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Three's Company aired from March 1977 until September 1984 on ABC.

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An Article from TV Guide (March 14-21, 1981 Edition)

"They are Trying to Ruin My Career"

By Mary Murphy

Las Vegas ... the door opens. Suzanne Somers is standing in the living room of a Las Vegas house decorated for a Hollywood star--all mirrors and flashes of silver. It is the first time I have seen the dazzling smile, the sparkling sapphire eyes. As she walks toward the doorway, her platinum-blonde hair shimmers in the afternoon sunlight. Here she is, one of television's reigning sex symbols: a small woman, with petite, pretty looks, very pale. Outside stands a bodyguard. In the kitchen, two chefs prepare an exotic Italian luncheon. The man at her side, Alan Hamel, formerly a Canadian talk-show host, is now her husband and manager. For a poor Irish Catholic girl from San Bruno, Cal., what could be a more compelling fantasy. It seems too good to be true.

And it is.

Suzanne Somers' fantasy world is crumbling. Having been up until 4 A.M. the night before performing her nightclub act at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, she seems tired. She leads the way to the overstuffed white sofa, props her feet up on a silver coffee table. "They are trying to ruin my career," she is saying. "But I will never go back to what it was like before Three's Company. Never. I'm betting on it."

Stardom isn't supposed to be like this.

Three days earlier, Suzanne Somers had broken down, sobbing, on the set of Three's Company in Los Angeles. "I'm worn down," she told the crew, "from months of public humiliation."

Her humiliation stems from an ugly feud involving stars, costars, network executives, producers, agents, ex-agents, and Alan Hamel. It centers on money. Six months ago Suzanne Somers asked for a raise--from $30,000 an episode to $150,000 an episode. Besides that, she wanted profit participation--a full 10 per cent of profits, according to Hamel. The producers of Three's Company said no. "What hurt," remembers Suzanne, "is that I felt they had no respect for me."

Complicating the contract negotiations with ABC is a multimillion dollar deal she signed two years ago with CBS for movies, specials, guest appearances and a series. The series deal is timed to begin the moment Three's Company is cancelled, or the moment she is released from her ABC contract this year or next. It was a shrewd move that ensured her future but at the same time it was not a move that ABC enjoyed. Executives at ABC felt they had discovered Suzanne Somers.

In September, when Somers missed two taping days--because of a back injury, she said--the battle became public. It also became vicious. She says the producers charged that her injury was a "convenient illness"--and a ploy in contract negotiations. "They called me a liar."

"We just reached a point where we felt we couldn't rely on her," says the show's executive in charge of production, Ted Bergman. His solution was to minimize her role. Now Suzanne Somers plays Chrissy Snow for about 60 seconds each week. She works in a remote section of the studio and says her line into a telephone.

All this has affected the program's ratings. Once a top-10 show, the series now falls in the middle of the weekly Nielson-ratings pack. With Suzanne on the show, it averaged more then a 40 share. With her diminished role, the show has been averaging a 34 share and in January it dropped to a new low of 29.

Once she was the darling of the Three's Company family. Now security guards stand in the hallway to prevent her entering the sound stage where her costars are shooting. I asked her why she has around-the-clock bodyguards. Is it to protect herself from the producers? "No," she says, "From the fans. There are just too many nuts out there. The whole Lennon thing--the murder--you just have to be careful." She even has a 24-hour protection clause written into her contract.

John Ritter and Joyce DeWitt, her costars, now refuse to be in the same room with her. "I can't say I've ever been friends with Joyce," Somers says. "We've had ego problems for five years. But John was one of my best friends."

Ritter himself would not discuss Somers, since she is threatening to file suit against him and Joyce DeWitt. She plans another suit against the producers of Three's Company. "This one will claim collusion and conspiracy to ruin my career."

We move on to talk of other actors. Had anyone come forth to support her? "No." She looks puzzled. "No one."

One top ABC executive told me later, "These TV stars have got to realize that everybody is dispensable. Why, even Larry Hagman could be replaced."

Imagine Lou Grant without Ed Asner. Imagine The Mary Tyler Moore Show without Mary Tyler Moore. Imagine Mork & Mindy without Robin Williams. Now imagine Three's Company without Suzanne Somers' sexy, daffy character, who many think is the show's major attraction. That's what Suzanne Somers is betting on. She is betting that people can't imagine Three's Company without her. But she seems to be playing a game she can't win.

Indeed, most women in television have been selected for stardom based on their looks rather then their talent are, ultimately, disposable. It is part of the system: the public discovers them, they soar, they become posters, then they fade away. That's the saga of Farrah Fawcett. And that is what making Suzanne Somers cry. She is worried that the public will treat her like a Kleenex. She doesn't want to become television's next disposable superstar.

She leans forward and tugs on the top of her beige boots. "I've had it with acting like a lady," she says. "This fight will not go away if I keep my mouth shut. So now I want to tell my side of the story." Last month, when contract negotiations collapsed, she went on the road with her story, hoping that support from the public would save her career.

The last few months, though, have been bad for her. "When I went to do the audition for Three's Company, I just didn't care that much. I mean I had been playing the big-busted blonde for years. I used to do the Carson show and come home and watch myself, and I just wanted to cringe. The things I was forcing myself to say to keep up that image!"

Fred Silverman, then president of ABC Entertainment, was watching her on Carson, too. But he was not cringing. The order came down--get her for a series. "Fred believed in me," she says. "God, was I happy!"

To stay happy, she hired one of Hollywood's most controversial agent-managers, Jay Bernstein, who had also managed Farrah Fawcett. Bernstein is considered to be the architect of Suzanne Somers' success. She describes their first meeting. "He didn't think I was particularly attractive, or particularly sexy, or even that talented, but he said anybody with my kind of enthusiasm and drive would make it. So I gave him my entire first six weeks' salary -$6,000."

Two days later, in his Bel Air mansion, Bernstein describes his strategy: "First I decided to turn her into Marilyn Monroe--to get the attention. But I couldn't keep her on that path too long. She was too old. If she had come to me earlier, perhaps, but not then. You know, lines around her eyes. Besides, on that path she would just bump right into Jackie Bisset and Farrah Fawcett and Cheryl Ladd. No. I had to quickly move her onto another path--one that was two clicks to the left. This was the path taken by Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball. Suzanne would end up the Judy Holliday of the '80s. It was fail safe. Brilliant."

It worked for four and a half years. During that time, Suzanne Somers built a television career, became a headliner in Las Vegas, made two feature films. By last year, Bernstein says, she was getting $100,000 a week for three weeks on a film. And I got her $200,000 for one day--a commercial for Life Savers," he adds. By 1980, she had earned close to $11 million. It was an astonishing financial leap, considering that her salary for the 10 years before was $4,000 annually.

Six months ago she fired Jay Bernstein. The man she chose to take her career over was her husband. "She was on her way," Bernstein says. "Now all she has is trouble."

Somers twists her hair back into a braid. "Was your hair color Jay's idea, too?" I ask.

She grins. "No, that's one thing I figured out myself."

Her hair gave her sex appeal. So did her body. She knew it did, as she showed her willingness to trade on that body and by posing nude for photographs that eventually turned up in Playboy magazine. Early on, she knew the name of the game. Why else would she have hired Bernstein?

"Jay would call me almost every day with a report of who was gaining on me and who I was gaining on," she says. "'Farrah is ahead of you today,' he would say. 'Jackie's gaining. Farrah is falling behind. Cheryl is gaining.' Every time I hung up the phone I felt neurotic. I felt as if I was in a horse race."

For a while, she was the big winner. She won for herself. And for ABC. As the big star of Three's Company, she was made enormous profits for ABC--the show has been in the top 10 for almost five years. Then, she says, things changed.

"I was lying in bed one day, so sick I could hardly move, when the phone rang," she remembers. "I picked it up and Mickey Ross, the executive producer, was on the line. He was shouting 'I'll ruin you if it's the last thing I do!'"

The producers of Three's Company tell another story. In fact, most television producers nowadays are warring on stars who refuse to abide by their contracts. Witness the recent dispute with James Garner and Larry Hagman.

"We didn't want that," says Bergman, "so we decided to write her out. She put a gun to our head, and finally we said 'O.K., pull the trigger." A top ABC executive tried to sort out the mess. I asked him about her ability, integrity, and professional contributions. "She's such a bright lady, quite bright, and sweet too. Really. But money means a lot to her. Hers is a rags-to-to riches story. Now, well, it's compulsive time."

Are her demands of $150,000 an episode and a percentage of the profits outrageous? "Yes," says a top industry resource who negotiates contracts for many stars. "Most stars on a long-running television series average $30,000 to $40,000 an episode." There are exceptions. Jaclyn Smith earns $75,000 an episode. Carroll O'Connor makes $250,000 an episode plus a percentage of the profits. Michael Landon makes $150,000 to $175,000 plus profits. Alan Alda makes $200,000 an episode plus profits. Larry Hagman's deal earns him $75,000 and $100,000 an episode including profits and a percentage of the merchandising. Suzanne Somers feels she belongs in the same company. Four years ago, Three's Company was the show that helped establish ABC's control of prime time after decades of failure, and she feels that she is the star of the show, just as Carroll O'Connor and Alan Alda feel they are the stars of theirs.

What is her next move? She may star next season in a projected CBS series based on Goldie Hawn's movie Private Benjamin. "But what I really want to do," she says, "is go back to Three's Company."

Unfortunately, there are a lot of other blondes in Hollywood who would like to do the same thing. And they might do it for a lot less money. They might take $10,000 an episode. Or even $5,000.

Suzanne Somers looks stunned by this analysis of her predicament. Now that she has virtually been written out of the show, she sounds conciliatory. "Honestly, all I want to do is to go back to work. I told them I don't want any more money per episode. I just want to practice my craft. It's all such a mess."


'Three's Company''s Terri pursues her craft
Priscilla Barnes, drama queen
By Serena Kappes
Tuesday, December 31, 2002

(PEOPLE) -- She rose to TV fame playing sweet and wholesome nurse Terri Alden on the hit sitcom "Three's Company," but Priscilla Barnes wouldn't have minded if Terri had an evil side.

"Darkness amuses me," she says. "The role I became famous for was light and fluffy -- I'm not a light and fluffy person."

What she is, through and through, is an actress, though Barnes admits that persevering in the craft in her 40s (she turned 47 on December 7), isn't easy. Nor is overcoming the stereotyping of her perky sitcom days. But, says Barnes, it's nothing new.

"It was always a struggle for me," she says. "Nobody ever told me, 'Wow, you're the girl for me. Please work for me.' "

Her solution has been to experiment, both with her look (for a while, her dirty blond hair was dyed black) and her roles. Recently, for example, she guest-starred as a sadomasochistic prison warden on the quirky syndicated show "She Spies."

"That's why I do obscure things, because I need to do things that are very different," she explains about her fondness for edgy parts. "You always have to keep people guessing."

Another place Barnes has found her niche is on the L.A. stage. "For me, it's therapeutic," she says. "At the end of the night, I'm depleted and exhausted."

This past fall, she starred in the play "What I Did for Love," and beginning January 31, she will star in "Columbus Day," which she describes, gleefully, as "edgy and really sick."

Getting a break

Getting dramatic is nothing new for Barnes. She recalls herself as a spunky little girl whom a neighbor likened to Bette Davis because of her flair for the theatrical. But, she says, her father was a by-the-rules military man who "didn't have any belief in me. He thought I was a troublemaker. I was a questioner."

At 15, after graduating high school in Lancaster, California, and with a few beauty pageant wins under her belt, she moved to Reno to live with her older sister. She supported herself briefly as a cocktail waitress before being fired for being underage.

In 1975, while waitressing at a San Diego, California, steakhouse, she met Bob Hope, who hired her as a "dancing fashion model" to accompany him on his trips to entertain the troops at military bases. During that time she met Lynda Carter, who encouraged her to move to Los Angeles in 1976 and pursue acting.

Two short-lived series followed. The first was 1979's "American Girls," about two female investigative reporters and which lasted only nine episodes, followed by the 1981 drama "Scruples," which ran for only two.

Then came "Three's Company." The show's producers were initially unwilling to hire her because of her inexperience with comedy and her "high cheekbones," Barnes says.

Though she has nothing but praise for her costars (she's calls John Ritter a "genius" and is still close with former co-star Joyce DeWitt), her feelings about the show aren't as positive.

"Our bosses were very, very controlling. If my hair was too blond, I'd get called up in the office," she recalls. As for the show's plots: "It was very formula; it was a box."

In 1984, after a three-year stint on the show, Barnes, along with other cast members, was dropped (to allow more screen time for Ritter). Her career since has been varied, with highlights including a role as Jack Nicholson's love interest in Sean Penn's 1995 directorial debut, "The Crossing Guard." There have also been plenty of B-movies ("Killing Grounds," anyone?).

Coming up, Barnes will appear in "Dance with the Devil," an independent film featuring "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini.

The never-married Barnes, who is dating an actor she prefers not to name, can't see herself doing anything but acting.

"The horrible thing is, I love this," she says with a giggle. "You could be on the edge of despair and you're always going, 'Tomorrow could be different.' That's what keeps you going."

Three's Company Obituaries

Audra Lindley, 79, Actress; Played a Sex-Starved Wife

Published: October 25, 1997

Audra Lindley, who starred on Broadway, in films and in more than 100 live television dramas but who gained her greatest fame playing a sex-starved wife in the television series ''Three's Company'' and its spinoff, ''The Ropers,'' died on Oct. 16 at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. She was 79 and lived in Los Angeles.

Ms. Lindley, who was born in Los Angeles as well, began her theatrical career with Max Reinhardt's West Coast company, appearing in ''The Merchant of Yonkers'' and ''Six Characters in Search of an Author.''

She made her Broadway debut in 1942 in ''Comes the Revelation,'' later appearing with Art Carney in ''Take Her, She's Mine,'' Julie Harris in ''The Young and the Fair,'' Melvyn Douglas in ''Spofford'' and Van Heflin in ''A Case of Libel.''

During the 1950's, she was a regular performer on live television dramas, appearing frequently on ''Playhouse 90,'' the ''Kraft Theater'' and other programs.

Ms. Lindley took a break from acting to raise five children with her first husband, Hardy Ulm, but by the 1960's she was appearing in recurring roles in such television soap operas as ''The Edge of Night,'' ''Search for Tomorrow'' and ''Another World.''

In 1971, Ms. Lindley starred in ''Taking Off,'' the first film made in America by the Czech filmmaker Milos Forman, and she appeared the next year as Cybill Shepherd's mother in ''The Heartbreak Kid.'' In 1982, she played Burt Reynolds's mother in ''Best Friends'' and a motherly bordello operator in an adaptation of John Steinbeck's ''Cannery Row.''

Her other film credits include ''Desert Hearts'' (1986), ''Troop Beverly Hills'' (1989) and, earlier this year, ''The Relic.''

It was in 1977 that the hit series ''Three's Company'' had its debut on television. The premise of the series was that a character played by John Ritter had to pretend to be homosexual before a conservative landlord would agree to let him share an apartment with two young women. Norman Fell played the landlord, and Ms. Lindley was his wife, whose repeated attempts to seduce her husband were a running joke.

In 1979, Mr. Fell and Ms. Lindley starred in a spinoff called ''The Ropers.'' She also appeared in the 1972 series ''Bridget Loves Bernie.''

Ms. Lindley performed in numerous Off Broadway and regional theater productions through the 1980's and early 90's. Many of these performances were opposite her second husband, James Whitmore. The couple later divorced.

In a 1983 review of an Off Broadway appearance in a play called ''Elba,'' Frank Rich wrote in The New York Times that Ms. Lindley, ''a dotty comedienne too long absent from the New York stage, brings convincing spine to Flo, a pioneer woman adrift in the 20th century.''

She is survived by two daughters, Dr. Elizabeth Blalock of Laguna Beach, Calif., and Alice Ulm of New York, and a son, William Ulm of Santa Barbara, Calif.

Norman Fell, 74, Actor Known for TV Role

Published: December 16, 1998

Norman Fell, a television and film actor best known for his role as the crotchety landlord Stanley Roper on the sitcom ''Three's Company,'' died on Monday at the Motion Picture and Television Fund's retirement home in Woodland Hills, Calif. He was 74.

The cause was cancer, said Carol Pfannkuche, a spokeswoman for the fund.

In ABC's ''Three's Company,'' which made its debut in 1977, Mr. Fell and Audra Lindley played Stanley and Helen Roper, landlords to two attractive female roommates. The young women, played by Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers, decide for financial reasons to share their apartment with an attractive male, played by John Ritter. Nosy and uptight, Mr. Roper spends a good deal of time meddling in his neighbors' affairs, while enduring the constant putdowns of his wife.

In 1979, Mr. Fell and Ms. Lindley left the sitcom to star in ''The Ropers,'' a spinoff that lasted one season. Mr. Fell's peevish expression and hangdog eyes were distinctive, and the role earned him considerable recognition into his later years, often to his exasperation.

Mr. Fell also appeared in 35 movies, including ''Catch-22'' and, somewhat presciently, ''The Graduate,'' in which he played the landlord who throws Dustin Hoffman out of a rooming house.

He also appeared in the television series ''Dan August,'' a detective drama starring Burt Reynolds that ran from 1970 to 1975, eventually winning roles with Mr. Reynolds in the films ''Paternity'' and ''The End.''

Born in Philadelphia, Mr. Fell graduated from Temple University with a bachelor's degree in drama.

After World War II, during which he served as an Air Force tail gunner in the Pacific, he studied acting, struggling to win small parts in stage and television productions like ''Twelve Angry Men'' in 1954.

He made his first regular television appearances in the short-lived comedy ''Joe and Mabel,'' which was broadcast in 1956, and in the role of Detective Meyer in the 1961-62 drama ''87th Precinct,'' based on the Ed McBain mystery novels.

Mr. Fell is survived by two daughters.


TV Sitcom Icon John Ritter Dies At 54

By LYNN ELBER | AP Television Writer
September 12, 2003

LOS ANGELES - John Ritter, a master of sitcom silliness who ruled TV comedy with "Three's Company" and rediscovered success 25 years later with "8 Simple Rules ... For Dating My Teenage Daughter," has died of an undetected heart problem. He was 54.

Ritter became ill Thursday while working on his ABC series and underwent surgery at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank for a tear in his aorta, a rare medical condition that can hit without warning.

He died shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday, publicist Lisa Kasteler said. He was accompanied by producers, co-workers, his wife and his 23-year-old son, Jason, said Susan Wilcox, his assistant of 22 years.

Ritter's youngest child, Stella, turned 5 the day he died. His 55th birthday was next Wednesday.

The son of Tex Ritter, a Western film star and country musician, Ritter was an effortless funnyman who -- given the chance -- could handle drama as well. Friends recalled him as loving and buoyant.

"It's like there is a big tear in the world's heart," actor Henry Winkler told "Entertainment Tonight" on Friday. "He was extraordinary in every aspect of his life, especially as a father. His children were there at every moment of his life."

Winkler, who co-starred with Ritter on Broadway in Neil Simon's "The Dinner Party," was to make a guest appearance on the ABC sitcom. He was on the set Thursday for rehearsal when he was told Ritter had taken ill.

No decision had been made Friday about the future of "8 Simple Rules...," which was to begin its second season Sept. 23, an ABC spokesman said. It's one of the few bright spots in the struggling network's lineup. Three new episodes had already been filmed, and Ritter was working on the fourth when he fell ill.

"All of us at ABC, Touchstone Television and The Walt Disney Co. are shocked and heartbroken at the terrible news of John's passing," a statement read. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and children at this very difficult time."

"He was more than a comic," Simon said in a statement. "He was a real actor with a genius for comedy. I loved his performance in 'The Dinner Party.'"

"I'm shocked and heartbroken and so sad for his family. I cannot find words to express my sorrow -- such a great loss to the joy in the world," Joyce DeWitt, who co-starred with Ritter and Suzanne Somers in ABC's "Three's Company," told "Entertainment Tonight."

The sitcom, which aired from 1977-84 and brought a new level of risque humor to TV, was the No. 1 comedy in the 1979-80 season and regularly part of the top 10.

Ritter played a handsome but goofy bachelor who hinted he was gay so he could live with his two female roommates without raising eyebrows. Sexual double-entendres were the order of the day.

Behind the scenes, Somers' money demands led to clashes with Ritter and DeWitt, and she was eventually written off the show. Somers she had reconciled with Ritter at the request of his wife, actress Amy Yasbeck.

"If we had not, today would be unbearable for me," Somers said in a statement. "I am glad I knew him. I am privileged to have worked with him. I am unbelievably sad for his family, and I will miss him."

"It's just stunning, unbelievable," said Wilcox, his assistant. "Everybody loved John Ritter. Everybody loved working with him. ... Whatever set he was working on, he made it a very fun place."

Ritter, a Southern California native who lived in Beverly Hills, had appeared in more than 25 television movies and a number of films.

The youngest son of Tex Ritter and actress Dorothy Fay, he graduated from Hollywood High School and earned a degree in drama from the University of Southern California.

"I was the class clown, but I was also student body president in high school," he told The Associated Press in a 1992 interview. "I had my serious side -- I idolized Bobby Kennedy, he was my role model. But so was Jerry Lewis."

He received an Emmy, Golden Globe and other awards for his "Three's Company" role and was honored by the Los Angeles Music Center in June with a lifetime achievement award.

Ritter, whose first steady acting job was a role as the minister in "The Waltons," appeared in more than 50 plays nationwide and won critical acclaim for his recent nine-month run in "The Dinner Party." He had a memorable turn in Billy Bob Thornton's 1996 film "Sling Blade."

After "Three's Company" ended, Ritter worried about falling into a typecasting trap.

"I would get scripts about 'a young swinging bachelor on the make,' and I said 'No, I've done that,'" he told the AP. "What I was looking for in my time off was something a little bit different, a little serious, or funny in a different way."

Ritter described his time on "Three's Company" as an education in quick-study acting.

"When the curtain went up, no matter how long you've studied or haven't studied at all, you had to answer to the audience. We didn't do retakes. If there was a (microphone) boom in the shot, so be it," he said.

Ritter later starred in the TV series "Hooperman" and the early 1990s political comedy "Hearts Afire." He received multiple Emmy nominations for his PBS role as the voice of "Clifford the Big Red Dog" on the animated series.

His TV movie appearances included "Unnatural Causes," Stephen King's "It" and "Chance of a Lifetime."

Ritter won popularity among independent film directors in recent years and, besides "Sling Blade," appeared in "Tadpole" in 2002 and the new feature "Manhood." He appears alongside Thornton in Miramax's scheduled November release of "Bad Santa."

Ritter was married from 1977 to 1996 to Nancy Morgan, the mother of his three oldest children. He married Yasbeck in 1999. In addition to son Jason and daughter Stella, he is survived by two other children, Carly and Tyler.

Funeral plans were pending.

Don Knotts, TV's lovable nerd, dies at 81

Published on February 25, 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) Don Knotts, the skinny, lovable nerd who kept generations of television audiences laughing as bumbling Deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show and up-tight Mr. Furley on Three's Company, has died. He was 81.

Knotts died Friday night of pulmonary and respiratory complications at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills, said Paul Ward, a spokesman for the cable network TV Land, which airs The Andy Griffith Show, and another Knotts hit, Three's Company.

Unspecified health problems had forced him to cancel an appearance in his native Morgantown in August 2005.

The West Virginia-born actor's half-century career included seven TV series and more than 25 films, but it was the Griffith show that brought him TV immortality and five Emmies.

The show ran from 1960-68, and was in the top 10 of the Nielsen ratings each season, including a No. 1 ranking its final year. It is one of only three series in TV history to bow out at the top: The others are I Love Lucy and Seinfeld. The 249 episodes have appeared frequently in reruns and have spawned a large, active network of fan clubs.

As the bug-eyed deputy to Griffith, Knotts carried in his shirt pocket the one bullet he was allowed after shooting himself in the foot. The constant fumbling, a recurring sight gag, was typical of his self-deprecating humor.

Knotts, whose shy, soft-spoken manner was unlike his high-strung characters, once said he was most proud of the Fife character and doesn't mind being remembered that way.

His favorite episodes, he said, were "The Pickle Story," where Aunt Bee makes pickles no one can eat, and "Barney and the Choir," where no one can stop him from singing.

"I can't sing. It makes me sad that I can't sing or dance well enough to be in a musical, but I'm just not talented in that way," he lamented. "It's one of my weaknesses."

Knotts appeared on several other television shows. In 1979, he joined the cast of Three's Company, also starring John Ritter, Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt. He replaced Norman Fell as Mr. Furley, the up-tight landlord

Early in his TV career, he was one of the original cast members of The Steve Allen Show, the comedy-variety show that ran from 1956-61. He was one of a group of memorable comics backing Allen that included Louis Nye, Tom Poston and Bill "Jose Jimenez" Dana.

Knotts' G-rated films were family fun, not box-office blockbusters. In most, he ends up the hero and gets the girl a girl who can see through his nervousness to the heart of gold.

In the part-animated 1964 film The Incredible Mr. Limpet, Knotts played a meek clerk who turns into a fish after he is rejected by the Navy.

When it was announced in 1998 that Jim Carrey would star in a Limpet remake, Knotts responded: "I'm just flattered that someone of Carrey's caliber is remaking something I did. Now, if someone else did Barney Fife, THAT would be different."

In the 1967 film The Reluctant Astronaut, co-starring Leslie Nielsen, Knotts' father enrolls his wimpy son operator of a Kiddieland rocket ride in NASA's space program. Knotts poses as a famous astronaut to the joy of his parents and hometown but is eventually exposed for what he really is, a janitor so terrified of heights he refuses to ride an airplane.

In the 1969 film The Love God?, he was a geeky bird-watcher who is duped into becoming publisher of a naughty men's magazine and then becomes a national sex symbol. Eventually, he comes to his senses, leaves the big city and marries the sweet girl next door.

He was among an army of comedians from Buster Keaton to Jonathan Winters to liven up the 1963 megacomedy It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Other films include The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966); The Shakiest Gun in the West, (1968); and a few Disney films such as The Apple Dumpling Gang, (1974); Gus, (1976); and Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, (1977).

In 1998, he had a key role in the back-to-the-past movie Pleasantville, playing a folksy television repairman whose supercharged remote control sends a teen boy and his sister into a TV sitcom past.

Knotts began his show biz career even before he graduated from high school, performing as a ventriloquist at local clubs and churches. He majored in speech at West Virginia University, then took off for the big city.

"I went to New York cold. On a $100 bill. Bummed a ride," he recalled in a visit to his hometown of Morgantown, where city officials renamed a street for him in 1998.

Within six months, Knotts had taken a job on a radio Western called Bobby Benson and the B-Bar-B Riders, playing a wisecracking, know-it-all handyman. He stayed with it for five years, then came his series TV debut on The Steve Allen Show.

He married Kay Metz in 1948, the year he graduated from college. The couple had two children before divorcing in 1969. Knotts later married, then divorced Lara Lee Szuchna.

In recent years, he said he had no plans to retire, traveling with theater productions and appearing in print and TV ads for Kodiak pressure treated wood.

The world laughed at Knotts, but it also laughed with him.

He treasured his comedic roles and could point to only one role that wasn't funny, a brief stint on the daytime drama Search for Tomorrow.

"That's the only serious thing I've done. I don't miss that," Knotts said.

Here is Anne Wedgeworth's Obituary from USA TODAY

'Three's Company' actress Ann Wedgeworth dies at 83
Sara M Moniuszko, USA TODAY Published 6:25 p.m. ET Nov. 18, 2017

Actress Ann Wedgeworth has died at age 83.

Wedgeworth's daughter Dianna Martin said the actress died Thursday close to her home in New York City after a long illness in a nursing home. Martin told The Hollywood Reporter that Wedgeworth was surrounded by family.

In television, Wedgeworth was best known for her nine-episode role on the hit '70s sitcom Three's Company as Lana Shields, an older woman with her eyes set on her young neighbor Jack, played by John Ritter; and as Merleen Elldridge in Burt Reynolds' 1990s sitcom Evening Shade, where she acted in four seasons and nearly 100 episodes.

She acted in several soap operas and 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.

She also starred as country music singer Patsy Cline's mom in the 1985 film Sweet Dreams.

Wedgeworth landed her first Broadway role in the 1958 comedy Make a Million and continued to take on stage roles for decades.

In 1978, she won a Tony Award for best featured actress in a play for her performance in Neil Simon's Chapter Two. In 1989, she appeared in Steel Magnolias.

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 theater 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, Martin.

Survivors include her husband, her two daughters and stepsons Michael Martin and Greg Martin.

Contributing: The Associated Press.

For more on Three's Company go to's_Company

For a Website dedicated to Three's Company go to

For Tim's TV Showcase go to

For some Three's Company-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to

For 2 Reviews of THree's Company go to and
Date: Tue June 24, 2008 � Filesize: 36.1kb � Dimensions: 413 x 550 �
Keywords: threescompanybostontvguide1977TVW771030A0 (Links Updated 7/12/18)


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