Actress Ann Wedgeworth has passed away in her home in New York City on November 16, 2017. According to THR, Wedgeworth’s death was brought about after a long illness. She was 83 years old. She was born Elizabeth Ann Wedgeworth on January 21, 1934 in Abilene Texas. She attended the University of Texas, graduating in 1957. After graduation she dropped her first name and started going by Ann. She then headed to New York City to begin her acting career.
Wedgeworth’s career began in the theater and she continued to perform on stage throughout her life. She made her Broadway debut in 1958 and appeared in a number of plays, winning a Tony Award in 1978 for the Neil Simon comedy Chapter Two.
In the early 60s, Wedgeworth began to appear on television, with roles on The Edge of Night and Another World. She made her film debut in 1965 with the movie Andy. It wasn’t until 1973 that she returned to film, playing the female lead opposite Gene Hackman in Scarecrow and as a part of the cast of Bang the Drum Slowly. She continued to appear in movies throughout the seventies, and in 1979 she was invited to join the cast of Three’s Company.
The writers of Three’s Company were looking to add some new characters after Norman Fell and Audra Lindley left the show to star in spin-off series The Ropers. Wedgeworth was brought in to play the vivacious divorcée Lana Shields. Even thought she was a part of the main cast, Wedgeworth was only in nine episodes of the show before being written out. She felt like her sexually driven character needed to be fleshed out, and told the writers that she wanted off the show if they didn’t give her more to do.
Wedgeworth continued to work on TV through the 80s, with appearances on The Twilight Zone, Trapper John M.D., and One Life to Live and several made for TV movies. She was also cast in a new sitcom called Filthy Rich, and remained with the show for its entire two year run. In 1989 she had a small but memorable role in Steel Magnolias as Aunt Fern – who made the armadillo groom’s cake. She also appeared in an episode of Roseanne as Dan Conner’s mother, though when the character popped back up several years later she was played by Debbie Reynolds.
Wedgeworth was in several movies during the nineties, and also had her longest run on a TV show, playing Merleen Elldridge in 98 episodes of Evening Shade. She also played Merleen in a made for TV spin-off Harlan & Merleen. She had only one role in the new millennium, Ma Gattling in The Hawk is Dying in 2006.
Wedgeworth is survived by her husband Ernest Martin, her daughters, and her step-sons.
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