Actor Johnathan Southworth Ritter, best known under his stage name, John Ritter, was born on September 17th, 1948, in Burbank, California. Both his parents were part of the show business, as his mother was an actress and his father a country music singer and actor. He also had an older brother called Thomas. Ritter was born with a rare genetic condition in his eye which caused the pupil in his right eye to be displaced.
Ritter originally wasn’t planning on following his parents’ footsteps and becoming an actor. His idea was to make a career in politics, and went to the University of Southern California to study psychology. Ritter made his TV debut in 1966 as a contestant on The Dating Game, which he actually won. Afterwards, John was convinced to join an acting class, eventually leading him to change his major to Theater Arts. During his college years, between 1968 and 1969, he traveled to Europe and appeared in several stage plays in England, Scotland, Holland and in Germany.
Ritter’s television career started when he appeared in ABC’s drama series Dan August, and later made guest appearances in popular TV shows at the time such as Hawaii Five-O, M*A*S*H, and Medical Center, as well as securing a recurring role in historical drama The Waltons. In 1976, John was cast in his breakout role in television sitcom Three’s Company, one of his most notable roles to date. The series ran from 1977 to 1984, originating the spin-off Three’s a Crowd in 1985 in which Ritter reprised his role. For his work on the show, Ritter received a Primetime Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award. His next big TV role was as detective Harry Hooperman, in the comedy-drama Hooperman, which aired from 1987 to 1989.
Ritter’s big screen debut was in Disney’s The Barefoot Executive (1971). While starring in the popular sitcom, Ritter also appeared in several films, such as Hero at Large, Americathon, They All Laughed and voice-acted in the Flight of Dragons (1982). In the 1990s, he played one of the adult versions of the characters in horror movie It, and was also a part of black comedy film Problem Child and its sequel. Over the course of his career, Ritter acted in more than 100 film and television roles total. His final acting jobs were in the Christmas black comedy Bad Santa (2003) and as the voice of Clifford the Big Red Dog in Clifford’s Really Big Movie (2004). Ritter had been slated to make a return as the main character’s father in TV medical comedy Scrubs and had also been playing one of the lead roles in the sitcom 8 Simple Rules… for Dating My Teenage Daughter when he suddenly fell ill and subsequently passed away. At the time of his death, John Ritter had been less than a week away from his 55th birthday.