Who Was John Ritter?
John Ritter was an American actor and comedian. He made guest appearances on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Waltons in 1970, Hawaii Five-O in 1971 and M.A.S.H. in 1973 before landing the role of Jack Tripper in Three's Company. Along with hosting and starring in various TV specials, he formed his own production company in 1984. On the big screen, he appeared in a few comedies.
Jonathan Southworth Ritter was born on September 17, 1948, in Burbank, California. Son of country singer and actor Tex Ritter and actress Dorothy Fay Southworth, Ritter and his older brother, Tom, grew up surrounded by show business.
As a child, Ritter had no aspirations of following in his parents' footsteps. He attended Hollywood High School and the University of Southern California where he majored in Psychology and minored in Architecture. After two years, however, he was persuaded to join a drama class taught by leading drama coach and actress Nina Foch. He soon changed his major to Theater Arts, graduating in 1971 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in drama.
Early Roles and 'Three's Company'
From 1968 to 1969, Ritter appeared in several stage performances in Europe, including Love Letters, The Glass Menagerie and As You Like It. Returning stateside, Ritter made guest appearances on such popular TV shows as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Waltons in 1970, Hawaii Five-O in 1971 and M.A.S.H. in 1973 before landing the role of Jack Tripper in the 1977 hit comedy series Three's Company. The premise of three attractive singles sharing an apartment in the 1970s hit a chord with TV audiences, who fell in love with the goofy and accident-prone boy next door. His performance earned him a Golden Globe in 1983 and an Emmy in 1984.
Along with hosting and starring in various TV specials, including ABC's John Ritter: Being of Sound Mind and Body, Ritter formed his own production company, Adam Productions, in 1984. It was with Adam Productions that Ritter produced and starred in the comedy-drama Hooperman for which he earned critical acclaim.
On the big screen, Ritter appeared in a few comedies that played to his gift of physical humor. These included Real Men in 1987 and Problem Child in 1990. His films enjoyed modest success through the 1990s. In 2001, he received the Theatre World Award for his role in The Dinner Party.
Ritter fell ill while filming an episode of 8 Simple Rules on September 11, 2003, suffering chest pain, nausea and vomiting. He was taken to a hospital across the street from the Burbank studio and died several hours later from a torn aorta. Ritter was 54.
In 2004, shortly after his death, Ritter was nominated posthumously for an Emmy for his role in 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter. The show, later renamed 8 Simple Rules, continued for two more seasons until its cancellation in April 2005.
His final films, Bad Santa and Clifford's Really Big Movie were dedicated in memory of the actor. On June 6, 2008, a mural of Ritter painted by Eloy Torrez was dedicated at Hollywood High School.
Off-camera, Ritter was devoted to the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation. Starting in 1977, he and his brother, Tom (who triumphed over the disease), hosted the annual telethon, raising millions of dollars for the organization.
Ritter was married to Nancy Morgan from 1977-1996. They had three children: Jason, Tyler and Carly. He married actress Amy Yasbeck in 1999, with whom he had his fourth child, Noah, in 1998.
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