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What Happened to John Ritter, Jack Tripper from Three’s Company

‘Come and knock on our door. We’ve been waiting for you’ – sang the upbeat and catchy theme song for Threes Company. The ABC sitcom – which ran for eight seasons from 1977 to 1984 – was based upon the British series Man About the House. It’s plot revolved around three single roommates; Janet Wood, played by Joyce Dewitt, Chrissy Snow, portrayed by Suzanne Somers, and John Ritter as Jack Tripper.

The series began with Tripper, a culinary student, crashing a party only to wake up in Janet and Chrissy’s bathtub. After tasting his cooking, they decide to let him be their roommate. Their prudish landlord Stanley Roper at first doesn’t approve – thinking that such a living arrangement would only lead to ‘hanky panky’. To keep the coed living situation going Jack poses as a gay man. Hijinks naturally ensue.

The series is full of hilarious slapstick humor and far-fetched farcical situations that benefited heavily from good writing and great casting. Not to discount Dewitt and Somers contributions, but Threes Company arguably wouldn’t have been such a success without John Ritter, although Billy Crystal almost landed the role instead.

Even though his story ends in tragedy, let’s take a look at Ritter’s life and career. His life was tragically cut short much too soon, but for the relatively brief period of time that he was with us, he was still able to leave his mark. And in fact, he just might have contributed something to the world far more valuable than his acting. Find out how John Ritter’s legacy is saving lives to this day by watching this whole video.

Born To Be A Star

John Ritter was born in Burbank, California on September 17, 1948. He was born with a rare condition known as a coloboma leaving him blind in his right eye but it never stopped him from chasing his dreams.

You see, he came from what some might call entertainment royalty. His father, Tex Ritter was the singing cowboy and a matinee star and his mother Dorothy Fay was also an actress. When John went to college, he had initially majored in psychology and hoped to pursue a career path in politics but after changing his major he decided to follow in his footsteps by trying his hand out on the stage. His father initially tried to persuade him otherwise but Ritter was determined to be a star.

After heading several productions he found his way on to television appearing in shows like M*A*S*H and Hawaii Five-O. He made his film debut in Disney’s The Barefoot Executive in 1971. Ritter earned his father’s approval when he landed his first recurring role as Reverend Mathew Fordwick on The Waltons which became his dad’s favorite show on TV. He left that role in 1976 to play Jack Tripper on Threes Company and just like that he had become a household name.

Ritter actually beat out 50 other people for the role, but at first, it looked unlikely that the series would ever get off the ground. The first pilot was actually thrown out and had to be revised. After Joyce DeWitt and Suze Lanier-Bramlett joined the cast, it did a little bit better than the first pilot but producers still insisted that a change be made. So, Lanier-Bramlett was cut and Suzanne Somers was brought in at the last minute to play Chrissy, the stereotypical dumb blonde.

Tripper wasn’t exactly the most coordinated chef in the world. In fact, it’s a wonder that he was trusted around a kitchen at all. But despite his clumsiness, Ritter brought a special kind of spark to his bumbling character. He was energetic, charming, innocent, and honest almost to a fault. Nobody could have played that role quite like he did. He even earned himself a Golden Globe and an Emmy for his work on that series – and rightfully so.

The sitcom was canceled in 1984 after its ratings began to drop but it had a great run. That same year, a spin-off series called Three’s a Crowd starring Mary Cadorette ran for one season. Another spin-off series called ran for two seasons from 1979 to 1980. Naturally, Ritter appeared in both series.

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And make sure you keep watching to see how John Ritter’s death – albeit tragic – wasn’t in vain.

After Threes Company

In 1982, just two years before Threes Company wrapped up, Ritter starred in his first animated film, The Flight of Dragons. In the made-for-tv movie, an evil wizard threatens to conquer the world with dark magic. Ritter played one of the human protagonists, Peter Dickinson. Despite the fact that it was a direct-to-video release, The Flight of Dragons was met with mostly positive critical response.

He followed that up by starring in the comedy-drama series Hooperman in 1987 as San Francisco police Inspector Harry Hooperman. Although it wasn’t the first comedy-drama series, it was considered the vanguard of the new genre and helped inspire the term ‘dramedy’ when critics attempted to describe it.

In 1989, he starred in Skin Deep as an alcoholic womanizing writer whose like slowly starts to fall apart. He followed that role up with Problem Child and Problem Child 2 in 1990 and 1991. The first of which was his highest-grossing film.

Ritter continued to enjoy modest success throughout the 90s. From 1992 to 1995, Ritter starred alongside Billy Bob Thornton in the sitcom Hearts Afire. The show had a great script with an equally gifted cast but failed to draw in a sizable audience. In 1994 he played Ward Nelson on North and in 1996 he reunited with Billy Bob Thornton on the set of Sling Blade. Against a budget of just $1 million, Sling Blade went on to gross over $24 million and according to Rotten Tomatoes, it was Ritter’s most critically acclaimed films.

In 2000 he landed the voice-acting role of Clifford on the popular PBS animated series Clifford the Big Red Dog.

In 1999 he married actress Amy Yasbeck at the Murphy Theatre in Wilmington, Ohio. She’s best known for playing Casey Chappel Davenport on the Sitcom Wings which aired from 1994 to 1997. She and Ritter had one daughter, Stella, in 1998.

Ritter was previously married to Nancy Morgan from 1977 to 1996. In that marriage he had three children; Jason Tyler and Carly.

8 Simple Rules and His Tragic Death

Ritter starred in 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter from 2002 until his death. On September 11, 2003, while on set, Ritter began to suffer from severe chest pains, nausea, weakness and vomiting. He was rushed to Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. Doctors initially thought that he was having a heart attack but he died hours later while in surgery. It was determined that his cause of death was aortic dissection. He was only 54 years old.

After his death, he was posthumously nominated for an Emmy for his role on 8 Simple Rules. The series continued for another 2 years after his death with Katey Sagal taking on the lead role but after the ratings went into a freefall it was canceled in 2005. It just wasn’t the same without him.

His last two films Clifford’s Really Big Movie and Bad Santa were bother dedicated in memory of him.

Ritter’s Wife Sued The Hospital

When the ER doctors first addressed his condition, they initially gave him aspirin and anticoagulants thinking that he was having a heart attack. As they prepped him for surgery, they discovered the aortic dissection. If they had caught it sooner, not only would have not given him the anticoagulants which made the bleeding worse but he would have been immediately rushed to surgery and might have actually survived.

A private funeral was held on September 15, 2003. Ritter was laid to rest at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Ritter’s widow Amy Yasbeck subsequently sued the hospital for the wrongful death of her husband. A jury cleared the doctors of blame in 2008 but she was still awarded 9.4 million dollars in an out-of-court settlement.

A Legacy That He Would Have Been Proud Of

Yasbeck went on to form the John Ritter Foundation which researches and raises awareness for thoracic aortic disease. The organization has come up with what they call the ‘Ritter Rules’ which are meant to identify the condition as quickly as possible. For each hour that aortic dissection goes untreated, a patient’s suitability decreases by 1%.

Ritter no doubt would be grateful that his death wasn’t in vain. No doubt, his death has raised awareness to the very disease that killed him and thus has saved lives. The world might remember John Ritter as a sitcom star, but the Ritter Rules may be his greatest legacy.

John Ritter was deeply loved by all those that got the opportunity to know him His co-stars often describe him as having a heart of gold. He was a family man that would gladly put the needs of his wife and family over his own.

Ritter was the kind of person that people are talking about when they describe the kind of individual who’s candle burns twice as bright but half as long.

If he was still with us today, theirs no doubt that he would have gone on to accomplish much. When he passed, it looked as if his acting career was on its second wind. Fortunately, the research that The John Ritter Foundation has done is more valuable than any film or television role. It’s strange to think about, but John Ritter is literally saving lives from the grave.

Anyways, we’ve come to the end of yet another facts-filled video. We’d love to hear from you! Do you remember John Ritter best for his television or film career? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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