Norman Fell, 74, the actor who may be best known for his portrayal of the often confused and always cranky landlord Stanley Roper on the 1970s television sitcom "Three's Company" and in its spin-off series "The Ropers," died of cancer Dec. 14 at the Motion Picture and Television's retirement home in Woodland Hills, Calif.

Among his other credits were the films "The Graduate" and "Catch-22" and such TV series as Burt Reynolds' 1970-1975 detective drama "Dan August." But it was the part of Stanley Roper that gained him fame.

He and Audra Lindley played Stanley and Helen Roper on ABC's "Three's Company," which debuted in 1977 and starred John Ritter, Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers as their tenants.

The Ropers spent a fair amount of time poking into the unusual living arrangements of their young neighbors and the rest sparring among themselves. Mr. Fell and Lindley left the sitcom in 1979 to star in "The Ropers," which aired until 1980.

"Three's Company" continued until 1984 with Don Knotts as the new landlord and other cast changes.

For his work on "The Ropers," Mr. Fell received a Golden Globe Award for best supporting actor. Ms. Lindley died of complications from leukemia last year at the age of 79.

Mr. Fell, a drama graduate of Temple University in his native Philadelphia, served as a tail gunner in the Pacific during World War II. After the war, he studied acting at Stella Adler's school in New York, where he also struggled to win small parts in stage and TV productions.

He appeared in 1954's "Twelve Angry Men." His first regular series role was in the short-lived 1956 comedy "Joe & Mabel."

He moved to Hollywood in 1958, and went on to roles in about 30 films, including "The Graduate," "Pork Chop Hill" and "Bullitt."

He also acted in more than 20 made-for-TV movies.

His other television work included his 1961-1962 portrayal of police Det. Meyer Meyer in the drama "87th Precinct," which was based on the Ed McBain mystery novels.

He also was a frequent guest on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson."

Mr. Fell, who was divorced, is survived by two daughters and two grandchildren. CAPTION: Norman Fell also acted in the films "The Graduate" and "Catch-22." ec