Ann Wedgeworth, best known to TV audiences as aggressive cougar Lana on "Three's Company" (1979), died Thursday at 83. We Love Soaps confirmed her death, which was also referenced by relatives on social media. She passed away in a New York nursing home after a long illness.
The great actress Ann Wedgeworth, mother to Danae Torn and Diánna Martin, passed last night. Her loving daughters... https://t.co/hkZzp4ohMa— Tony Torn (@tonytorn) November 17, 2017
Wedgeworth was accepted into the Actors Studio in the late '50s, making her Broadway debut in 1958. She went on to star in many plays before gradually moving into TV and movie work.
Following what she described as six "dreary and horrible" years on the soaps "The Edge of Night" and "Another World" in the late '60s and early '70s, Wedgeworth racked up appearances in films like "Scarecrow" (1973), "Bang the Drum Slowly" (1973), "Handle with Care" (1977) and "Sweet Dreams" (1985).
She won the Tony for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play for her role in Neil Simon's hit "Chapter Two."
The Tony led to strong TV interest, resulting in the introduction of Wedgeworth's wealthy, lusty character Lana on "Three's Company" after supporting characters The Ropers were given their own spin-off series. Lana pursued the reluctant Jack, played by John Ritter, while herself fleeing the advances of Mr. Furley, played by Don Knotts. Wedgeworth later said her character was dropped after nine episodes because Ritter felt it made no sense that his randy character, just 15 years her junior, would be so opposed to her attentions.
Wedgeworth's longest run on TV was as Merleen on "Evening Shade" (1990-1994). She and Charles Durning appeared in an unsold pilot for a spin-off of the show to be called "Harlan & Merleen" in 1994.
Wedgeworth was married to actor Rip Torn from 1956-1961. She is survived by her husband Ernie Martin, by her two daughters, Danae and Diánna, and by her stepsons Michael and Gregg.