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Actor John Ritter Dies - 2003-09-12


John Ritter, a popular American film, television and stage actor, died suddenly September 11. The 54 year-old actor collapsed Thursday on the set of his new television comedy series, suffering from a previously undetected heart problem.

For more than 25 years, John Ritter was a fixture on American television. He was known for his physical comedy style. Mr. Ritter achieved celebrity status portraying 'Jack Tripper' in the 1970s situation comedy Three's Company. His role as a hapless male sharing an apartment with two single women won him a Golden Globe, a People's Award and an Emmy.

"I did not think Three's Company was going to be anything but a one joke show. I think a lot of people tended to agree with me," he said.

But audiences loved the show. 'Three's Company' ran from 1977 to 1983, and was one of the highest rated television comedies during that time. John Ritter also enjoyed a successful career in TV movies, starring in more than 25 of them. He also landed several major roles in Hollywood films, including Billy Bob Thornton's Sling Blade.

John Ritter was born in Burbank, California in 1948. He was the son of the late country singer and actor Tex Ritter. He graduated from Hollywood High School and the University of Southern California with a degree in drama. He worked briefly as a stage actor in Europe before returning to the U.S. and launching a successful television career with roles on such hit comedies as the Mary Tyler Moore Show and MASH.

John Ritter's new television comedy, 8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter, had become the centerpiece of the ABC television network's fall lineup and had reinvigorated his career. He played the overprotective father of two teenaged daughters.

American actor John Ritter was filming an episode of the series when he collapsed on the set and died Thursday from heart failure. He would have turned 55 September 17.