John Ritter made audiences laugh for years while starring as Jack Tripper on the ABC comedy series Three's Company. The role earned him a Golden Globe and Emmy Award, making John a regular face in the world of sitcoms and endearing him to audiences as one of the comedy greats. Though he is fondly remembered for his charming demeanor and impeccable comedic timing, he didn't really get much family support at the beginning of his acting career. His father, country music star Tex Ritter, thought that being an actor just wasn't a respectable career choice.
Tex Ritter made a name for himself in the music world by rising to fame in the 30s. He became a Country Music Hall of Fame member after first getting his start appearing in various Broadway productions and radio shows, ultimately becoming known as a singing cowboy. He apparently expected his two children with his wife Dorothy Fay to make more practical career choices. This could be because prior to his career in the arts he studied political science at the University of Texas and even entered law school at Northwestern. It's hard to say...but an interesting perspective to say the least.
When his son John switched his major to theater while attending the University of Southern California, Tex was anything but supportive. As John explained to The Ottawa Journal in 1980, his dad thought that acting was "not something a man should do with his life."
Despite his father's lack of support, John continued to pursue his dream and began landing guest appearances on popular shows like M*A*S*H, Hawaii Five-O and The Bob Newhart Show. But when his father's health started declining, it was one particular gig that convinced Tex that maybe acting wasn't as bad as he thought -- The Waltons.
"Before he died, I did tell him I can't really do anything else but act," Ritter explained.
Shortly before Tex passed away from a heart attack, he was able to admit that John's recurring role as Rev. Matthew Fordwick on The Waltons was respectable, even if he wasn't wild about the career choice. John was happy to hear any positive words from his dad about his acting after years of trying to prove himself. Sure Tex still wasn't in love with the idea, but was much more open to it than he was in years prior.
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When John became a dad himself with his first wife Nancy Morgan, he wanted to be a nurturing father for his children and support their career choices. His sons -- Jason Ritter and Tyler Ritter, ended up following in his footsteps and are currently successful actors long after their father's passing. Even his daughter, Carly, dabbled in acting a bit before settling into music.
Of course, after The Waltons, John continued landing notable roles in Hollywood. In addition to starring in Three's Company with co-stars Joyce Dewitt and Suzanne Somers, he's appeared in Problem Child, Sling Blade, Hooperman, Hearts Afire, Clifford the Big Red Dog, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and more. He even starred in his last acting role, 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter opposite Katey Sagal until he unexpectedly fell ill while filming the show on the Disney lot in Burbank, California. After suffering chest pains, it was diagnosed that John was suffering from an aortic dissection and he passed away just shy of his 55th birthday.
Survived by second-wife actress Amy Yasbeck, John's acting legacy lives on through his children. His sons are the spitting image of him, as well as their grandfather Tex!