John Ritter: American actor (born: 1948 - died: 2003)
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John Ritter
American actor

John Ritter

John Ritter
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American actor
Was Actor Television actor Film actor Stage actor Voice actor Film producer
From United States of America
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio
Gender male
Birth 17 September 1948, Burbank, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Death 11 September 2003, Burbank, Los Angeles County, California, USA (aged 55 years)
Star sign Virgo
Mother: Dorothy Fay
Father: Tex Ritter
Spouse: Amy Yasbeck (18 September 1999-11 September 2003)Nancy Morgan (16 October 1977-September 1996)
Children: Tyler RitterJason RitterNoah Lee Ritter
University of Southern California
USC School of Dramatic Arts
Hollywood High School
Theatre World Award 2001
Golden Globe Award  
Emmy Award  
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series 1984
star on Hollywood Walk of Fame  
John Ritter
The details (from wikipedia)


Jonathan Southworth Ritter (September 17, 1948 – September 11, 2003) was an American actor. The son of the singing cowboy star Tex Ritter and the father of actors Jason and Tyler Ritter, Ritter is known for playing Jack Tripper on the ABC sitcom Three's Company (1977–1984), for which he received a Primetime Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award in 1984. He briefly reprised the role on the spin-off Three's a Crowd, which aired for one season, producing 22 episodes before its cancellation in 1985.

Ritter appeared in over 100 films and television series combined and performed on Broadway, with roles including adult Ben Hanscom in It (1990), Problem Child (1990), Problem Child 2 (1991), a dramatic turn in Sling Blade (1996), and Bad Santa in 2003 (his final live action film, which was dedicated to his memory). In 2002, Don Knotts called Ritter the "greatest physical comedian on the planet". His final roles include voicing the title character on the PBS children's program Clifford the Big Red Dog (2000–2003), for which he received four Daytime Emmy Award nominations, as Paul Hennessy on the ABC sitcom 8 Simple Rules (2002–2003) and an uncredited role for providing the normal voice as Three in Seven Little Monsters (2000–2003).

Early life

Ritter was born at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, on September 17, 1948. Ritter had a birth defect known as a coloboma in his right eye. His father, Tex Ritter, was a singing cowboy and matinee star, and his mother, Dorothy Fay (née Southworth), was an actress. He had an older brother, Thomas "Tom" Matthews. Ritter attended Hollywood High School, where he was student body president. He attended the University of Southern California and majored in psychology with plans to have a career in politics. He later changed his major to theater arts and attended the USC School of Dramatic Arts (formerly School of Theatre). Ritter was a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity at USC. While still in college, Ritter traveled to the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and West Germany to perform in plays. Ritter graduated in 1970.


Film and television

Ritter headlined several stage performances. After his graduation from USC in 1970, his first television acting experience was a campus revolutionary in the television series Dan August starring Burt Reynolds and future Three's Company co-star Norman Fell. Ritter made his film debut in the 1971 Disney film The Barefoot Executive. He made guest appearances on the television series Hawaii Five-O, M*A*S*H, and many others. He had a recurring role as the Reverend Matthew Fordwick on the drama series The Waltons from October 1972 to December 1976. Because he was not a weekly cast member, he had time to pursue other roles, which he did until December 1976, when he left for a starring role in the hit sitcom Three's Company (the Americanized version of the 1970s British Thames Television series Man About the House) in 1977. In 1978, Ritter played Ringo Starr's manager on the television special Ringo. In 1982, Ritter provided the voice of Peter Dickinson in the animated film The Flight of Dragons.

Ritter at the 1988 Emmy Awards

Ritter became a household name portraying struggling culinary student Jack Tripper with two female roommates. Ritter co-starred opposite Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers, and then later Jenilee Harrison and Priscilla Barnes. Much of the comedy centered around Jack's pretending to be gay to keep the old-fashioned landlords appeased over the co-ed living arrangements. The series spent several seasons near the top of the ratings in the United States before ending in 1984. A year-long spin-off, Three's a Crowd, ensued, as the Jack Tripper character has a live-in girlfriend and runs his own bistro. The original series has been seen continuously in reruns and is available on DVD. During the run of Three's Company, Ritter appeared in the films Hero at Large, Americathon, and They All Laughed. In 1986, he played the role of Dad in the music video for Graham Nash's song "Innocent Eyes" from the album of the same name.

Hooperman was Ritter's first regular television role after Three's Company. Detective Harry Hooperman inherits a run-down apartment building and hires Susan Smith (Debrah Farentino) to run it. A relationship follows, and Hooperman must juggle work, love, and the antics of Bijoux the dog. In 1988, John was nominated for both an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award for his work on Hooperman. Ritter won a People's Choice Award for this role. From 1992 to 1995, Ritter returned to television for three seasons as John Hartman, aide to a U.S. Senator, in Hearts Afire. This series starred Markie Post as Georgie Anne Lahti and Billy Bob Thornton as Billy Bob Davis. He also played Garry Lejeune / Roger Tramplemain in the production Noises Off in 1992.

After his time on television, he appeared in a number of movies, most notably Problem Child and its first sequel. He played the lead role in Blake Edwards' 1989 film Skin Deep, appeared in the film version of Noises Off, rejoined Billy Bob Thornton in the Oscar-winning Sling Blade (playing a kindhearted, gay, discount-store manager), and co-starred with Olivier Gruner in the 1996 action film Mercenary.

Ritter starred in many made-for-TV movies, including Gramps (1995), co-starring with Andy Griffith, Rob Hedden's The Colony (1995) with Hal Linden, Stephen King's It, Danielle Steel's Heartbeat with Polly Draper, and It Came from the Sky in 1999 with Yasmine Bleeth. Ritter also made guest appearances on television shows, such as Felicity, Ally McBeal, Scrubs, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He also provided the voice of the title character in the animated children's show Clifford the Big Red Dog and its animated film adaptation Clifford's Really Big Movie (2004), a role for which he received four Emmy nominations. His final film was Stanley's Dinosaur Round-Up (2006), an animated direct-to-DVD film based on the television series, which was dedicated to his memory. At the time of his death, he was starring in 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.


In 2000, Ritter co-starred with Henry Winkler in Neil Simon's The Dinner Party at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway, portraying Claude Pichon. It ran for 364 performances. Ritter won the Theatre World Award in 2001 for his performance in that work. In 2003, Ritter made his final stage appearance in All About Eve at the Ahmanson Theatre.

Personal life

On October 16, 1977, Ritter married actress Nancy Morgan, with whom he had three children: Jason (who first appeared in the opening credits of Three's Company), Carly, and Tyler. They divorced on September 1, 1996. He married actress Amy Yasbeck on September 18, 1999, at the Murphy Theatre in Wilmington, Ohio. They had a daughter, Stella, born in September 1998. Yasbeck played his love interest in the first two Problem Child movies, though as two different characters. Yasbeck also played Ritter's wife in two sitcom appearances. In 1991, both were guest stars on The Cosby Show, in which Yasbeck played the in-labor wife of Ritter's basketball coach character. In 1996, Ritter guest-starred on Yasbeck's sitcom, Wings, as the estranged husband of Yasbeck's character, Casey.


Ritter's gravestone

On September 11, 2003, while he was rehearsing for 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter on the Walt Disney Studio lot in Burbank, California, Ritter fell ill and began to experience problems with his heart. Sweating profusely, vomiting and complaining of chest pain, he was taken to the Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center across the street (the same hospital in which he was born) at 6 p.m. that evening. Ritter was initially treated by emergency room physicians for a heart attack; however, his condition quickly worsened. Physicians then identified that Ritter had an aortic dissection, so he underwent surgery to repair the dissection, but was pronounced dead at 10:48 pm. A private funeral was held on September 15, 2003, in Los Angeles, after which Ritter was interred at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery, in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles.

In 2008, Ritter's widow, Amy Yasbeck, on behalf of herself and Ritter's children, filed lawsuits against doctors involved in Ritter's treatment and Providence St. Joseph Medical Center. The lawsuits against Providence St. Joseph were settled out of court for $9.4 million. A $67 million wrongful-death lawsuit against two of the physicians, radiologist Matthew Lotysch and cardiologist Joseph Lee, went to trial. Yasbeck accused Lee, who treated Ritter on the day of his death, of misdiagnosing his condition as a heart attack, and Lotysch, who had given him a full-body scan two years earlier, of failing at that time to detect an enlargement of Ritter's aorta. In 2008, at the Los Angeles County Superior Court, the jury concluded that the doctors who treated Ritter the day he died were not negligent, and thus were not responsible for his death.

Response and legacy

Many of Ritter's colleagues expressed sorrow following the news of his death. Ritter's Three's Company co-star Suzanne Somers said: "I'm so sad for the family. We lost a good one, it was so unfinished". Zach Braff, who worked with Ritter on Scrubs, called Ritter a "comic hero" of his, and said he had approached series creator Bill Lawrence to get Ritter to play his character J.D.'s father (which Ritter did for two episodes and was slated to return for a third the week following his death). Katey Sagal testified in the wrongful death lawsuit, calling Ritter a "funny man who was funny like nobody's business". His Three's Company co-star Joyce DeWitt remarked he was "impossible to forget. Impossible not to love".

8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter was later retitled 8 Simple Rules following Ritter's death and continued for one and a half more seasons before its cancellation in 2005. Ritter's character, Paul Hennessy, was said to have died after collapsing in a grocery store while buying milk. ABC aired the first three episodes of the show's second season that had been taped before his death, each of which was introduced by Katey Sagal. The remainder of the show dealt with the family trying to grapple with Paul's death. New male characters, played by James Garner and David Spade, were later added to the main cast as Ritter's replacements. Shortly before his death, Ritter had done a week-long taping with Hollywood Squares, which was aired as a tribute to him, introduced by Henry Winkler, the executive producer of the show and very close friend of Ritter's. Four days after Ritter's death, Nick at Nite ran an all-night Three's Company marathon dedicated to his memory.

In 2004, Ritter was posthumously given an Emmy nomination for playing Paul Hennessy in 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, but lost to Kelsey Grammer for playing the title character of Frasier. Upon accepting his trophy, Grammer's remarks included comments made in tribute and remembrance of Ritter. Ritter's final films, Bad Santa and Clifford's Really Big Movie, along with a Season 4 episode of Scrubs (his character in this series died, as well) and the Season 8 King of the Hill episode "Stressed for Success" (in which he played music teacher Eugene Grandy) were all dedicated to his memory.

On June 6, 2008, Hollywood High School dedicated a mural of Ritter painted by Eloy Torrez. In March 2010, the Thoracic Aortic Disease (TAD) Coalition, in partnership with Yasbeck and the John Ritter Foundation (JRF), announced the creation of the "Ritter Rules" which are life-saving reminders to recognize, treat, and prevent thoracic aortic dissection. The purpose of the JRF is to provide accurate information to the general public about the disease and its risk factors, provide support to individuals who have thoracic aortic disease or have lost a loved one to the disease, and improve the identification of individuals at risk for aortic dissections and the treatment of thoracic aortic disease through medical research. Yasbeck worked with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) to establish the John Ritter Research Program in Aortic and Vascular Diseases with the goal of preventing premature deaths due to aortic dissection by identifying genetic mutations that predispose individuals to thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections.



Year Title Role Notes
1971 The Barefoot Executive Roger Film debut
Scandalous John Wendell
1972 The Other Rider
1973 The Stone Killer Hart
1975 The Prisoner of Second Avenue Elevator Passenger Uncredited
1976 Nickelodeon Franklin Frank
1977 Breakfast in Bed Paul Short film
1979 Americathon President Chet Roosevelt
1980 Hero at Large Steve Nichols
Wholly Moses! Satan (The Devil)
1981 They All Laughed Charles Rutledge
1982 The Flight of Dragons Peter Dickinson (voice) Direct-to-video
1987 Real Men Bob Wilson / Agent Pillbox, CIA
1989 Skin Deep Zachary "Zach" Hutton
1990 Problem Child Benjamin "Ben" Healy Jr.
1991 Problem Child 2
The Real Story of O Christmas Tree Piney (voice) Direct-to-video
1992 Noises Off Garry Lejeune / Roger Tramplemain
Stay Tuned Roy Knable
1994 North Ward Nelson
1996 Sling Blade Vaughan Cunningham
Mercenary Jonas Ambler Direct-to-video
1997 Nowhere Moses Helper
A Gun, a Car, a Blonde Duncan / The Bartender
Hacks Hank
1998 Montana Dr. Wexler
The Truth About Lying Simon Barker
Shadow of Doubt Steven Mayer
I Woke Up Early the Day I Died Robert Forrest
Bride of Chucky Police Chief Warren Kincaid
2000 Panic Dr. Josh Parks
Tripfall Tom Williams
Lost in the Perishing Point Hotel Christian Therapist
Terror Tract Bob Carter
Tadpole Stanley Grubman
2001 Nuncrackers Narrator (voice) Direct-to-video
2002 Man of the Year Bill
2003 Manhood Eli
Bad Santa Bob Chipeska Posthumously released; final live-action film
2004 Clifford's Really Big Movie Clifford the Big Red Dog (voice) Posthumously released, dedicated in memory
2006 Stanley's Dinosaur Round-Up Great Uncle Stew (voice) Posthumously released, (final film role)


Year Title Role Notes
1967 The Dating Game Winning Bachelor
1968 Crazy World, Crazy People Various characters TV special
1970 Dan August Coley Smith Episode: "Quadrangle for Death"
1971 Hawaii Five-O Ryan Moore / Mike Welles 2 episodes
1972–1976 The Waltons Rev. Matthew Fordwick Recurring role (18 episodes)
1973 Medical Center Ronnie Episode: "End of the Line"
Bachelor-at-Law Ben Sykes Unsold pilot
M*A*S*H Pvt. Carter Episode: "Deal Me Out"
1974 Kojak Kenny Soames Episode: "Deliver Us Some Evil"
Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law Greg Episode: "To Keep and Bear Arms"
The Bob Newhart Show Dave Episode: "Sorry, Wrong Mother"
1975 Movin' On Casey Episode: "Landslide"
Rhoda Vince Mazuma Episode: "Chest Pains"
Mannix Cliff Elgin Episode: "Hardball"
Great Performances Richard Episode: "Who's Happy Now?"
The Bob Crane Show Hornbeck Episode: "Son of the Campus Capers"
Petrocelli John Oleson Episode: "Chain of Command"
Barnaby Jones Joe Rockwell Episode: "The Price of Terror"
The Streets of San Francisco John 'Johnny' Steiner Episode: "Murder by Proxy"
The Night That Panicked America Walter Wingate TV film
The Mary Tyler Moore Show Reverend Chatfield Episode: "Ted's Wedding"
The Rookies Hap Dawson Episode: "Reluctant Hero"
1976 Starsky & Hutch Tom Cole Episode: "The Hostages"
Doc Jeff / George Episode: "A Little Bit of Soap"
Rhoda Jerry Blocker Episode: "Attack on Mr. Right"
Phyllis Paul Jameson Episode: "The New Job"
1977–1984 Three's Company Jack Tripper Lead role (174 episodes)
1977 The Love Boat Dale Riley / Dale Reinhardt Episode: "Oh, Dale"
Tattletales Himself (panelist) Syndication
1978 Ringo Marty Flesh TV film
Leave Yesterday Behind Paul Stallings
$25,000 Pyramid Himself (panelist) Syndication
1979 The Ropers Jack Tripper Episode: "The Party"
1980 The Associates Chick Episode: "The Censors"
The Comeback Kid Bubba Newman TV film
John Ritter: Being of Sound Mind and Body Himself / Various Characters TV special
1981 Insight Frankie Episode: "Little Miseries"
1982 Pray TV Tom McPherson TV film
In Love with an Older Woman Robert Christenberry
The Fantastic Miss Piggy Show Himself (guest star) TV special
1983 Sunset Limousine Alan O'Black TV film
The Love Boat Ben Cummins Episode: "The Emperor's Fortune"
1984 Love Thy Neighbor Danny Loeb TV film
Pryor's Place Himself (guest star) Episode: "The Showoff"
1984–1985 Three's a Crowd Jack Tripper Lead role (22 episodes)
1985 Letting Go Alex Schuster TV film
1986 Unnatural Causes Frank Coleman
A Smoky Mountain Christmas Judge Harold Benton
Life with Lucy Himself (guest star) Episode: "Lucy Makes a Hit with John Ritter"
1987 The Last Fling Phillip Reed TV film
Prison for Children David Royce
1987–1989 Hooperman Det. Harry Hooperman Lead role (42 episodes)
1988 Mickey's 60th Birthday Dudley Goode TV special
Tricks of the Trade Donald Todsen TV film
1989 Have Faith Rick Shepherd Episode: "The Window"
My Brother's Wife Barney Rusher TV film
1990 Stephen King's It Ben Hanscom TV miniseries
The Dreamer of Oz: The L. Frank Baum Story L. Frank Baum TV film
1991 The Cosby Show Ray Evans Episode: "Total Control"
The Summer My Father Grew Up Dr. Paul Saunders TV film
Anything but Love Patrick Serreau Recurring role (5 episodes)
1992 Fish Police Inspector Gill (voice) Lead role (6 episodes)
1992–1995 Hearts Afire John Hartman Lead role (54 episodes)
1993 Heartbeat Bill Grant TV film
The Only Way Out Jeremy Carlisle;Made-for-television movie with Henry Winkler.
The Larry Sanders Show Himself (guest star) Episode: "Off Camera"
1994 Dave's World John Hartman Episode: "Please Won't You Be My Neighbor"
1995 Gramps Clarke MacGruder TV film
The Colony Rick Knowlton
NewsRadio Dr. Frank Westford Episode: "The Shrink"
The Larry Sanders Show Himself (guest star) Episode: "The Fourteenth Floor"
1996 Unforgivable Paul Hegstrom TV film
Wings Stuart Davenport Episode: "Love Overboard"
For Hope Date #5 TV film (uncredited)
Touched by an Angel Mike O'Connor / Tom McKinsley 2 episodes
1997 Loss of Faith Bruce Simon Barker TV film
A Child's Wish Ed Chandler
Dead Man's Gun Harry McDonacle Segment: "The Great McDonacle"
Over the Top Justin Talbot Episode: "The Nemesis"
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Ted Buchanan Episode: "Ted"
1997–2004 King of the Hill Eugene Grandy (voice) 4 episodes
1998 Chance of a Lifetime Tom Maguire TV film
Ally McBeal George Madison 2 episodes
Dead Husbands Dr. Carter Elston TV film
1999 Veronica's Closet Tim Episode: "Veronica's Favorite Year"
Holy Joe Rev. Joe Cass TV film
It Came from the Sky Donald Bridges
Lethal Vows Dr. David Farris
2000–2003 Clifford the Big Red Dog Clifford (voice) Lead role (64 episodes)
Seven Little Monsters Three (normal voice) in a few episodes (uncredited)
2000 Chicago Hope Joe Dysmerski Episode: "Simon Sez"
Batman Beyond Dr. David Wheeler (voice) Episode: "The Last Resort"
Family Law Father Andrews Episode: "Possession is Nine Tenths of the Law"
2000–2002 Felicity Mr. Andrew Covington Recurring role (7 episodes)
2001 Tucker Marty Episode: "Homewrecker for the Holidays"
2002 The Ellen Show Percy Moss Episode: "Gathering Moss"
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Dr. Richard Manning Episode: "Monogamy"
Breaking News Lloyd Fuchs Episode: "Pilot"
Scrubs Sam Dorian 2 episodes
2002–2003 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter Paul Hennessy Lead role (31 episodes)

Video games

Year Title Role
2001 Clifford the Big Red Dog: Learning Activities Clifford
2002 Clifford the Big Red Dog: Musical Memory Games
2003 Clifford the Big Red Dog: Phonics

Awards and honors

Association Year Category Work Result
Daytime Emmy Awards 2001 Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program Clifford the Big Red Dog Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards 1978 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Three's Company
1984 Won
1988 Hooperman Nominated
1999 Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series Ally McBeal
2004 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series 8 Simple Rules
Golden Globe Awards 1979 Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy Three's Company
1984 Won
1987 Best Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television Unnatural Causes Nominated
1988 Best TV Actor in a Musical/Comedy Hooperman
People's Choice Awards 1988 Favorite Male Performer in a New TV Program Hooperman Won
Screen Actors Guild Awards 1997 Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Sling Blade (shared w/co-stars) Nominated
  • 1983: Star on the Walk of Fame – 6627 Hollywood Boulevard; he and Tex Ritter were the first father-and-son pair to be so honored in different categories.
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 22 Nov 2021. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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