Birth Date: September 17, 1948
Birth Place: Burbank, California
Date of Death: September 11, 2001 / Age: 53
Biography: Born Jonathan Southworth Ritter in Burbank, California, he was the son of country singer/actor Tex Ritter and former actress Dorothy Fay.
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, majored in psychology and minored in architecture.
After two years in college, he was persuaded to join a drama class given by leading drama coach and actress, Nina Foch. Ritter soon changed his major to Theater Arts, graduating in 1971 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in drama. Under Nina Foch, he studied acting with Stella Adler and the Harvey Lembeck Comedy Workshop.
Ritter went on to star in several stage performances before he was made a star by appearing in the hit TV series Three's Company in 1977, playing a single ladies man and culinary student, Jack Tripper, who lived with two female roommates. In 1978, he played Ringo Starr's manager on the television special Ringo.
After Three's Company, he appeared in a number of movies, notably Problem Child, Academy Award winning Sling Blade and Noises Off.
He starred in many made-for-TV movies and made guest appearances on TV shows such as Ally McBeal and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He also provided the voice for Clifford in the animated children's show Clifford the Big Red Dog, a role for which he received two Emmy nominations.
He also guest starred on the hit NBC show Scrubs as the father of Zach Braff's character J.D. He was to make another guest apperance but due to his death the producers changed the storyline to J.D.'s older brother Dan (played by Tom Cavanagh) visits J.D. to tell him that their father (John Ritter) passed away and help his brother cope with their father's passing. That episoide titled "My Cake" (Season 4, Ep 6) was dedicated to John Ritter, it's only ever aired twice in the US.
Ritter had two wives, actress Nancy Morgan (married 1977-divorced 1996) and actress Amy Yasbeck (married 1999-2003). Yasbeck had played his wife or love interest in the two Problem Child movies, (interestingly, as two distinct characters).
He and Morgan had three children, Carly Ritter, Tyler Ritter and Jason Ritter. He and Yasbeck had one daughter, Stella Ritter.
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 perfomances.
John Ritter won the Theatre World Award in 2001 for his performance in The Dinner Party.
In 2002, he made a TV comeback with the ABC family sitcom 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.
Ritter's final movie role was as the store manager in Bad Santa (2003), starring Billy Bob Thornton and Bernie Mac.
He became ill during a rehearsal of his TV series, 8 Simple Rules, on September 11, 2003 and died later that day at the age of 54 at a nearby hospital in Burbank, California. The cause of death was listed as an aortic dissection, the result of a previously undiagnosed congenital heart defect. He was interred at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.