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Ann Wedgeworth, known for 'Three's Company' role, dies at 83

Last Updated Nov 18, 2017 at 10:40 pm EST

FILE - In this June 4, 1978 file photo, actress Ann Wedgeworth poses at Sardi's restaurant following the 32nd Annual Tony Awards in New York City where she won best actress in a featured role for her performance in "Chapter Two." Wedgeworth, who gained fame on film and Broadway before taking on the role of a flirty divorcee on "Three's Company," has died in New York at age 83. (AP Photo/File)

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Actress Ann Wedgeworth, who gained fame on film and Broadway before taking on the role of a flirty divorcee on “Three’s Company,” has died at age 83.

Wedgeworth died Thursday in the New York area after a long illness, her daughter Dianna Martin said.

Wedgeworth landed her first Broadway role in the 1958 comedy “Make a Million” and continued to take on stage roles for decades. She won the 1978 Tony award for best featured actress in a play for her performance in Neil Simon’s “Chapter Two.”

She acted in several soap operas and also found success in Hollywood with roles alongside Gene Hackman in the 1973 film “Scarecrow” and Robert De Niro in “Bang the Drum Slowly” the same year.

But she’s perhaps best known for her brief tenure on the TV sitcom “Three’s Comedy,” where she played Lana Shields, an older woman with her eyes set on her young neighbour Jack, played by John Ritter.

She appeared on only nine episodes of the show before her character was written out, which she said took her by surprise. In a 1980 interview with People, Wedgeworth said she “had no warning or explanation. Suddenly everyone was very cold to me.”

Wedgeworth continued to tally TV and film credits for decades, including appearing in “Steel Magnolias” in 1989 and starring on the CBS series “Evening Shade” with Burt Reynolds from 1990 to 1994.

She was born in Abilene, Texas, in 1934. Her father was the superintendent of a local school and her mother died when Ann was 2 years old. After getting a drama degree from Southern Methodist University, she moved to New York City in the 1950s to pursue a theatre career.

She married actor Rip Torn and the couple had a daughter, Danae Torn, before ending their five-year marriage in 1961. Wedgeworth later married acting teacher Ernest Martin and had her second daughter, Dianna Martin.

Wedgeworth is survived by her husband, her two daughters and stepsons Michael Martin and Greg Martin.