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
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]
Resting placeWoodlawn Memorial Cemetery, Santa Monica
Years active1941–1997
Hardy Ulm
(m. 1943; died 1970)

James Whitmore
(m. 1972; div. 1979)

Life and career

Born in Los Angeles, California, Lindley got her early start in Hollywood by being a stand-in, which eventually progressed to stunt work, and she eventually became a contract player with Warner Bros.

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 soap opera Search for Tomorrow, and a six-year stint as manipulative Aunt Liz Matthews on the 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.[3] In 1971, she starred in Taking Off, the first American film of Milos Forman.[3] On February 7, 1981 she had a guest role on The Love Boat (season 4, episode 18).

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), in which she wore a wig to maintain the character’s exaggerated hairstyle.[4] 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.[5]

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).[6] 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.

Lindley 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. (She previously played Shepherd's mother in the 1972 film The Heartbreak Kid.)

Personal life and death

She was married to Hardy Ulm, with whom she had five children, from 1943 until his death in 1970.[7][8] She was then married to James Whitmore from 1972 to 1979.[9] Lindley died of leukemia on October 16, 1997 at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.[1]


Year Title Role Notes
1941One Foot in HeavenMotherUncredited
1941Dangerously They LiveNurseUncredited
1942The Male AnimalStudentUncredited
1971Taking OffAnn Lockston
1972The Heartbreak KidMrs. Corcoran
1979When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder?Ceil Ryder
1982Cannery RowFauna Flood
1985Desert HeartsFrances Parker
1985Zoo ShipVoice
1988SpellbinderMrs. White
1989Troop Beverly HillsFrances Temple
1994The New AgeSandi Rego
1995Sudden DeathMrs. Ferrara
1996Shoot the MoonBlanche Gaskins
1997The RelicDr. Zwiezic


  1. "LA Times". Los Angeles Times. October 19, 1997.
  2. "TV Guide".
  3. Lyman, Rick (October 25, 1997). "New York Times". The New York Times.
  4. Lyman, Rick (October 25, 2013). "New York Times". The New York Times.
  5. "TV Guide".
  6. "Filmbug".
  7. Lyman, Rick (October 25, 1997). "Audra Lindley, 79, Actress; Played a Sex-Starved Wife". The New York Times.
  8. "AARON HARDY ULM, DOCTOR AND LAWYER". New York Times. April 28, 1970. Retrieved August 6, 2017.
  9. Berkvist, Robert. "James Whitmore, Character Actor Skilled in One-Man Shows, Dies at 87", The New York Times, February 7, 2009
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