About Johnathan Southworth Ritter
Johnathan Southworth "John" Ritter (September 17, 1948 – September 11, 2003) was an American actor and comedian perhaps best known for playing Jack Tripper and Paul Hennessy in the ABC sitcoms Three's Company and 8 Simple Rules respectively. Don Knotts called him the "Greatest physical comedian on the planet." 
John Ritter was born in Burbank, California, the son of Dorothy Fay (née Southworth), an actress, and singing cowboy/matinee-star Tex Ritter. He was of German heritage. He 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 headlined several stage performances before he was made a star by appearing in the hit 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 Janet remained, Chrissy left and other characters replaced her tenancy, 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 went on for one more 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 the show, he appeared in the feature films Hero at Large, Americathon, and They All Laughed. In 1978, he played Ringo Starr's manager on the television special Ringo, and in 1982, played the voice of Peter Dickinson in Flight of Dragons.
Before Three's Company, he made his film debut in The Barefoot Executive with Kurt Russell and Joe Flynn. He occasionally appeared in the first five seasons of The Waltons on CBS as the Reverend Matthew Fordwick (1972–1976). He played a disturbed soldier/patient in one episode of M*A*S*H* in 1973. He appeared in two episodes of Hawaii Five-O and in the Charles Bronson film, The Stone Killer, alongside Norman Fell. He also guest starred in one episode of The Cosby Show in 1991.
After Three's Company
After Three's Company he appeared in a number of movies, most notably Problem Child and its first sequel. He appeared in the Oscar-winning Sling Blade (almost unrecognizable as a gay, kindhearted discount store manager) and Noises Off and played the lead role in Blake Edwards' 1989 film Skin Deep. He starred with Markie Post in the early-1990s sitcom, Hearts Afire, and in the 1980s police comedy-drama Hooperman.
He starred in many made-for-TV movies, including Stephen King's It, Danielle Steel's Heartbeat with Polly Draper, and It Came From the Sky in 1999 with Yasmine Bleeth, and made guest appearances on TV shows, such as Ally McBeal, Scrubs, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Felicity. He 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 two Emmy nominations. He starred alongside kickboxing actor Olivier Gruner for the buddy cop film Mercenary.
He 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 2002, he made a TV comeback with the ABC family sitcom 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter (later retitled 8 Simple Rules following his death). His final two film appearances were as the store manager in Bad Santa (2003), starring personal friend Billy Bob Thornton and Bernie Mac, and Clifford's Really Big Movie. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6631 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood.
He married twice, first to actress Nancy Morgan (married 1977 – divorced 1996) and then to actress Amy Yasbeck (married 1999 – his death). Yasbeck had played variously his wife and 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, where 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 and Morgan had three children: Carly, Tyler, and Jason. He and Yasbeck had one daughter, Stella.
On September 11, 2003, Ritter felt ill while rehearsing scenes for the second season of 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter. He was taken across the street to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, where he died later that evening, around 10:45 pm PST. He was 54 years old, six days short of his 55th birthday. The cause of his death was an aortic dissection caused by a previously undiagnosed congenital heart defect. His father had died of a heart attack almost thirty years earlier. Years later, Ritter's widow Amy Yasbeck testified in court that he had concerns for his own health because of the cause of his father's death. Ritter was interred at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles. His mother died less than two months later.
Following his death, Yasbeck filed a $67 million wrongful death suit against radiologist Dr. Matthew Lotysch and cardiologist Dr. Joseph Lee. She accused Lee, who treated Ritter on the day of his death, misdiagnosed his condition as a heart attack, and Lotysch, who had given him a full-body scan two years earlier, failed at that time to detect an enlargement of Ritter's aorta. "Both sides agree that his true condition -- an aortic dissection, which is a tear in the largest blood vessel in the body -- was not identified until right before his death." The trial began on February 11, 2008, in Los Angeles County Superior Court. On March 14, 2008, the defendants were found not responsible for Ritter's death by a jury vote of 9–3. The family already has received more than $14 million in settlements, according to court records, including $9.4 million from Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, where he died.
Response and legacy
8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter was later retitled 8 Simple Rules following Ritter's death and continued for two more seasons until its cancellation on April 15, 2005. Ritter's character, Paul Hennessy, was said that he died after collapsing in a grocery store while buying milk. ABC aired the first three episodes of the second season that had been taped before his death. The remainder of the show dealt with the family trying to grapple with their patriarch's death. New male characters, played by James Garner and David Spade, were later added as the main cast. Shortly before his death, Hollywood Squares did a week-long taping with Ritter, which was aired as a tribute to him, introduced by Henry Winkler, the executive producer of the show and very close friend.
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. His last 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 the public about aortic dissection so they can reduce their risk of the same kind of tragedy that took the life of Ritter.
Year Film Role Notes
1971 The Barefoot Executive Roger
Scandalous John Wandell
1972 The Other Rider
1973 The Stone Killer Officer Mort
1976 Nickelodeon Franklin Frank
1978 Breakfast in Bed Paul
1979 Americathon President Chet Roosevelt
1980 Hero at Large Steve Nichols
Wholly Moses! Satan (The Devil)
1981 They All Laughed Charles Rutledge
1982 The Flight of Dragons Peter Dickenson Voice
1986 A Smoky Mountain Christmas Judge Harold Benton (uncredited)
1987 Real Men Bob Wilson/Agent Pillbox, CIA
1989 Skin Deep Zachary 'Zach' Hutton
1990 Problem Child 'Little' Ben Healy
1991 The Real Story of O Christmas Tree Piney Voice
Problem Child 2 Ben Healy
1992 Noises Off Garry Lejeune/Roger Tramplemain
Stay Tuned Roy Knable
1993 Danielle Steel's Heartbeat Bill Grant
1994 North Ward Nelson
1995 The Colony Rick Knowlton
1996 Sling Blade Vaughan Cunningham
1997 Nowhere Moses Helper
A Gun, a Car, a Blonde Duncan/The Bartender
1998 Montana Dr. Wexler
Shadow of Doubt Steven Mayer
I Woke Up Early the Day I Died Robert Forrest
Bride of Chucky Police Chief Warren Kincaid
2000 Panic Dr. Josh Parks
Lost in the Perishing Point Hotel Christian Therapist
Tripfall Tom Williams
Terror Tract Bob Carter Segment: Make Me an Offer
2001 Nuncrackers Narrator Direct-to-video
2002 Tadpole Stanley Grubman
Man of the Year Bill
2003 Manhood Eli
Bad Santa Bob Chipeska Posthumously Released
2004 Clifford's Really Big Movie Clifford the Big Red Dog Voice
2006 Stanley's Dinosaur Round-Up Great Uncle Stew Voice
Year Show Role Notes
1968 Crazy World, Crazy People Various Characters TV special
1970 Dan August Episode: "Quadrangle for Death"
1971, 1977 Hawaii Five-O Ryan Moore
Mike Welles Episodes: "Two Doves and Mr. Heron"
1972–1976 The Waltons Rev. Matthew Fordwick 18 episodes
1973 Medical Center Ronnie Episode: "End of the Line"
Bachelor-at-Law Ben Sykes Unsold CBS TV pilot
M*A*S*H Pvt. Carter Episode: "Deal Me Out"
1974 Kojak Kenny Soames Episode: "Deliver Us Some Evil"
Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law Greg Episode: "To Keep and Bear Arms"
The Bob Newhart Show Dave Episode: "Sorry, Wrong Mother"
1975 Movin' On Casey Episode: "Landslide"
Mannix Cliff Elgin Episode: "Hardball"
The Bob Crane Show Hornbeck Episode: "Son of the Campus Capers"
Petrocelli John Oleson Episode: "Chain of Command"
Barnaby Jones Joe Rockwell Episode: "The Price of Terror"
The Streets of San Francisco John 'Johnny' Steiner Episode: "Murder by Proxy"
The Night That Panicked America Walter Wingate ABC TV film
The Mary Tyler Moore Show Reverend Chatfield Episode: "Ted's Wedding"
The Rookies Hap Dawson Episode: "Reluctant Hero"
1975, 1976 Rhoda Vince Mazuma
Jerry Blocker Episodes: "Chest Pains"
"Attack on Mr. Right"
1976 Starsky and Hutch Tom Cole Episode: "The Hostages"
Phyllis Paul Jameson Episode: "The New Job"
1976–1984 Three's Company Jack Tripper 174 episodes
1977 , 1983 The Love Boat Dale Riley/Reinhardt
Episodes: "A Oh Dale..."
1978 Ringo Marty TV film
Leave Yesterday Behind Paul Stallings ABC TV film
1979 The Ropers Jack Tripper Episode: "The Party"
1980 The Associates Chick Episode: "The Censors"
The Comeback Kid Bubba Newman ABC TV film
1981 Insight Frankie Episode: "Little Miseries"
1982 Pray TV Tom McPherson ABC TV film
In Love with an Older Woman Robert CBS TV film
1983 Sunset Limousine Alan O'Black CBS TV film
1984 Love Thy Neighbor Danny Loeb ABC TV film
Pryor's Place Episode: "The Showoff"
1984–1985 Three's a Crowd Jack Tripper 22 episodes
1985 Letting Go Alex ABC TV film
1986 Living Seas Host NBC TV film
Unnatural Causes Frank Coleman NBC TV film
A Smoky Mountain Christmas Judge Harold Benton ABC film
Life With Lucy Himself Guest Appearance
1987 The Last Fling Phillip Reed ABC TV film
Prison for Children David Royce CBS TV film
1987–1989 Hooperman Det. Harry Hooperman 42 episodes
1988 Mickey's 60th Birthday Dudley Goode TV special
Tricks of the Trade Donald Todsen Cameo
CBS TV film
1989 My Brother's Wife Barney ABC TV film
1990 Stephen King's It Adult Ben 'Haystack' Hanscom ABC TV film
The Dreamer of Oz: The L. Frank Baum Story L. Frank Baum NBC TV film
1991 The Cosby Show Ray Evans Episode: "Total Control"
The Summer My Father Grew Up Paul NBC TV film
Anything But Love Patrick Serreau Episodes: "Say it Again, Han"
"Stop Me Before I...Again (1)"
"Stop Me Before I...Again (2)"
1992 Fish Police Inspector Gill Voice
1992–1994 Hearts Afire John Hartman 54 episodes
1993 Heartbeat Bill Grant NBC TV film
The Only Way Out Jeremy Carlisle ABC TV film
1994 Dave's World John Hartman Episode: "Please Won't You Be My Neighbor"
1995 Gramps Clarke MacGruder NBC TV film
The Colony Rick Knowlton TV film
NewsRadio Dr. Frank Westford Episode: "The Shrink"
1996 Totally Animals Host TV special
Unforgivable Paul Hegstrom CBS TV film
Wings Stuart Davenport Episode: "Love Overboard"
For Hope Date #5 uncredited
ABC TV film
The World's Greatest Magic III Host TV special
1996, 1999 Touched by an Angel Mike O'Connor
Tom McKinsley Episodes: "Random Acts"
"Black Like Monica"
1997 Loss of Faith Bruce Simon Barker TV film
Mercenary Jonas Ambler HBO TV film
A Child's Wish Ed Chandler CBS TV film
Dead Man's Gun Harry McDonacle Segment: "The Great McDonacle"
Over the Top Justin Talbot Episode: "The Nemesis"
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Ted Buchanan Episode: "Ted"
The World's Greatest Magic IV Host TV special
1997, 2000, 2003 King of the Hill Eugene Grandy Episodes: "The Son that Got Away"
"What Makes Bobby Run?"
"The Witches of East Arlen"
"Stressed for Success"
1998 Chance of a Lifetime Tom Maguire CBS TV film
Ally McBeal George Madison Episode: "It's My Party"
"The Story of Love"
The World's Greatest Magic V Host TV special
Dead Husbands Dr. Carter Elston TV film
1999 Veronica's Closet Tim Episode: "Veronica's Favorite Year"
Holy Joe Joe Cass CBS TV film
It Came from the Sky Donald Bridges TV film
Lethal Vows Dr. David Farris CBS TV film
2000 Chicago Hope Joe Dysmerski Episode: "Simon Sez"
Batman Beyond Dr. David Wheeler Voice
Episode: "The Last Resort"
Family Law Father Andrews Episode: "Possession is Nine Tenths of the Law"
2000-2003 Hollywood Squares Himself Guest panelist until 2002, when he became a regular panelist.
2000-2003 Clifford the Big Red Dog Clifford Voice
2000, 2001, 2002 Felicity Mr. Andrew Covington 7 episodes
2001 Tucker Marty Episode: "Homewrecker for the Holidays"
2002 The Ellen Show Percy Moss Episode: "Gathering Moss"
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Dr. Richard Manning Episode: "Monogamy"
Breaking News Lloyd Fuchs Episode: "Pilot"
Scrubs Sam Dorian Episodes: "My Old Man"
"My Lucky Day"
2002–2003 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter Paul Hennessey 31 episodes
Awards and nominations
1997: Nominated, "Best Supporting Actor" – Sling Blade
DVD Exclusive Awards
2003: Nominated, "Best Audio Commentary, Library Release" – High Noon (shared w/Maria Copper & Tim Zinnemann)
Daytime Emmy Awards
2001: Nominated, "Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program" – Clifford the Big Red Dog
2002: Nominated, "Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program" – Clifford the Big Red Dog
2003: Nominated, "Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program" – Clifford the Big Red Dog
2004: Nominated, "Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program" – Clifford the Big Red Dog
1978: Nominated, "Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series" – Three's Company
1981: Nominated, "Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series" – Three's Company
1984: Won, "Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series" – Three's Company
1988: Nominated, "Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series" – Hooperman
1999: Nominated, "Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series" – Ally McBeal
2004: Nominated, "Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series" – 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter
Golden Globe Awards
1979: Nominated, "Best TV Actor in a Musical/Comedy" – Three's Company
1980: Nominated, "Best TV Actor in a Musical/Comedy" – Three's Company
1984: Won, "Best TV Actor in a Musical/Comedy" – Three's Company
1987: Nominated, "Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television" – Unnatural Causes
1988: Nominated, "Best TV Actor in a Musical/Comedy" – Hooperman
People's Choice Awards
1988: Won, "Favorite Male Performer in a New TV Program" – Hooperman
Screen Actors Guild Awards
1997: Nominated, "Outstanding Performance by a Cast" – Sling Blade (shared w/co-stars)
Hollywood Walk of Fame
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.
John Ritter played the role of "Dad" in the music video of "Innocent Eyes" by Graham Nash released off the album of the same name in 1986. The video centres around the theme of eternal youth and the characters proceed to dance at a Graham Nash concert.