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John Ritter Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trivia (39) | Personal Quotes (3) | Salary (2)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 17 September 1948Burbank, California, USA
Date of Death 11 September 2003Burbank, California, USA  (aortic dissection)
Birth NameJonathan Southworth Ritter
Height 5' 11" (1.8 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Jonathan Southworth Ritter was born in Burbank, California, on September 17, 1948. He was the son of legendary country singer/actor Tex Ritter and his wife, actress Dorothy Fay. The couple married in 1941 and had their first child, Tom Ritter, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. John was destined to follow in his parents footsteps. He was enrolled at Hollywood High School where he was student body president.

After graduation from high school, he attended the University of Southern California where he majored in Psychology and minored in Architecture. His first appearance on TV was in 1966 as a contestant on The Dating Game (1965) where he won a vacation to Lake Havasu, Arizona. After making his very first cameo appearance, he was induced to join an acting class taught by Nina Foch. He changed his major to Theater Arts, graduating in 1971 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Drama. He also studied acting with Stella Adler at the Harvey Lembeck Comedy Workshop. Between 1968 and 1969, he appeared in a series of stage plays in England, Scotland, Holland and in Germany.

His TV debut came playing a campus revolutionary on Dan August (1970) which starred Burt Reynolds and Norman Fell, who later starred with him on Three's Company (1976). Then he appeared as "Reverend Matthew Fordwick" on The Waltons (1971). He continued making more guest appearances on Medical Center (1969), M*A*S*H (1972), The Bob Newhart Show (1972), The Streets of San Francisco (1972), Kojak (1973), Rhoda (1974) and Mary Tyler Moore (1970). While working on The Waltons (1971), he received word that his legendary father had passed away, just a day after New Year's Day in 1974. The following year, in late 1975, ABC picked up the rights for a new series based on a British sitcom, Man About the House (1973). Ritter beat out 50 people, including a young Billy Crystal, to get a major role. The first pilot was trashed, and in order for it to be improved, Joyce DeWitt, an unknown actress, played the role of "Janet Wood", along with Suze Lanier-Bramlett as the dumb blonde, "Chrissy Snow". It did better than the first pilot, but the producers still needed a change and Suzanne Somers came to the show at the very last minute to play "Chrissy". The series, Three's Company (1976), was born. When it debuted as a mid-season replacement, it became a ratings hit. It focused mainly on his character, "Jack Tripper", a chef who pretended to be gay in order to share an apartment with two attractive ladies.

Before playing "Jack Tripper" on the small screen, he also made his box office debut in the movie Nickelodeon (1976). Two years later, he worked with his close friend, Jenny Sullivan, in Breakfast in Bed (1977), and the following year, played "Pres. Chet Roosevelt" in the movie Americathon (1979). Also in 1977, he and his brother emceed the Annual United Cerebral Palsy Telethon which he continued to support for over 15 years. He also became more popular with movies such as Hero at Large (1980) and They All Laughed (1981). In 1980, when Three's Company (1976) was sold into syndication, the show became a ratings phenomenon. At the height of Ritter's popularity, he won a Golden Globe in 1983 for Best Performance by an Actor after being nominated twice for Best TV Actor in a Musical-Comedy Series and, one year later, he won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor In a Comedy Series after being nominated twice. By its eighth season, the show began to drop in the ratings and was canceled in 1984. After cancellation, he starred in its spin-off, called Three's a Crowd (1984), also starring Mary Cadorette, but it lasted for only one season.

His first animated movie was that of a man turning into a dragon, whose job was to defeat "Ommendon" in The Flight of Dragons (1982). The following year, he came back to series television as "Detective Harry Hooperman" in the comedy/drama, Hooperman (1987) for which he was nominated for both an Emmy and a Golden Globe in 1988 for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. He also won a People's Choice Award for this role. He continued doing more box-office films such as Skin Deep (1989), in which he played a womanizing, alcoholic writer whose life seemed to be falling apart at the seams. In the movies, Problem Child (1990), and Problem Child 2 (1991), he played the surrogate father of a rebellious little boy who wrought havoc on the family. He also worked on Noises Off... (1992) and Stay Tuned (1992) before returning to another TV sitcom called Hearts Afire (1992) that also starred Billy Bob Thornton. The show had well-written scripts but failed to reach a massive audience which led to its cancellation in 1995. While he was working on Hearts Afire (1992), he played "Ward Nelson" on North (1994). Then, he had the opportunity to work with Billy Bob Thornton, in the movie Sling Blade (1996), in which Ritter played the gay manager of a department store. He also provided the voice of "Clifford" in Clifford the Big Red Dog (2000). He was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award 4 times in a row, totaling seven Emmy nominations in his 35-year career. In 1999, he was also nominated for an Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series playing the role of "George Madison" on an episode of Ally McBeal (1997).

Soon afterwards, he landed his last television role in 8 Simple Rules (2002), based on the popular book. On this sitcom he played "Paul Hennessey", a loving, yet rational dad, who laid down the ground rules for his three children and dealt with such topics as curfews, sex, drugs, getting arrested, etc. The show was a ratings winner in its first season and won a People's Choice Award for Best New Comedy and also won for Favorite Comedy Series by the Family Awards. While working on "8 Simple Rules", he also starred in his second-to-last film, Manhood (2003). That same year, he felt ill while rehearsing on set, and was taken across the street to Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, where he was mistakenly treated for a heart attack. He died from an undiagnosed aortic dissection which is a tear in the wall of the aorta. He underwent surgery and died on September 11, 2003, just six days shy of his 55th birthday. In the years that he worked, John Ritter was a brilliant comedian and a passionate actor, who wanted to make everybody laugh. Shortly before his death, his eldest son, Jason Ritter, was cast in the role of "Kevin" in the highly-rated drama Joan of Arcadia (2003).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Richard Collins II (hugsarealwaysinorder@yahoo.com)

Spouse (2)

Amy Yasbeck (18 September 1999 - 11 September 2003) (his death) (1 child)
Nancy Morgan (16 October 1977 - 1996) (divorced) (3 children)

Trivia (39)

(September 18, 1999) Married Amy Yasbeck in Wilmington, Ohio. The two had lived together for a couple of years.
During an interview on Late Night with Conan O'Brien (1993), Ritter claimed that he chose the name "Vaughan Cunningham" for his character in Sling Blade (1996) based on an in-joke with the cast of Happy Days (1974).
He was a scout (but not an Eagle).
Had starred with his wife, Amy Yasbeck, in The Cosby Show (1984) episode, The Cosby Show: Total Control (1991), eight years prior to their marriage. Coincidently, they played a husband and wife expecting their first child.
He was a member of Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity.
His talent for physical schtick was heralded by television comedy icon Lucille Ball, who hosted a tribute to John's talent on Three's Company (1976). John later appeared in an episode of Lucille's last comedy series Life with Lucy (1986) In that episode, Lucy claims that during the shooting of a scene, it was the third time in her entire career that she had to yell "cut" because he broke her up laughing.
His father, cowboy star Tex Ritter, tried to steer him away from an acting career but lived long enough to rejoice in seeing him in a recurring role on The Waltons (1971), which was Tex's favorite television series.
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6631 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on September 28, 1983.
One of John's last public appearances was at Disney's Prime Time Weekend at Disney's California Adventure Park, 4 days before his death.
Was the first guest of The Wayne Brady Show (2002).
Died in the same hospital he was born in, which was the Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center.
Father of four children: Jason Ritter, (born on Sunday, February 17, 1980), Carly Ritter, (born on Monday, March 1, 1982), Tyler Ritter, (born on Thursday, January 31, 1985) and Stella Ritter, (born on Friday, September 11, 1998).
At the same time he attended Hollywood High School, he fell in love with The Beatles.
His favorite musical group was The Beatles, and he even appeared on Ringo Starr's television special Ringo (1978).
Paul Hennessy, Ritter's character on 8 Simple Rules (2002), was ranked #48 in TV Guide's list of the "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time" [June 20, 2004 issue].
Buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, 6300 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles, California (actually borders Glendale and Griffith Park). Lot 1622 Court of Liberty near Stan Laurel's grave-site.
Was nominated for an Emmy Award, for best actor in a comedy, for 8 Simple Rules (2002) one year after his death, after appearing in 31 episodes.
Died one day before the death of country music legend Johnny Cash. Incidentally, his father, Tex, had written several songs for Johnny during the 1950s and 1960s.
Ended 20 year rift with his Three's Company (1976) co-star Suzanne Somers shortly before his death.
On an episode of 8 Simple Rules (2002), he and the cast did a spoof of his situation comedy Three's Company (1976). In the spoof, he played Mr. Roper, Katey Sagal played Helen Roper, Kaley Cuoco and Amy Davidson played Janet and Chrissy respectively, Billy Aaron Brown played Jack and Martin Spanjers played Larry. At the end of the episode, Don Knotts who played Mr. Furley on Three's Company, reprised his role in one short scene. It was, not surprisingly, Ritter's favorite episode.
On Three's Company (1976) and Three's a Crowd (1984), he played a straight man pretending to be gay. In Dangerous Perceptions (2005), his son, Jason Ritter, played a gay man pretending to be straight.
His final film, Bad Santa (2003), was dedicated to his memory.
After his death, the September 29 issue of People magazine featured two different covers - issues distributed to the central and southwest United States (except Florida) showed Johnny Cash who had also recently passed away, the rest displayed a photo of John Ritter taken by veteran photojournalist Michael Germana. Appropriately, he was waving goodbye.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume 7, 2003-2005, pages 464-465. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2007.
Good friends with Jenny Sullivan and Paul Linke.
Died on his youngest daughter's, Stella Ritter, fifth birthday.
Was considered for the role of Dan Gallagher in Fatal Attraction (1987), which went to Michael Douglas.
Attended and graduated from Hollywood High School in Hollywood, California in 1966.
Best remembered by the public for his starring role as Jack Tripper on Three's Company (1976).
John Ritter died one week before his fourth wedding anniversary to wife Amy Yasbeck. Additionally, Ritter passed away only 6 days before his 55th birthday.
John Ritter's great-grandfather Benjamin Franklin Ritter (1834-1902) was an officer in the Confederate Cavalry (37th Texas Cavalry) during the War between the States.
Before he was a successful actor, he worked with Harry Morgan in two movies of Ritter's early career: The Barefoot Executive (1971) and Scandalous John (1971).
His acting mentor was the late Harry Morgan.
Played the clarinet.
Attended Walter Reed Jr. High School in North Hollywood, California.
Lifelong friend of Kevin Tighe.
Was 3 months younger than Phylicia Rashad. He guest-starred with her on an episode of The Cosby Show (1984).
Initially misdiagnosed with a heart attack, he died from an aortic dissection, following surgery, at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center, in Burbank, California.. [11 September 2003].
Director Peter Bogdanovich directed him in three feature films: Nickelodeon (1976), They All Laughed (1981), and Noises Off... (1992). He had earlier considered him for the role of Sonny in The Last Picture Show (1971) that went to Timothy Bottoms.

Personal Quotes (3)

I knew when I grew up, I always wanted to be a liar, and if you're in television, you're lying because you're just pretending to be yourself much like I'm doing now.
The Harvey Lembeck Workshop was for me a support group. A place where I had the freedom to fall on my face.
[How John wants to be remembered] Just as a guy who was interested in the golden thread that intertwines all of us together. You know, that golden thread that goes through me and you, and the cameraman, and all the people out there and back through Nancy. That's what an artist can do, that someone - anyone - could do, if they're willing to pluck that. And either it makes you laugh or it makes you cry, it's that golden thread of humanity, and I'd like to be remembered as maybe a guy who plucked a few of those.

Salary (2)

Three's Company (1976) $50,000
8 Simple Rules... for Dating My Teenage Daughter (2002) $75,000 (per episode)

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