Three's Company Wiki
John Ritter
John Ritter.jpg
John Ritter played the part of Jack Tripper on Three's Company and its spinoff, Three's a Crowd.
Personal Information
Gender: Male
Nationality American
Ethnicity Caucasian
Hair color: Brown
Birth name: Johnathan Southworth Ritter[1]
Born: (1948-09-17)17 September 1948
Birthplace: Burbank, California
Died 11 September 2003(2003-09-11) (aged 54)
Deathplace: Burbank, California
Career/Family Information
Years active: 1967 to 2003, his death
Related to: Tex Ritter (1905-1974, father)
Fay Southworth (1918-2003, actress, mother)
Spouse(s): Nancy Morgan (actress, 1977-1996, divorced)
Amy Yasbeck (actress, 1999-2003, his death)
Children: 3, With Nancy Morgan:
Jason Ritter (born 1980, actor, son)
Tyler Ritter (born 1985, actor, son)
Carly Ritter (daughter, born 1982)
With Amy Yasbeck:
Stella Ritter (daughter, born 1998)
Character information
Appeared on: Three's Company (1977-84)
Three's a Crowd (1984-85)
Character played: Jack Tripper, on both series
Episode appearances: Three's Company: 172 episodes, Three's a Crowd; 22 episodes
Three's Company Script.png

Jonathan Southworth "John" Ritter (17 September 1948 – 11 September 2003) was an American actor. Ritter was best known for playing Jack Tripper on the hit ABC-TV sitcom Three's Company, for which he won an Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy in 1984, and its spinoff, Three's a Crowd. Don Knotts called Ritter the "greatest physical comedian on the planet".[2]

Early Life

Ritter was born in Burbank, California. His father, Tex Ritter, was a singing cowboy/matinee-star of German American descent, and his mother, Dorothy Fay (née Southworth), was an actress. Ritter 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. In 1967, Ritter was a contestant on The Dating Game.

While still in college, Ritter traveled to England, Scotland, Holland, and West Germany to perform in plays. 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 Norman Fell. In 1971, Ritter landed his first movie role in The Barefoot Executive. Ritter made guest appearances on the television series Hawaii Five-O, M*A*S*H and others. Ritter had a recurring role on the drama series The Waltons from 26 October 1972, to 23 December 1976, as Reverend Matthew Fordwick. Ritter appeared on a total of e3ighteen episodes. As he was not a weekly cast member, he had the time to pursue other roles, which he did until December 1976, when he left for a permanent role on Three's Company.


John headlined several stage performances before he was made a star by appearing in the hit ABC-TV 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 the character of Janet remained, Somers was fired and other characters replaced her, 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. John continued in the Jack Tripper role 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 Three's Company, Ritter appeared in the films Hero at Large, Americathon, and They All Laughed.

In 1978, Ritter played Ringo Starr's manager on the television special Ringo, and in 1982, provided the voice of Peter Dickinson in Flight of Dragons. Hooperman was Ritter's first acting role after Three's Company. In the show, he played Detective Harry Hooperman who inherits a run down apartment building. He hires Susan Smith (Debrah Farentino). A relationship follows and Hooperman must juggle work, love, plus the antics of Bijoux the dog. John was nominated for both an Emmy[3] and a Golden Globe for his work on Hooperman in 1988. Ritter won a People's Choice Award for this role. In 1992-95, Ritter returned to TV for three seasons as John Hartman, aide to the Senator in the CBS-TV sitcom series Hearts Afire. This series co-starred actress Markie Post (of The Fall Guy and Night Court fame) as Georgie Anne Lahti and Billy Bob Thornton as Billy Bob Davis. Ritter played the role of "Dad" in the music video Graham Nash's song "Innocent Eyes" from the 1996 album of the same name.

After his time on TV Ritter appeared in a number of movies, most notably Problem Child and its first sequel, Problem Child 2. He appeared in the Academy Award-winning Sling Blade (playing a gay, kindhearted discount store manager) and Noises Off and played the lead role in Blake Edwards' 1989 film Skin Deep. 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, and made guest appearances on TV shows, such as the WB network series Felicity, FOX-TV's Ally McBeal, ABC-TV's Scrubs, Buffy the Vampire Slayer as well as an episode of Law & Order: SVU.

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 two Emmy nominations. He starred alongside kickboxing actor Olivier Gruner for the buddy cop film Mercenary. 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 three hundred and sixty-four performances. Ritter won the Theatre World Award in 2001 for his performance in that work.

Personal Life

In 1977, Ritter married actress Nancy Morgan, with whom he had three children: Jason, Carly, and Tyler. They divorced in 1996.[4] He married actress Amy Yasbeck September 18, 1999.[5] He and Yasbeck had one daughter, Stella, born in 1998, a year before they were married. Yasbeck had variously 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, the popular NBC-TV series Wings, as the estranged husband of Yasbeck's character, Casey. In 2002 he starred in 8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter along with Kaley Cuoco and Katy Sagal. He starred in that series until his death.


On 11 September 2003, Ritter fell ill while rehearsing scenes for the second season of 8 Simple Rules. Ritter was taken across the street to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, where he died later that evening, at approximately 10:45 pm PST from an aortic dissection caused by a previously undiagnosed congenital heart defect. He died six days before his 55th birthday.

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 expressed immense despair for Ritter's family, "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 dad. [6] Katey Sagal testified in the wrongful death lawsuit, calling Ritter a "funny man who was funny like nobody's business".[7]

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 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. The remainder of the show dealt with the family's 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 replacement. Shortly before his death, Ritter did 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 that were dedicated to his memory.[8]

In 2004, Ritter was posthumously given an Emmy Award 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.[9] 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 following Ritter's real life death) and the FOX animated series King of the Hill, were dedicated in his memory.[10]

On 6 June 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 [11]. The purpose of the charity is to help raise awareness among all of the public about aortic dissection so they can reduce their risk of the same kind of tragedy that took the life of Ritter. Yasbeck has worked with the University of Texas Medical School at Houston Team, identifying genes that may lead to an aortic aneurysm, which are collected by a saliva sample along with many other samples. All four of Ritter's children are included in the study.[12]


  1. Douglas Martin. "John Ritter, 54, the Odd Man In 'Three's Company,' Is Dead", 13 September 2003. Retrieved on 2008-03-17. 
  2. "Biography" John Ritter: In Good Company Air Date: 30 October 2002
  3. John Ritter Emmy Nominated
  4. "John Ritter". CBS News. Page 5 of 17. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  5. "John Ritter". CBS News. Page 10 of 17. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  7. Hammel, Sara. Katey Sagal Testifies in John Ritter's Wrongful Death Trial. People.
  8. Jen Chung. "Three's Company Marathon", Gothamist, 2003-09-15. Retrieved on 2012-09-16. 
  9. Angels, Sopranos Win Big At Emmys, by Tim Lammers for KGTV-TV (, accessed February 9, 2008, 2004-09-20, archived link: [1] (2008-02-21) Quote: "I'd like to take a minute to pay respect to John Ritter and his family", Grammer said the actor who received a posthumous nomination in the category. "He was a terrific guy and his death was a shock to all of us. He will be missed not only for his kindness, but for his work."
  10. Louise Kennedy. "Clifford's 'Big Movie' will charm his small TV fans", 2004-04-23. Retrieved on 2008-02-29. “...Clifford (voiced, as on TV, by the late John Ritter, to whom the movie is fittingly dedicated)...” 
  11. Ritter Rules HTML at the TAD Coalition website
  12. THE NATION; John Ritter's Death Shocks Fans, Stymies ABC's Hopes, by James Bates and Richard Verrier for PQ, September 13, 2003, accessed December 6, 2012.

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