Audra Lindley

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.[2]

Audra Lindley
Audra Lindley 1975.JPG
Lindley in Fay (1975)
Audra Marie Lindley

(1918-09-24)September 24, 1918
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedOctober 16, 1997(1997-10-16) (aged 79)[1]
Los Angeles, California, U.S.[1]
Years active1941–1997
Hardy Ulm
(m. 1943; died 1970)

(m. 1972; div. 1979)

Life and careerEdit

Born in Los Angeles into showbusiness family, her father, Bert Lindley, was a film and stage actor. Audra Lindley got her early start in Hollywood as a stand-in, which eventually progressed to stunt work, and she eventually became a contract player with Warner Bros.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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 soap opera Search for Tomorrow, and a five-year stint as manipulative Aunt Liz Matthews on the soap opera Another World. She had regular roles as Meredith Baxter's mother in the sitcom Bridget Loves Bernie as well as Lee Grant’s best friend in Fay. Both series were short-lived.[3]

In 1971, she starred in Taking Off, the first American film of Miloš Forman.[3] She had guest roles on The Love Boat in 1977, 1978, 1979 and 1981 (pilot movie 3, season 1 episode 4, season 2 episodes 1 & 2, season 3 episodes 1 & 2, season 4 episode 18, and season 5 episode 10).[citation needed]

Her greatest fame arrived when she began playing the wisecracking, perpetually unfulfilled, and sexually frustrated Helen Roper on the hit sitcom Three’s Company (1977–79), in which she wore a wig to maintain the character's exaggerated hairstyle.[3] The character and her husband Stanley, portrayed by Norman Fell, also starred in the spin-off series The Ropers (1979–80), which ran for two seasons.[4]

Lindley continued to appear steadily on television and in films, such as Revenge of the Stepford Wives in 1980 and as Fauna, the owner of a brothel 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).[5] In 1987, she had a 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.

In 1991, she starred in an episode of the horror anthology series The Hidden Room. She garnered parts 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 sitcom Cybill (having previously played Shepherd's mother in the 1972 film The Heartbreak Kid).[6]

Personal life and deathEdit

She was married to Hardy Ulm, with whom she had five children, from 1943 until his death in 1970.[3][7] She was then married to actor James Whitmore from 1972 to 1979.[8]

Lindley died of complications from leukemia on October 16, 1997, at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. She was age 79.[1] She was cremated and her ashes buried in an unmarked grave near her parents at Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery in Santa Monica, California.[9]


Year Title Role Notes
1941 Manpower Nurse Uncredited
1941 One Foot in Heaven Mother Uncredited
1941 Dangerously They Live Nurse Uncredited
1942 The Male Animal Student Uncredited
1971 Taking Off Ann Lockston
1972 The Heartbreak Kid Mrs. Corcoran
1979 When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder? Ceil Ryder
1982 Cannery Row Fauna Flood
1982 Best Friends Ann Babson
1985 Desert Hearts Frances Parker
1985 Zoo Ship Voice
1988 Spellbinder Mrs. White
1989 Troop Beverly Hills Frances Temple
1994 The New Age Sandi Rego
1995 Sudden Death Mrs. Ferrara
1996 Shoot the Moon Blanche Gaskins
1997 The Relic Dr. Matilda Zwiezic


  1. ^ a b c "Audra Lindley; Television, Stage Actress". Los Angeles Times. October 19, 1997.
  2. ^ "Three's Company". TV Guide. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d Lyman, Rick (October 25, 1997). "Audra Lindley, 79, Actress; Played a Sex-Starved Wife". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "The Ropers". TV Guide.
  5. ^ "Audra Linley". Filmbug. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  6. ^ "Audra Lindley, Actress". Variety. October 28, 1997. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  7. ^ "Aaron Hardy Ulm, Doctor and Lawyer". The New York Times. April 28, 1970. Retrieved August 6, 2017.
  8. ^ Berkvist, Robert (February 7, 2009). "James Whitmore, Character Actor Skilled in One-Man Shows, Dies at 87". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Gary Wayne. "Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery". Retrieved October 7, 2021.

External linksEdit