1970, she got remarried to Ernest Martin, an acting teacher.
She made her Broadway debut in the 1958 comedy Make A Million and continued to take supporting roles on stage including James Baldwin’s Blues for Mister Charlie in 1964 and Herb Gardner’s Thieves in 1974. Wedgeworth won the 1978 Tony Award for best featured actress in a play for Neil Simon’s comedy Chapter Two. She played a soap opera actress bored by her marriage.
Wedgeworth told the Times that her role in Chapter Two, was “very hip, very wisecracking” and was not a natural fit for her that it shocked her when she got the part. “After I got the part, I decided, to hell with it. I’m going to go in there and not play the character as written. I’ll make it my own. And somehow, it worked,” she said.
On Three’s Company, she played Lana Shields, an older woman with her eyes set on her young neighbor Jack, played by John Ritter. Wedgeworth said that the producers wrote her out of the show without even warning her after nine episodes. She never got a good answer as to why and said, “Suddenly everyone was very cold to me.”
Wedgeworth remained a presence in off-Broadway theater, known as a neurotic mother in Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind (1985). In Hollywood, she’s known as the mothers to Jessica Lange as the singer Patsy Cline in Sweet Dreams (1985) and to Sissy Spacek in Hard Promises (1991).