Ann Wedgeworth, known for her role as Lana Shields in ABC’s “Three’s Company,” died Thursday in New York after a long illness. She was 83.
Wedgeworth’s career began in Broadway, with her debut in “Make a Million” in 1958. She continued to perform in off-Broadway and Broadway productions over the next few decades, winning a Tony Award for best performance by a featured actress in a play for her work in “Chapter Two.”
The actress enjoyed a successful career in film, with roles as the leading lady in films like “Scarecrow,” opposite Gene Hackman, and “Bang the Drum Slowly” with Robert De Niro. Throughout the 1980s, she took on supporting roles, such as Patsy Cline’s mother in “Sweet Dreams,” with Jessica Lange and Ed Harris. The role earned her a National Society of Film Critics Award.
Wedgeworth became best known for her role as divorcee Lana Shields in “Three’s Company,” after performing in numerous soap operas like “The Edge of Night” and “Another World.” Shields was written out of “Three’s Company” after only nine episodes with little explanation; Wedgeworth claimed she asked to be released from her contract after Shields’ role began to wind down.
After “Three’s Company,” Wedgeworth went on to star in CBS’s “Evening Shade” starting in 1989, which was her longest role. She played Merleen Eldridge, the wife of small town doctor Harlan Eldrige. The couple was best friends with Burt Reynolds and Marilu Henner’s Wood and Ava Newton, who move back to the small town of Evening Shade, Ark. after Wood quits professional football due to an injury.
Wedgeworth was married to actor and voice artist Rip Torn from 1955 to 1961, with whom she has one daughter. In 1970, she married acting coach Ernest Martin, with whom she had another daughter and stepson.
She survived by Martin, her two daughters, and her stepson.