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Actor John Ritter Dies Unexpectedly

12 September 2003 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Emmy Award-winning actor John Ritter, who shot to instant fame as the wily and wacky Jack Tripper in '70s TV hit Three's Company, died unexpectedly Thursday after collapsing on the set of his ABC sitcom 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter; he was 54. Ritter apparently suffered a tear in the aorta, which was the result of an unrecognized flaw in his heart, according to his publicist, Lisa Kasteler. Rushed to Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, across from the studio where he had been working, Ritter died shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday. The son of film star and singer Tex Ritter, the actor became an immediately recognizable star in Three's Company alongside Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt. The sitcom, which ran from 1977 to 1984, relied heavily on wacky scenarios and innocent misunderstandings, and easily showcased his gift for physical comedy and engaging screen presence; after that hit show, Ritter later starred in both Hooperman and Hearts Afire. An incredibly prolific actor, he also appeared in 1996's Sling Blade, made an acclaimed appearance on Broadway in Neil Simon's The Dinner Party, and also voiced the lead character of TV cartoon Clifford the Big Red Dog. After making notable appearances on Ally McBeal, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Felicity, Ritter recently enjoyed a career resurgence with the sitcom 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, which was a hit for beleaguered network ABC last year and was currently entering its second season. Ritter is survived by his wife, actress Amy Yasbeck, his son Jason Ritter, and three other children. --Prepared by IMDb staff »

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