Everipedia Logo
Everipedia is now IQ.wiki - Join the IQ Brainlist and our Discord for early access to editing on the new platform and to participate in the beta testing.
John Ritter

John Ritter

Jonathan Southworth Ritter[1] (September 17, 1948 – September 11, 2003) was an American actor and comedian. He was 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.

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), 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".[2] 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, and as Paul Hennessy on the ABC sitcom 8 Simple Rules (2002–2003).

John Ritter
Jonathan Southworth Ritter

(1948-09-17)September 17, 1948
Burbank, California, U.S.
DiedSeptember 11, 2003(2003-09-11)(aged 54)
Burbank, California, U.S.
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, California, U.S.
EducationHollywood High School
Alma materUniversity of Southern California
OccupationActor, comedian
Years active1968–2003
Nancy Morgan
(m. 1977;div. 1996)

Amy Yasbeck (m. 1999)
Children4; including Jason Ritter and Tyler Ritter
Parent(s)Tex Ritter
Dorothy Fay

Early life

Ritter was born at the Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, on September 17, 1948.[3] 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.[4] He had an older brother, Thomas Matthews "Tom".[5] 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 1971.[6]


Film and television

Ritter as Jack Tripper, 1977

Ritter as Jack Tripper, 1977

Ritter headlined several stage performances. 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 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, MASH*, 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. Since 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 ABC 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 TV special Ringo. In 1982, Ritter provided the voice of Peter Dickinson in The Flight of Dragons.

Ritter became a household name playing struggling culinary student Jack Tripper with two female roommates. Ritter co-starred opposite Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers; however, Somers left due to a contractual dispute in 1981. Jenilee Harrison and then Priscilla Barnes filled Somers's role. Much of the comedy centered around Jack's pretending to be gay to keep the old-fashioned landlords appeased over the seemingly sordid living arrangements. The series spent several seasons near the top of the TV ratings in the U.S. 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 also available on DVD. During the run of Three's Company, Ritter also 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[7] and a Golden Globe Award for his work on Hooperman. Ritter won a People's Choice Award for this role. In 1992–95, 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 TV shows, such as Felicity, Ally McBeal, Scrubs, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and an episode of Law & Order: SVU (2002). 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. 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.


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 364 performances. Ritter won the Theatre World Award in 2001 for his performance in that work.[8] In 2003, Ritter made his final stage appearance in All About Eve, a star-studded benefit for the Actors' Fund of America held at the Ahmanson Theatre.

Personal life

In 1977, Ritter married actress Nancy Morgan, with whom he had three children: Jason (who first appeared in the opening credits of Three's Company),[9][10] Carly, and Tyler.[6] They divorced in 1996.[11] He married actress Amy Yasbeck on September 18, 1999, at the Murphy Theatre in Wilmington, Ohio.[12] They had a child, born on September 11, 1998.[13]

Yasbeck 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.


Ritter's gravestone

Ritter's gravestone

On September 11, 2003, Ritter suffered from heart problems while rehearsing for 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter. He began sweating profusely and vomiting, and complained of having chest pains. He was taken across the street from Walt Disney Studios (where the sitcom was recorded) to the Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, by coincidence the same hospital where he was born.[3] Physicians treated Ritter for what they had diagnosed as a heart attack; however, his condition worsened.[14] Physicians then diagnosed Ritter with an aortic dissection, a tear in the aorta that grows. Ritter died during surgery to repair the dissection, six days before his 55th birthday.[15][16]

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.[17][18]

In 2008, Amy Yasbeck (Ritter's wife) on behalf of herself and Ritter's children, filed lawsuits against doctors involved in Ritter's treatment and Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, the hospital where he was seen. Some of the lawsuits were settled out of court, including a $9.4 million settlement with the hospital.[19] However, 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,[20] 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.[20] 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 were not responsible for his death.[21][22]

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 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 TV father.[23] Katey Sagal testified in the wrongful death lawsuit, calling Ritter a "funny man who was funny like nobody's business".[24] His Three's Company co-star Joyce DeWitt remarked he was "impossible to forget. Impossible not to love".[25]

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, 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.[26]

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.[27] 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) and King of the Hill, were dedicated to his memory.[28]

On June 6, 2008, a mural of Ritter painted by Eloy Torrez was dedicated at Hollywood High School.[29]

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.



1971The Barefoot ExecutiveRogerDebut
Scandalous JohnWandell
1972The OtherRider
1973The Stone KillerHart
1975The Prisoner of Second AvenueElevator PassengerUncredited
1976NickelodeonFranklin Frank
1977Breakfast in BedPaul
1979AmericathonPresident Chet Roosevelt
1980Hero at LargeSteve Nichols
Wholly Moses!Satan (The Devil)
1981They All LaughedCharles Rutledge
1982The Flight of DragonsPeter DickensonVoice, Direct-to-video
1985The Joy of Natural ChildbirthHimself
1987Real MenBob Wilson / Agent Pillbox, CIA
1989Skin DeepZachary 'Zach' Hutton
1990Problem ChildBenjamin 'Ben' Healy, Jr.
1991Problem Child 2
The Real Story of O Christmas TreePineyVoice, Direct-to-video
1992Noises OffGarry Lejeune / Roger Tramplemain
Stay TunedRoy Knable
1994NorthWard Nelson
1996Sling BladeVaughan Cunningham
MercenaryJonas Ambler
1997NowhereMoses Helper
A Gun, a Car, a BlondeDuncan / The Bartender
1998MontanaDr. Wexler
The Truth About LyingSimon Barker
Shadow of DoubtSteven Mayer
I Woke Up Early The Day I DiedRobert Forrest
Bride of ChuckyPolice Chief Warren Kincaid
2000PanicDr. Josh Parks
TripfallTom Williams
Lost in the Perishing Point HotelChristian Therapist
Terror TractBob Carter(segment "Make Me An Offer")
TadpoleStanley Grubman
2002Man of the YearBill
Bad SantaBob ChipeskaPosthumously released; final live action film
2004Clifford's Really Big MovieClifford the Big Red DogVoice, Posthumously released
2006Stanley's Dinosaur Round-UpGreat Uncle StewVoice, Posthumously released, (final film role)


1967The Dating GameHimselfContestant (winning bachelor)
1968Crazy World, Crazy PeopleVarious charactersSpecial
1970Dan AugustColey SmithEpisode: "Quadrangle for Death"
1971Hawaii Five-ORyan Moore / Mike Welles2 episodes
1972–1976The WaltonsRev. Matthew FordwickRecurring role (18 episodes)
1973Medical CenterRonnieEpisode: "End of the Line"
Bachelor-at-LawBen SykesUnsold pilot
MASH*Pvt. CarterEpisode: "Deal Me Out"
1974KojakKenny SoamesEpisode: "Deliver Us Some Evil"
Owen Marshall: Counselor at LawGregEpisode: "To Keep and Bear Arms"
The Bob Newhart ShowDaveEpisode: "Sorry, Wrong Mother"
1975Movin' OnCaseyEpisode: "Landslide"
MannixCliff ElginEpisode: "Hardball"
The Bob Crane ShowHornbeckEpisode: "Son of the Campus Capers"
PetrocelliJohn OlesonEpisode: "Chain of Command"
Barnaby JonesJoe RockwellEpisode: "The Price of Terror"
The Streets of San FranciscoJohn 'Johnny' SteinerEpisode: "Murder by Proxy"
The Night That Panicked AmericaWalter WingateTV film
The Mary Tyler Moore ShowReverend ChatfieldEpisode: "Ted's Wedding"
The RookiesHap DawsonEpisode: "Reluctant Hero"
RhodaVince Mazuma / Jerry Blocker2 episodes
1976Starsky & HutchTom ColeEpisode: "The Hostages"
PhyllisPaul JamesonEpisode: "The New Job"
1977–1984Three's CompanyJack TripperLead role (174 episodes)
1977, 1983The Love BoatDale Riley/Reinhardt / Ben Cummins2 episodes
Leave Yesterday BehindPaul StallingsTV film
1979The RopersJack TripperEpisode: "The Party"
1980The AssociatesChickEpisode: "The Censors"
The Comeback KidBubba NewmanTV film
1981InsightFrankieEpisode: "Little Miseries"
1982Pray TVTom McPhersonTV film
In Love with an Older WomanRobert
The Fantastic Miss Piggy ShowHimselfSpecial
1983Sunset LimousineAlan O'BlackTV film
1984Love Thy NeighborDanny LoebABC film
Pryor's PlaceHimselfEpisode: "The Showoff"
1984–1985Three's a CrowdJack TripperLead role (22 episodes)
1985Letting GoAlexTV film
1986Living SeasHost
Unnatural CausesFrank Coleman
A Smoky Mountain ChristmasJudge Harold BentonTV film, Uncredited
Life with LucyHimselfEpisode: "Lucy Makes a Hit with John Ritter"
1987The Last FlingPhillip ReedTV film
Prison for ChildrenDavid Royce
1987–1989HoopermanDet. Harry HoopermanLead role (42 episodes)
1988Mickey's 60th BirthdayDudley GoodeSpecial
Tricks of the TradeDonald TodsenCameo; TV film
1989My Brother's WifeBarneyTV film
1990ItBen HanscomMiniseries
The Dreamer of Oz: The L. Frank Baum StoryL. Frank BaumTV film
1991The Cosby ShowRay EvansEpisode: "Total Control"
The Summer My Father Grew UpPaulTV film
Anything but LovePatrick SerreauRecurring role (5 episodes)
1992Fish PoliceInspector GillVoice, 5 episodes
1992–1995Hearts AfireJohn HartmanLead role (54 episodes)
1993HeartbeatBill GrantTV film
The Only Way OutJeremy Carlisle
The Larry Sanders ShowHimselfEpisode: "Off Camera"
1994Dave's WorldJohn HartmanEpisode: "Please Won't You Be My Neighbor"
1995GrampsClarke MacGruderTV film
The ColonyRick Knowlton
NewsRadioDr. Frank WestfordEpisode: "The Shrink"
The Larry Sanders ShowHimselfEpisode: "The Fourteenth Floor"
1996UnforgivablePaul HegstromTV film
WingsStuart DavenportEpisode: "Love Overboard"
For HopeDate #5TV film (uncredited)
Touched by an AngelMike O'Connor / Tom McKinsley2 episodes
1997Loss of FaithBruce Simon BarkerTV Film
MercenaryJonas Ambler
A Child's WishEd Chandler
Dead Man's GunHarry McDonacleSegment: "The Great McDonacle"
Over the TopJustin TalbotEpisode: "The Nemesis"
Buffy the Vampire SlayerTed BuchananEpisode: "Ted"
1997–2004King of the HillEugene GrandyVoice, 4 episodes
1998Chance of a LifetimeTom MaguireTV film
Ally McBealGeorge Madison2 episodes
Dead HusbandsDr. Carter ElstonTV film
1999Veronica's ClosetTimEpisode: "Veronica's Favorite Year"
Holy JoeJoe CassTV film
It Came from the SkyDonald Bridges
Lethal VowsDr. David Farris
2000–2003Clifford the Big Red DogCliffordVoice, 64 episodes
2000Chicago HopeJoe DysmerskiEpisode: "Simon Sez"
Batman BeyondDr. David WheelerVoice, Episode: "The Last Resort"
Family LawFather AndrewsEpisode: "Possession is Nine Tenths of the Law"
2000–2002FelicityMr. Andrew CovingtonRecurring role (7 episodes)
2001TuckerMartyEpisode: "Homewrecker for the Holidays"
2002The Ellen ShowPercy MossEpisode: "Gathering Moss"
Law & Order: Special Victims UnitDr. Richard ManningEpisode: "Monogamy"
Breaking NewsLloyd FuchsEpisode: "Pilot"
ScrubsSam Dorian2 episodes
2002–20038 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage DaughterPaul HennessyLead role (31 episodes)

Video games

2001Clifford the Big Red Dog: Learning Activities[30]Clifford
2002Clifford the Big Red Dog: Musical Memory Games[31]
2003Clifford the Big Red Dog: Phonics[32]

Awards and honors

Daytime Emmy Awards2001Outstanding Performer in an Animated ProgramClifford the Big Red DogNominated
Emmy Awards1978Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy SeriesThree's Company
1999Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy SeriesAlly McBeal
2004Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series8 Simple Rules
Golden Globe Awards1979Best Actor in a Musical/ComedyThree's Company
1987Best Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TelevisionUnnatural CausesNominated
1988Best TV Actor in a Musical/ComedyHooperman
People's Choice Awards1988Favorite Male Performer in a New TV ProgramHoopermanWon
Screen Actors Guild1997Outstanding Performance by a CastSling 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.


Citation Linkquery.nytimes.comDouglas Martin (September 13, 2003). "John Ritter, 54, the Odd Man In 'Three's Company,' Is Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved March 17, 2008.
Sep 28, 2019, 8:03 PM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.org"Biography" John Ritter: In Good Company Air Date: October 30, 2002
Sep 28, 2019, 8:03 PM
Citation Linkwww.people.com"John Ritter: 1948–2003". people.com. September 18, 2003. p. 1.
Sep 28, 2019, 8:03 PM
Citation Linkwww.people.comGliatto, Tom (September 29, 2003). "Wonderful Company". people.com. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013.
Sep 28, 2019, 8:03 PM
Citation Linkwww.biography.comBiography.com Editors, Biography.com Editors (n.d.). "John Ritter Biography". www.biography.com. A&E Television Networks. Retrieved December 22, 2015.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
Sep 28, 2019, 8:03 PM
Citation Linkwww.people.comLipton, Michael A. (December 16, 2002). "Acting His Age". people.com. Archived from the original on November 7, 2014.
Sep 28, 2019, 8:03 PM
Citation Linkwww.emmys.com"John Ritter Emmy Nominated". Emmys.com. September 12, 2003. Retrieved December 12, 2014.
Sep 28, 2019, 8:03 PM
Citation Linkportal.issn.orgHodges, Ben; Willis, John A., eds. (November 1, 2009). Theatre World 2008–2009: The Most Complete Record of the American Theatre. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-1-4234-7369-5. ISSN 1088-4564. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
Sep 28, 2019, 8:03 PM
Citation Linkwww.usmagazine.com"Jason Ritter". Usmagazine.com. March 8, 2013. Retrieved December 12, 2014.
Sep 28, 2019, 8:03 PM
Citation Linkwww.tvguide.com"Jason Ritter Biography". Tvguide.com. Retrieved December 12, 2014.
Sep 28, 2019, 8:03 PM
Citation Linkwww.cbsnews.com"John Ritter". CBS News. Page 5 of 17. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
Sep 28, 2019, 8:03 PM
Citation Linkwww.cbsnews.com"John Ritter". CBS News. Page 10 of 17. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
Sep 28, 2019, 8:03 PM
Citation Linkwww.biography.comJohn Ritter Biography. Accessed November 13, 2014.
Sep 28, 2019, 8:03 PM
Citation Linkwww.cbsnews.com"John Ritter Legacy Lives in "Ritter Rules"". cbsnews.com. March 17, 2010.
Sep 28, 2019, 8:03 PM
Citation Linkwww.today.comConsidine, Bob (February 4, 2008). "John Ritter's widow talks about wrongful death suit". today.com.
Sep 28, 2019, 8:03 PM
Citation Linkwww.people.com"John Ritter: 1948–2003". people.com. September 18, 2003. p. 2.
Sep 28, 2019, 8:03 PM
Citation Linkwww.cbsnews.comGrace, Francie (September 16, 2003). "John Ritter's Family Says Goodbye". cbsnews.com.
Sep 28, 2019, 8:03 PM
Citation Linklosangeles.cbslocal.com"Where Celebrities Are Buried In LA". cbslocal.com. September 30, 2013.
Sep 28, 2019, 8:03 PM
Citation Linkwww.latimes.comCharles Ornstein (January 24, 2008). "Ritter's family says he didn't have to die". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on January 27, 2008. Retrieved February 29, 2008.
Sep 28, 2019, 8:03 PM
Citation Linkusatoday30.usatoday.comDeutsch, Linda (April 2, 2008). "John Ritter's family seeks $67M in medical trial". Retrieved November 7, 2014.
Sep 28, 2019, 8:03 PM