Audra Lindley; Television, Stage Actress

From staff and wire reports

Audra Lindley, perhaps best known for her portrayal of Helen Roper on television’s “Three’s Company,” has died of complications from leukemia. She was 79.

Lindley died Thursday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she had been for three weeks, said Debbie Beard, her business manager. The actress was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year.

Lindley continued to work until a month ago, when she taped an episode of the CBS-TV series “Cybill” in a recurring role as the mother of Cybill Shepherd’s character.

Lindley appeared as Helen Roper, the sexually frustrated landlady on the sitcom “Three’s Company,” from 1977 to 1979. She and Norman Fell, who played her husband, starred in a spinoff sitcom called “The Ropers” from 1979 to 1980.


She had also been in another situation comedy, “Bridget Loves Bernie,” during the 1972-73 season, playing the mother of Meredith Baxter, a Catholic character who was married to a Jewish man played by David Birney. The show caused some controversy among religious groups, primarily Jewish, because it seemed to condone mixed marriages.

Lindley began her career at an early age. She told The Times in a 1987 interview: “Both my parents were actors. From the first time I can remember, maybe 4 years old, I dreamed of being a movie star. I wanted to be Katherine Cornell.”

Lindley’s credits extended far beyond “Three’s Company,” Beard said. She appeared in recent years in the film “The Relic” and played Phoebe’s grandmother on the NBC-TV sitcom “Friends.”

She worked extensively in theater, with roles in “Handy Dandy,” “Take Her, She’s Mine” and “Death of a Salesman,” for which she won the Citadel best actress award, Beard said.


Lindley was divorced from actor James Whitmore. The two met in 1969 on the set of a play, married shortly thereafter and divorced in 1979. But the pair remained friends and frequently worked together on stage.

Lindley is survived by three of her five children from a previous marriage.