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Ann Wedgeworth

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Ann Wedgeworth
Elizabeth Ann Wedgeworth

(1934-01-21)January 21, 1934
DiedNovember 16, 2017(2017-11-16) (aged 83)
EducationHighland Park High School
Alma materUniversity of Texas
Years active1958–2006
Known forThree's Company
Chapter Two
Evening Shade
  • (m. 1955; div. 1961)
  • Ernest Martin
    (m. 1970)

Elizabeth Ann Wedgeworth (January 21, 1934 – November 16, 2017) was an American character actress, known for her roles as Lana Shields in Three's Company, Hilda Hensley in Sweet Dreams, and Merleen Elldridge in Evening Shade. She won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play for Chapter Two (1978).

Early life[edit]

Elizabeth Ann Wedgeworth was born in Abilene, Texas. She graduated from Highland Park High School in University Park, Texas, where she was a childhood friend and high school classmate of Jayne Mansfield.[1] She dropped her first name after graduating from the University of Texas in 1957, and moved to New York City. After auditioning several times, she was admitted to The Actors Studio.[2][3]



Wedgeworth made her Broadway debut in the play Make a Million in 1958.[1] She later had many roles on Broadway and off-Broadway productions, including Period of Adjustment, Blues for Mister Charlie, The Last Analysis, and Thieves.[4] In 1978, she won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play for Chapter Two.[5]

Wedgeworth appeared off-Broadway at New York's Promenade Theatre from December 5, 1985, until June 1, 1986, in Sam Shepard's A Lie of the Mind, co-starring Harvey Keitel and Geraldine Page; coincidentally, Page, a decade Wedgeworth's senior, had married actor Rip Torn after his divorce from Wedgeworth.[6] At the time, Page and Torn were married, but were estranged at the time of Page's death in 1987. For her performance in A Lie of the Mind, Wedgeworth was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play.[4]


Wedgeworth had supporting roles in many movies. She had the female leading role opposite Gene Hackman in the 1973 film Scarecrow. She later co-starred in Bang the Drum Slowly, Law and Disorder, One Summer Love, and Thieves. In 1977, she won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Handle with Care.[7]

Through the 1980s, Wedgeworth had many supporting roles, often playing mothers, such as in No Small Affair as Jon Cryer's character's, in Sweet Dreams as Patsy Cline's mother, followed by 1987's Made in Heaven as one unknowingly reunited with her dead son. In 1989, she portrayed Aunt Fern in Steel Magnolias. She appeared as Sissy Spacek's character's mother in the 1991 film Hard Promises. She also appeared in two films opposite Renée Zellweger: Love and a .45 and The Whole Wide World. Wedgeworth had her final film role in The Hawk Is Dying, with Paul Giamatti, which opened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006.[6]


In early years, Wedgeworth had main roles on numerous daytime soap operas. She played the roles of Angela Talbot on The Edge of Night from 1966 to 1967, and later joined the cast of Another World as Lahoma Vane Lucas. She played the role from 1967 to 1970, and from 1970 to 1973 appeared on its spinoff, Somerset.[8][1]

In 1979, Wedgeworth was cast as divorcée Lana Shields on the hit ABC sitcom Three's Company. Producers introduced her character to fill the void left by Audra Lindley, who had left to star in the show's spin-off, The Ropers. According to behind-the-scenes reports, the addition of Lana to the cast caused tension between series star John Ritter and the show's writers. Ritter believed it would be out of character for his character, the womanizing Jack Tripper, to inexplicably turn down the advances of Lana, a sexually voracious, attractive older woman. The writers reasoned that because Lana was older than Jack, he would be turned off. Ritter did not believe that the middle-aged Lana, only meant to be in her 40s (whereas Jack was in his late 20s/early 30s), would repel Jack. Wedgeworth claimed that she asked to be released from her contract because of Lana's dwindling role in the show.[9]

Wedgeworth appeared in just nine episodes of the series before her character was casually written-out without any explanation and never referred to again.[10]

In 1982, Wedgeworth worked with Linda Bloodworth-Thomason in her first comedy series, Filthy Rich, playing ditsy, good-natured Bootsie Westchester. The series was canceled after two seasons in 1983. In 1989, she guest-starred as Audrey Conner, the emotionally fragile mother of Dan Conner (played by John Goodman) on the ABC sitcom, Roseanne. Her longest role was on the CBS sitcom Evening Shade as Merleen Eldridge. The series aired from 1990 to 1994. In 1994, Wedgeworth starred in the unsuccessful Evening Shade spin-off, Harlan & Merleen.

Personal life[edit]

Wedgeworth married Rip Torn in 1955. They had a daughter, actress Danae Torn. The couple divorced in 1961.[10] In 1970, she married acting teacher and director Ernie Martin, and, in 1972, had a daughter, actress/acting teacher/writer Diánna Martin.[1]


Wedgeworth died after a long illness, at a nursing home in North Bergen, New Jersey, aged 83.[7][6]



Year Title Role Notes
1965 Andy Margie
1973 Scarecrow Frenchy
1973 Bang the Drum Slowly Katie
1974 Law and Disorder Sally
1974 The Catamount Killing [fr] Kit Loring
1976 One Summer Love Pearlie
1976 Birch Interval Marie
1977 Thieves Nancy
1977 Handle with Care Dallas Angel National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress
1977 The War Between the Tates Danielle Zimmerman TV movie
1980 Bogie Mayo Methot TV movie
1981 Elvis and the Beauty Queen Aunt Betty TV movie
1981 Soggy Bottom, U.S.A. Dusty Wheeler
1981 Killjoy Rosie TV movie
1984 No Small Affair Joan Cummings
1985 Right to Kill? Eve Whitcomb TV movie
1985 My Science Project Dolores
1985 Sweet Dreams Hilda Hensley Nominated—National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress
1986 The Men's Club Jo
1987 A Stranger Waits Susan Berger TV movie
1987 A Tiger's Tale Claudine
1987 Made in Heaven Annette Shea
1988 Far North Amy
1989 Miss Firecracker Miss Blue
1989 Steel Magnolias Aunt Fern
1990 Green Card Party Guest #1
1991 Hard Promises Chris's Mom
1993 Cooperstown Lila Kunznick TV movie
1994 Love and a .45 Thaylene Cheatham
1994 A Burning Passion: The Margaret Mitchell Story Mrs. O'Flaherty TV movie
1995 Fight for Justice: The Nancy Conn Story Mary Howell TV movie
1996 The Whole Wide World Mrs. Howard
1999 The Hunter's Moon Borlene
2006 The Hawk Is Dying Ma Gattling (final film role)


Year Title Role Notes
1957 Kraft Theatre Ruth Cashel Episode: "Vengeance"
1964 The Defenders Sally Bernard Episode: "Hero of the People"
1966–1967 The Edge of Night Angela 'Angie' Talbot Unknown episodes
1966 Hawk Helen Rainey Episode: "Death Comes Full Circle"
1967–1970 Another World Lahoma Vane Lucas Unknown episodes
1970 Somerset Lahoma Vane Lucas Episode: "#1.1"
1975 Bronk Kate Episode: "The Gauntlet"
1979 Three's Company Lana Shields 9 episodes
1980 When the Whistle Blows Sheila Norris Episode: "Wildcatters"
1982–1983 Filthy Rich Bootsie Westchester 15 episodes
1985 One Life to Live Charlie Barnes Unknown episodes
1986 The Twilight Zone Clerk Episode: "The After Hours"
1987 The Equalizer Irene Baylor Episode: "Suspicion of Innocence"
1989 Roseanne Audrey Conner Episode: "We Gather Together"
1990–1994 Evening Shade Merleen Elldridge 98 episodes
Nominated—Viewers for Quality Television Award for Best Specialty Player


  1. ^ a b c d "Ann Wedgeworth". TV Guide. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
  2. ^ Peterson, James (1978-01-22). "Role Just Right for Ann". The Toledo Blade. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  3. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan. p. 278. ISBN 978-0-0254-2650-4.
  4. ^ a b "Ann Wedgeworth". Internet Broadway Data Base. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
  5. ^ "Ann Wedgeworth accepts Tony Award" on YouTube
  6. ^ a b c Barnes, Mike (November 18, 2017). "Ann Wedgeworth, Actress in 'Scarecrow' and 'Three's Company', Dies at 83". The Hollywood Reporter. ISSN 0018-3660.
  7. ^ a b "Ann Wedgeworth, versatile Tony-winning stage actress and sitcom stalwart, dies at 83". The Washington Post. November 18, 2017.
  8. ^ "Ann Wedgeworth Casts Spell on John Ritter". Kingman Daily Miner. October 26, 1979. p. 26. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  9. ^ Mann, Chris (June 15, 1998). Come and Knock on Our Door: A Hers and Hers and His Guide to Three's Company. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 143–145. ISBN 978-0-3121-6803-2.
  10. ^ a b Sheff, David (January 1, 1980). "Ann Wedgeworth Discovers That Three's Company the Hard Way—the Show Fires Her". People. Retrieved 2017-11-17.

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