- Category : Actor
- Type : PSP
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Split - Large
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Eden 3
Jonathan Southworth "John" Ritter (September 17, 1948 – September 11, 2003) was an American actor, comedian, and voice-over artist. Ritter was best known for playing Jack Tripper on the hit ABC sitcom Three's Company, for which he won an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award in 1984.
Ritter appeared in hundreds of films and television shows/episodes combined (and performed on Broadway), including It (1990), Problem Child (1990), Problem Child 2 (1991) and Bad Santa in 2003 (his final live action film which was dedicated in his memory). Prior to Clifford's Really Big Movie (posthumously released), Ritter received four Daytime Emmy Award nominations for his voice work on the children's television series, Clifford the Big Red Dog, in addition to many other awards Ritter was nominated for or won.
Son of famous country/western star Tex Ritter, his untimely death occurred shortly after the production of an episode for the second season of 8 Simple Rules in 2003.
Don Knotts called Ritter the "greatest physical comedian on the planet". He died of an aortic dissection on September 11, 2003.
Ritter was born in Burbank, California. His German American father, Tex Ritter, was a singing cowboy/matinee-star, and his mother, Dorothy Fay (née Southworth), was an actress. Ritter attended Hollywood High School, where he was student-body president. He went on to the University of Southern California, where he was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) fraternity, and majored in psychology and minored in architecture. Ritter was a contestant on The Dating Game in 1966.
While still in college, Ritter traveled to the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and West Germany to perform in plays. After his graduation from USC in 1970, his first TV acting experience was a campus revolutionary in the TV series, Dan August, starring Burt Reynolds and future Three's Company alumnus Norman Fell. Ritter made his film debut in The Barefoot Executive. Ritter made guest appearances on the television series Hawaii Five-O, M*A*S*H, and many others. Ritter had a recurring role (he appeared in 18 episodes), as Reverend Matthew Fordwick, on the drama series, The Waltons, from October 1972 to December 1976. Since he was not a weekly cast member, he had the time to pursue other roles, which he did until December 1976, when he left for a permanent role on Three’s Company.
Television and film career
Ritter headlined several stage performances before he was made a star by appearing in the hit ABC sitcom Three's Company (the Americanized version of the 1970s British Thames Television series Man About the House) in 1977, playing a single ladies' man and culinary student, Jack Tripper, who lives with two female roommates. The females originally were Janet Wood (Joyce DeWitt) and Chrissy Snow (Suzanne Somers). While in later years the character of Janet remained, Somers was fired and other characters replaced her, including Chrissy's cousin Cindy (Jenilee Harrison), and unrelated roommate Terri Alden (Priscilla Barnes). Jack pretended to be gay to keep the landlords appeased over their living arrangements. The show spent several seasons near the top of the TV ratings in the U.S. before ending in 1984. Ritter performed for one year on the spin-off Three's a Crowd. The original series has been seen continuously in reruns and is also available on DVD. During the run of Three's Company, Ritter appeared in the films Hero at Large, Americathon, and They All Laughed.
In 1978, Ritter played Ringo Starr's manager on the television special Ringo, and in 1982, provided the voice of Peter Dickinson in Flight of Dragons. Hooperman was Ritter's first acting role after Three's Company. In the show, he played Detective Harry Hooperman who inherits a run down apartment building. He hires Susan Smith (Debrah Farentino). A relationship follows and Hooperman must juggle work, love, plus the antics of Bijoux the dog. John was nominated for both an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award for his work on Hooperman in 1988. Ritter won a People's Choice Award for this role. In 1992-95, Ritter returned to TV for three seasons as John Hartman, aide to the Senator in Hearts Afire. This series starred Markie Post as Georgie Anne Lahti and Billy Bob Thornton as Billy Bob Davis. Ritter played the role of "Dad" in the music video Graham Nash's song "Innocent Eyes" from the 1996 album of the same name.
After his time on television, Ritter appeared in a number of movies, most notably Problem Child and its first sequel. He rejoined with Billy Bob Thornton in the Oscar-winning Sling Blade (playing a gay, kindhearted discount store manager) and Noises Off, and played the lead role in Blake Edwards' 1989 film Skin Deep. 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 TV shows, such as "Felicity", Ally McBeal, Scrubs, Buffy the Vampire Slayer as well as an episode of Law & Order: SVU where the case involves the beating of a seven-months-pregnant woman, whose unborn child has been forcibly removed from her body via a primitive cesarean section. Among the witnesses questioned is the woman's husband, a psychiatrist with several damaging secrets and knows more about his wife's beating than he's willing to admit. John also provided the voice of the title character in the PBS animated children's show Clifford the Big Red Dog, a role for which he received four Emmy nominations. He starred alongside kickboxing actor Olivier Gruner for the buddy cop film Mercenary.
Ritter played Claude Pichon in The Dinner Party (2000) at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway, which was written by Neil Simon. It ran for three hundred and sixty-four performances. Ritter won the Theatre World Award in 2001 for his performance in that work.
In 1977, Ritter was married to 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 in 1996.
He married actress Amy Yasbeck September 18, 1999. He and Yasbeck had one daughter, Stella, born in 1998, a year before they were married. Yasbeck had variously played his love interest in the first two Problem Child movies. 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.
On September 11, 2003, Ritter fell ill and complained about severe chest pains during rehearsals for 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, when he collapsed during the rehearsals and fell into a coma. He was taken across the street to the Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, where he died later that evening, at approximately 10:45 pm PST from an aortic dissection caused by a previously undiagnosed congenital heart defect.
In 2008, five years later Yasbeck filed a $67 million wrongful death lawsuit against radiologist Dr. Matthew Lotysch and cardiologist Dr. Joseph Lee. 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. Both sides agree that Ritter's true condition—an aortic dissection, which is a tear in the largest blood vessel in the body that grows until one suffers cardiac arrest or until trapped blood leaks out of the vessel—was not identified until right before his death. 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 not responsible for his death. According to court records, Ritter's family received more than $14 million in settlements, including $9.4 million from Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, where he died. Ritter was interred at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles; his father is buried at Oak Bluff Memorial Park in Port Neches, Texas.
Response and legacy
Many of Ritter's co-workers expressed deep sorrow and heartbreak following the news of his death. Ritter's Three's Company co-star and close friend Suzanne Somers expressed immense despair for Ritter's family: "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 TV dad. Katey Sagal testified in the wrongful death lawsuit, calling Ritter a "funny man who was funny like nobody's business".
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 until 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. The remainder of the show dealt with the family's 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 replacement. Shortly before his death, Ritter did 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 that was dedicated to his memory.
In 2004, Ritter was posthumously given an Emmy nomination for playing Paul Hennessey 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 an episode of Scrubs (his character in this series died as well following Ritter's real life death) and King of the Hill, were dedicated in his memory.
On June 6, 2008, a mural of Ritter painted by Eloy Torrez was dedicated at Hollywood High School. In March 2010, the Thoracic Aortic Disease (TAD) Coalition, in partnership with Yasbeck, and the John Ritter Foundation, announced the creation of the Ritter Rules. The purpose of the charity is to help raise awareness among all of the public about aortic dissection so they can reduce their risk of the same kind of tragedy that took the life of Ritter. Yasbeck has worked with the University of Texas Medical School at Houston Team, identifying genes that may lead to an aortic aneurysm, which are collected by a saliva sample along with many other samples. All four of Ritter's children are included in the study.