Friday, December 21, 2012

31 Performances Ripe for Rediscovery (11) John Ritter in THEY ALL LAUGHED (1981)


Despite the fact that his career on screen, stage and television stretched over five decades and brought him many great comedic and dramatic roles, the much-missed John Ritter will always be primarily known for his brilliantly funny portrayal of Jack Tripper on the legendary sitcom Three's Company.  If you are perhaps only aware of Ritter's work as Tripper, please consider his wonderfully warm and witty performance as Detective Charles Rutledge in Peter Bogdanovich's stunning They All Laughed, one of the great films of the eighties.  


John Ritter was in his early thirties when he appeared in Bogdanovich's greatest film and he was at the absolute peak of his artistic powers.  A brilliant physical comedian who would have been right at home in any of the classic American screwball comedies he grew up with, John Ritter was an absolute force to be reckoned with and his work in They All Laughed is incredibly sublime...especially in his scenes with the heartbreaking Dorothy Stratten, whose haunting performance could have appeared on this list as well.  


While They All Laughed has one of the best ensemble casts imaginable, I feel like the film ultimately belongs to John Ritter and Dorothy Stratten. Watching it today operates as a reminder that Ritter was a real national treasure, and one of our last great physical comedians. He is so funny and touching in this part and it is just a joy to watch. Stratten amazingly matches him every step of the way. Instead of looking inexperienced, under Bogdanovich's direction she gives an assured and warm performance that shows clearly she could have become a huge star. Watching the scenes with Ritter and Stratten today, as both are no longer with us, in a city that has also changed drastically since is incredibly moving. They All Laughed is, in a way, the funniest tragic movie ever made.

If you've never had the pleasure of watching They All Laughed please do so as soon as possible as it is a really special work and it contains the best performance that John Ritter, a really wonderful actor, left us.  When we lost John Ritter nearly a decade ago we lost one of the absolute heavyweights and he will always be greatly missed.  

-Jeremy Richey, 2012-


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