Audra Marie Lindley (September 24, 1918 – October 16, 1997) was an American actress, most famous for her role as landlady Helen Roper on the sitcom Three's Company and its spin-off, The Ropers.
Life and career
Born in Los Angeles, California, Lindley was the daughter of show business parents. Her father was Bert Lindley, an actor who played small roles from 1917 through 1937. She got her early start in Hollywood by being a stand-in, which eventually progressed to stunt work, and eventually became a contract player with Warner Brothers. In 1943, she went to New York in her mid-20s to work in theater. Among her many Broadway plays during her long career were: On Golden Pond, Long Day's Journey into Night, and Horse Heavens. After a break from acting to raise five children, she began to make steady appearances on television in the early 1960s, including the role of Sue Knowles on the CBS soap opera Search for Tomorrow, and a six-year stint as manipulative "Aunt Liz" Matthews on the NBC soap opera Another World. She also had regular roles as Meredith Baxter's mother in the sitcom Bridget Loves Bernie, as well as Lee Grant’s best friend in Fay. In 1971, she starred in the first American film of the legendary Milos Forman, Taking Off.
Her greatest fame arrived when she began playing the wisecracking, perpetually unfulfilled and sexually frustrated Helen Roper on the hit sitcom Three’s Company (1977) where she wore a wig to maintain the character’s exaggerated hairstyle. The character and her husband, Mr. Roper (played by Norman Fell), were spun off to their own show, The Ropers (1979), which was not a success.
Lindley continued to appear steadily on television and in film, such as Revenge of the Stepford Wives in 1980 and as Fauna, the owner of the "Bear Flag Restaurant," a Monterey, California brothel portrayed in the 1982 film Cannery Row. In 1982, she appeared in the film Best Friends starring Goldie Hawn and Burt Reynolds.
She had a supporting role in the lesbian-themed film Desert Hearts (1985). In 1987 she had a large supporting role as Judith Light's mother in the TV movie Dangerous Affection. She also appeared in 1989's Troop Beverly Hills as outspoken director of the Wilderness Girls. Also in 1989, she was the main character of an episode of the horror anthology series Tales from the Crypt.
Lindley garnered further parts of all sizes in various TV films and series, including playing Phoebe Buffay's grandmother on Friends, and her last, a recurring role as Cybill Shepherd's mother on the CBS sitcom Cybill. (She had previously played Shepherd's mother in the 1972 film The Heartbreak Kid.)
Lindley died of leukemia on October 16, 1997, at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.
She was married to and divorced from Dr. Hardy Ulm (1943–1960), with whom she had five children.
She later married and divorced James Whitmore (1972–1979).
Audra is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica with her father Bert Lindley. Bert's grave is marked; hers is not.
1. "LA Times". Los Angeles Times. October 19, 1997.
2. "LA Times". Los Angeles Times. October 19, 1997.
3. "TV Guide".
4. "Find A Grave".
5. "Find A Grave".
6. Lyman, Rick (October 25, 1997). "New York Times". The New York Times.
7. Lyman, Rick (October 25, 1997). "New York Times". The New York Times.
8. Lyman, Rick (October 25, 2013). "New York Times". The New York Times.
9. "TV Guide".
10. "Find A Grave".
12. "LA Times". Los Angeles Times. October 19, 1997.
13. Lyman, Rick (October 25, 1997). "New York Times". The New York Times.
14. Berkvist, Robert. "James Whitmore, Character Actor Skilled in One-Man Shows, Dies at 87", The New York Times, February 7, 2009