Actor John Ritter dead at 54
Friday, September 12, 2003 Posted: 12:04 PM EDT (1604 GMT)
(CNN) -- Actor and comedian John Ritter, who gained stardom in the sitcom "Three's Company," died of heart failure Thursday night after collapsing on the set of his current TV series. He was 54.
Ritter was rushed from the set of the ABC series "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" to Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, after suffering from aortic dissection, an unrecognized and undetected flaw in his heart, according to a statement from his publicist Lisa Kasteler.
"Surgeons at the hospital tried to save the Emmy Award-winning actor but, sadly, were unable to do so," the statement said.
Ritter, who would have turned 55 next week, is best known for his role as Jack Tripper on the long-running television sitcom, "Three's Company," which brought him an Emmy.
He was the youngest son of Western film star and country music legend Tex Ritter, according to his biography on ABC's Web site.
He was born on September 17, 1948, and is survived by his wife, Amy Yasbeck and their daughter Stella and three children, Carly, Tyler and Jason, from his first marriage to Nancy Morgan.
WebMD.com describes an aortic dissection as "an abnormal separation of tissues within the walls of the aorta" caused by high blood pressure, family history of the condition, disease of connective tissue, or severe trauma to the chest.
"Aortic dissection results in a weakened blood vessel wall that may also rupture," the Web site says.
Ritter guest-starred on many popular television series, and was nominated for an Emmy Award for his appearance on "Ally McBeal."
Proving his versatility, he also provided the voice of Clifford on the PBS animated series "Clifford the Big Red Dog," a role for which he received two Emmy nominations.
He is best remembered for his goofy physical humor on "Three's Company," but showcased his penchant for serious acting in Billy Bob Thornton's 1996 cinematic hit, "Slingblade."
That role opened the door for future serious acting roles. He recently co-starred with Sigourney Weaver in Miramax's "Tadpole," directed by Gary Winick.
He also appeared in the independent feature "Manhood," which premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival.
Ritter will also be seen in Miramax's "Bad Santa," opposite Thornton. The film is scheduled for release on November 26.
I am so surprised by this - he was always one of my favourite actors since Three's Company.