John Ritter's dad rejected his acting until he took this ''respectable'' role on The Waltons
Country singer Tex Ritter just didn't see acting as something any man should do with his life.
Country Music Hall of Famer Tex Ritter performed his Oscar-winning song that he wrote specifically for the movie High Noon at the very first televised Academy Awards ceremony in 1953.
It was undoubtedly a high point in his career, but if you asked the man what he thought about actors like High Noon star Gary Cooper, the country singer would tell you that seeing any man choose to be acting was some pretty silly stuff.
As his son, actor John Ritter, told The Ottawa Journal in 1980, his dad was the kind of guy who thought acting was "not something a man should do with his life."
That, of course, was a problem for John, who startled Tex when in college he abruptly switched his psychology major to acting in 1968.
Tex didn't understand why John didn't want a respectable career like his brother, who'd become a successful lawyer. John saw acting as respectable, but he didn't have the guts to tell his dad that. Of course, Tex was being rather hypocritical, considering he had appeared in more than 70 movies, mostly Westerns, mostly in the 1930s and 1940s. John stuck up for his decision.
"I knew already what acting could be," John said. "It was the second oldest profession in the world. It's a celebration of the human spirit. It's an invisible golden thread of humanity."
For the next six years, John pushed his dad's feelings aside and refined his acting skills without his dad's approval, first on stages in Southern California, and then in bit TV and movie roles starting in 1970 and including appearances on hugely popular shows like M*A*S*H.
At that time, Tex's health started declining and in 1974, John went to see his dad before his 69th birthday. Soon after, Tex would have a heart attack and die suddenly (believed to have the same condition that later also led to John's untimely death), but not before this long-overdue talk with his youngest son.
"Before he died, I did tell him I can't really do anything else but act," Ritter said.
Fortunately, by then, Tex was willing to look at his son's acting career a little differently. During that visit, what really helped his dad see that "little golden thread of humanity" in his acting was all because of John's first recurring TV role — playing a preacher on The Waltons.
In The Ottawa Journal article, Ritter said Tex may not have thought of acting as a respectable career, but at least John's role on The Waltons was respectable.
John said Tex was reluctant to come around, but ultimately, John was delighted nonetheless to finally have his father express approval for his way of life.
In 1980, John would get to learn what it was like to be a parent wanting to control the world his kid lives in. That's when he and his wife, actor Nancy Morgan, welcomed the first of their three kids. Just before the baby came, John vowed to be a nurturing dad.
"We're going to be in a special room in the hospital where we can play some soft music and have dim lights and a warm bath for the baby to be put in, and I'll be right there with my wife, giving her all the support and love I can," Ritter said. Of course, Jason Ritter grew up to be an actor, just like dad.