Thelma Ritter and John Ritter are two famous actors who share the same last name. But are they related by blood or marriage? The answer is no. They are not associated with each other in any way, except for being in the same industry. Both of them had successful careers in film and television, and both of them left a lasting impression on their fans and peers. Let’s take a look at their lives and achievements.
Thelma Ritter: The Queen of Character Actors
Thelma Ritter was born on February 14, 1902, in Brooklyn, New York. She was the daughter of Charles and Lucy Ritter, both natives of the United States Her father was a bookkeeper and later an office manager for a shore company She had a passion for acting since she was a child, and performed in high school plays and stock companies. She later received formal training at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (ADA)
She married Joseph Moran, an actor who later became an agent and an advertising executive, in 1927. They had two children, Monica and Joe. Thelma took a break from her acting career to raise her family, but returned to the stage in the 1940s. She made her Broadway debut in 1941, in a play called The Shelf
Her film career began with a small but memorable role in Miracle on 34th Street (1947), where she played a frustrated mother who couldn’t find the toy that Kris Kringle promised her son. She was not credited for this part, but it caught the attention of producer Darryl F. Zanuck, who expanded her role
She went on to appear in many films, often playing witty and sarcastic characters with a strong New York accent. She worked with some of the most acclaimed directors and stars of her time, such as Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Alfred Hitchcock, Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, James Stewart, Rock Hudson, and Doris Day. Some of her most notable films include A Letter to Three Wives (1949), All About Eve (1950), The Mating Season (1951), With a Song in My Heart (1952), Pickup on South Street (1953), Rear Window (1954), Pillow Talk (1959), Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), and How the West Was Won (1962)
She received six Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress, more than any other actress in that category. However, she never won the Oscar. She did win a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 1958, for her performance in New Girl in Town, which she shared with her co-star Gwen Verdon. She also received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 1956, for her role in Goodyear Television Playhouse
She died of a heart attack on February 5, 1969, in New York City. She was 66 years old. Her last film was The Incident (1967), and her last TV appearance was on The Jerry Lewis Show (1968). She is remembered as one of the finest character actors of all time, who could make any role memorable with her talent and charisma.
John Ritter: The Master of Physical Comedy
John Ritter was born on September 17, 1948, in Burbank, California. He was the son of Tex Ritter, a famous country singer and actor, and Dorothy Fay, an actress He had an older brother, Tom, who had cerebral palsy. He grew up surrounded by show business, but he did not have any aspirations to follow his parents’ footsteps until he was in college.
He attended Hollywood High School, where he was student body president. He then enrolled at the University of Southern California, where he majored in Psychology and minored in Architecture. He planned to have a career in politics, but he changed his mind after taking an acting class taught by Nina Foch. He switched his major to Theater Arts and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Drama in 1971. He also studied acting with Stella Adler at the Harvey Lembeck Comedy Workshop.
He made his TV debut as a contestant on The Dating Game (1965) in 1966, where he won a vacation to Lake Havasu, Arizona. His first acting role was as a campus revolutionary on Dan August (1970), which starred Burt Reynolds and Norman Fell. He also appeared as Reverend Matthew Fordwick on The Waltons (1972). He made guest appearances on many popular shows, such as Medical Center (1969), MAS*H (1972), The Bob Newhart Show (1972), The Streets of San Francisco (1972), Kojak (1973), Rhoda (1974), and The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970).
He made his film debut in the Disney comedy The Barefoot Executive (1971), and went on to star in other movies, such as Nickelodeon (1976), Breakfast in Bed (1977), Americathon (1979), Hero at Large (1980), They All Laughed (1981), and Real Men (1987).
However, he is best known for his role as Jack Tripper on the hit sitcom Three’s Company (1976), which was based on the British show Man About the House (1973). He beat out 50 other actors, including Billy Crystal, for the part. He played a chef who pretended to be gay in order to share an apartment with two attractive women, played by Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers. He was famous for his physical comedy, which involved falling, tripping, and making funny faces. He won a Primetime Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award for his performance in 1984. He also reprised his role on the spin-off Three’s a Crowd (1984), which lasted for one season.
He continued to work on TV and film after Three’s Company ended in 1984. He formed his own production company, Adam Productions, and produced and starred in various TV movies and specials, such as Hooperman (1987), The Dreamer of Oz: The L. Frank Baum Story (1990), It Came from the Sky (1999), and Manhood (2003). He also voiced the title character on the animated series Clifford the Big Red Dog (2000), for which he received four Daytime Emmy Award nominations.
His last TV role was as Paul Hennessy on the sitcom 8 Simple Rules (2002), which was based on the book by W. Bruce Cameron. He played a father of three teenagers who tried to cope with their dating lives. He co-starred with Katey Sagal, Kaley Cuoco, Amy Davidson, and Martin Spanjers.
He died of an aortic dissection on September 11, 2003, in Burbank, California. He was 54 years old. He collapsed while rehearsing for an episode of 8 Simple Rules, and was taken to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, where he underwent surgery but did not survive. His death was a shock to his family, friends, colleagues, and fans. He was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, California. His last film was Bad Santa (2003), which was dedicated to his memory.
He was married twice and had four children. His first wife was Nancy Morgan, an actress whom he married in 1977 and divorced in 1996. They had three children: Jason Ritter, Carly Ritter, and Tyler Ritter, all of whom are actors. His second wife was Amy Yasbeck, an actress whom he married in 1999 and remained married until his death. They had one daughter: Stella Ritter, who is also an actress.
He is remembered as one of the greatest physical comedians of all time, who could make anyone laugh with his charm and energy.
Thelma Ritter and John Ritter were two talented actors who shared a common surname but not a common ancestry. They both had remarkable careers in film and television, and they both left behind a legacy of laughter and love. They are not related by blood or marriage, but they are related by their passion for acting and their ability to entertain millions of people with their performances.