The information contained on this page has been compiled from various sources and has not been authorised or verified by Mr Ritter. but he approved this website, so hopefully it is relatively accurate. It is a sincere attempt to give as much background information as possible about one of the most talented, versatile and BELOVED actors of the last 30+ years...things which only seem to have become apparent to many people since his tragic death on 11 September 2003.
BIOGRAPHY OF JOHN RITTER
JOHN WAS A 'VIRGO' AND CELEBRATED HIS 54th BIRTHDAY IN 2002
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On 17 September 1948 in Burbank, California USA, legendary country singing star/actor Tex Ritter and his wife, Dorothy Fay (nee Southworth) celebrated the arrival of their second son Johnathan Southworth Ritter. Since their firstborn, Tom, did not follow his father into showbusiness but instead became an attorney, Tex and Dorothy had no way of knowing that little Johnathan would one day be a famous TV and movie actor known to audiences simply as John Ritter.
With her husband's long-held connections with country music, Dorothy Fay Ritter became the official 'greeter' at The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, and both John and his brother visit often. Since 1977 the brothers have hosted the annual United Cerebral Palsy Telethon (a neurological condition particularly close to their hearts because of Tom's triumph over the disability) and have raised millions of dollars for the organisation over the years.
Tex Ritter did not want his son to become an actor and, at first, John did his best to comply with his father's wishes. He was educated at Hollywood High School, where he served as student body President, and then went on to the University of Southern California where he majored in Psychology and minored in Architecture. After 2 years, he was persuaded (by a cute girl!) to join a drama class given by leading drama coach and actress Nina Foch. The lure of the 'greasepaint' beckoned and John changed his major to Theater Arts, graduating in 1971 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in drama. As well as Nina Foch, he studied acting with Stella Adler and the Harvey Lembeck Comedy Workshop.
In 1968 and '69 John appeared in several stage performances in England, Scotland (at the Edinburgh Festival), Holland and Germany, in such works as Love Letters, The Unvarnished Truth, The Glass Menagerie, Forty Carats, Butterflies Are Free, As You Like It, The Tempest, Nevada, Who's Happy Now? and Desire Under The Elms. Fortunately, Tex Ritter was entertaining troops in Germany at the same time as his son was performing at an air base there. He recognised that 'something special' in John and gave him his blessing to go into acting if that was what he really wanted. Sadly, Mr Ritter Snr. died in 1974 before his son achieved the celebrity status that arrived in 1977 with the TV series Three's Company. His movie debut was in 1971 with "The Barefoot Executive".
Although there were guest appearances in several television shows which obviously impressed TV moguls (e.g. 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' (1970), 'Dan August' (1970), 'Hawaii Five-O' (1971 & '77), 'The Streets of San Francisco' (1972), 'The Love Boat', 'M.A.S.H.' and 'Kojak' (both in 1973) and a regular spot in 'The Waltons' (1972-6 : his father's favourite show), it was "Three's Company" that launched John into the kind of TV superstardom from which he has never looked back. In addition to guesting on all the major TV shows he has hosted many others, including a comedy special for ABC entitled "John Ritter: Being of Sound Mind and Body", a CBS special, "The Secret World of the Very Young", a series of sixty-second vignettes for syndication called "History in the Company of Children", the last 3 years of "The World's Greatest Magic Show", "Amazing Animals","The History of Toys and Games", "TV Road Trip" etc. etc.. He formed his own production company, Adam Productions, in 1984, and this has been responsible for his own starring vehicle "Hooperman" as well as series for other actors, one of which starred Jamie Lee Curtis "Anything But Love" and John guest-starred in 5 episodes and looked devastatingly handsome in a kilt!
He has also appeared in instructional videos including 'Natural Childbirth' (with his first wife,Nancy Morgan), and 'The American Red Cross Emergency Test'. It's almost impossible to keep up with everything this energetic actor has done. As if acting, producing and hosting wasn't enough, he has also performed on several audio books: "Flight of the Reindeer", "Jack and the Beanstalk", "Oh Christmas Tree", "White Fang", at least 3 of humorist Dave Barry's works, i.e. "Guide to Guys", "Funniest Stuff", "More Funniest Stuff", all of which are hilarious, and, in 2002, "Stargirl".
It was towards the end of the 1970's that he met actress Nancy Morgan, the lady who became his wife for 19 years and with whom he had 3 children; sons Jason (now an actor in his own right) and Tyler and daughter Carly. John and Nancy appeared on screen several times together e.g. 'Tricks of the Trade' (1988), 'Americathon' (1979), 'Heartbeat' (1993) and an episode of 'Hooperman' (1988) but sadly divorced in 1996.
While he has tended to stay primarily in the medium of television rather than motion pictures, he was as much in demand on the day he died as he was back in his 'apartment-sharing' days. He was considered an American icon, a staple in television; someone who could always be relied on to give a terrific performance and lift any show because audiences loved him. According to the IMDb, he completed 10 movies in 1998; several TV guest-starring roles, including the highly acclaimed "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (in which his role as 'Ted' the android gave the episode its highest viewing audience of the season at the time) and "Ally McBeal" (for which he was nominated for an Emmy award in 1999); and, after what must have been a difficult time for a while, his private life became happy again - John's then fiancee, actress Amy Yasbeck gave birth to their baby daughter (Stella) in on 11 September 1998, and John and Amy were married on 18 September 1999, the day after his 51st birthday.
JOHN AND AMY AT THE SATURN AWARDS '98 or '99
In 1999 John guest-starred in a further episode of "Touched By an Angel" and "Chicago Hope", and in 2000 an episode of "Family Law". He also completed several films, a new pilot for TNT "Breaking News", appeared on stage in Washington DC in "The Dinner Party" (following its world premiere in LA in the fall of '99), taking it to New York on Broadway in 2000 for a highly successful nine months, and voiced the main character in a new animated childrens' series called "Clifford, The Big Red Dog", for which he was nominated for 2 consecutive years for a Daytime Emmy award. He appeared on stage in the play "J for J" at two separate Los Angeles venues, winning critical aclaim for his brilliant portrayal of a mentally challenged man. Further TV roles have been in "Felicity", "Law and Order; Special Victims Unit" and "Scrubs" and has made several appearances on "Hollywood Squares". 2002 movies are "Tadpole", "Manhood" and "Man of the Year" a highly innovative film in which none of the actors had a formal script, so it follows that only the most talented peformers were chosen; John has the starring/title role...need I say more?! He also finally agreed to an A&E Biography (thank God he did) and this aired, I believe, in early 2003.
Perhaps the most exciting recent (2002) project for John's multitude of fans is his new starring role in the ABC sitcom, "Eight Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter". The show was a huge success for the network and the cast, winning 2 awards in 2003 before John's sudden, tragic death. A new series had been commissioned and he had actually filmed 3 new episodes and was filming the fourth on 11 September 2003 when he collapsed on set and died later that evening from a dissected aorta. Tributes poured in from friends, colleagues and fans, and in fact, continue to pour in to the websites and condolence books on-line everywhere. A private, family funeral was followed in October by a huge tribute service with 1,000 invited guests at El Capitan theater in Los Angeles. Frankly it is hard to imagine a greater outpouring of grief even for an A-list movie star. The old adage "you never know how much someone means to you until you lose them" seems particularly apt in this case, since it's a phrase that has been repeated over and over. People thought John would always be there...
John's widow, Amy Yasbeck, bravely appeared on TV on 23 October to be interviewed by Diane Sawyer. She spoke poignantly of her happiness with her "wonderful husband" and his last day.
Note: In 1987 John was also nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in the excellent TV movie, "Unnatural Causes", and in 1988 he received nominations for both a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award for his performance in "Hooperman". In July 1999 he was nominated for an Emmy award as "Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series" (Ally McBeal) and in 2001 and 2002 he was nominated for his voice-over work as the title character in the animated childrens' series "Clifford, The Big Red Dog".
Tragically, John died suddenly on 11 September 2003 and the entertainment world lost one of it's most precious and beloved talents. He will live forever in the hearts of his family, friends and fans.
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