Ann Wedgeworth, 83, dies; Tony-winning actress known for Three's Company

Ann Wedgeworth, died on Nov 16 in North Bergen, New Jersey. She was 83.
Ann Wedgeworth, died on Nov 16 in North Bergen, New Jersey. She was 83. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/HOLLYWOOD HISTORY

(NYTimes) - Ann Wedgeworth, who won a Tony in 1978 for her performance in Neil Simon's comedy Chapter Two and played an amorous divorced woman on the ABC sitcom Three's Company, died Nov 16 in North Bergen, New Jersey. She was 83.

Her death, at a care facility, was confirmed by her daughter Dianna Martin.

Recognisable by her thick russet hair and soft Texas accent, Wedgeworth often played characters who were flirtatious, maternal or a combination of both. She appeared on Broadway and in films like the female ensemble comedy-drama Steel Magnolias (1989) and the baseball drama Bang The Drum Slowly (1973), with Robert De Niro and Michael Moriarty.

She also played recurring characters on two CBS sitcoms, the short-lived Filthy Rich and the long-running Evening Shade, and soap operas, like Another World. Wedgeworth was introduced on Three's Company in 1979 as Lana Shields, an older woman who unsuccessfully pursued John Ritter's character, Jack Tripper, a single man who shared an apartment with two women, played by Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers. It was never clear why Ritter's libidinous character refused her advances, and she soon left the show.

Wedgeworth played the confidante of a recently divorced woman, played by Anita Gillette, in Chapter Two, Simon's semi-autobiographical play about two people (Gillette and Judd Hirsch) returning to romance after the end of long relationships. It opened in 1977 and ran for two years. Critics praised her acting.

"As Faye, Ann Wedgeworth is better than perfect," Jack Kroll of Newsweek wrote in his review in 1977. "She moves like Isadora Duncan, has the comic timing of Jack Benny, the forlorn sweetness of Marilyn Monroe, the wise innocence of Judy Holliday." Wedgeworth won the 1978 Tony for best featured actress for her performance, her sixth on Broadway, but it would be her last.

Elizabeth Ann Wedgeworth was born on Jan 21, 1934, in Abilene, Texas, to Cortus and Elizabeth Wedgeworth.

She met her fellow actor Rip Torn while studying theatre at the University of Texas, Austin, and they married shortly after graduation and moved to New York. Wedgeworth studied with Sanford Meisner at the Actors Studio before making her Broadway debut in the comedy Make A Million in 1958.

She also appeared on Broadway in James Baldwin's drama Blues For Mister Charlie (1964), in a cast that also included Torn, and Herb Gardner's comedy Thieves a decade later. Her off-Broadway credits included Sam Shepard's A Lie Of The Mind in 1985.

She was also in the 1977 film version of Thieves and in Scarecrow (1973), with Gene Hackman and Al Pacino, among other movies.

Wedgeworth and Torn divorced, and in 1970 she married Ernie Martin, an acting teacher, with whom she lived in Manhattan. In addition to him and her daughter Dianna, she is survived by a daughter from her first marriage, Danae Torn, and two stepsons, Michael and Gregg Martin.