Born on May 14, 1920, Paul Ritts, a television writer, director and performer died on Saturday, October 18, 1980 at the age of 60 from a heart attack.
In 1947, Paul Ritts became one of the first TV directors at WFIL-TV, Channel 6 in Philadelphia. The next year, he joined the staff of WCAU-TV, Channel 10 as a producer and director.
During the fifties, he directed “The Big Top,” a popular live weekly circus show on CBS-TV that originated from WCAU-TV.
In 1952, he and his wife, Mary Ritts, created “The Ritts Puppets” for “In the Park,” a CBS-TV network show that also originated from Channel 10. The Ritts Puppets have been seen on television ever since.
In addition to appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “The Tonight Show,” “The Merv Griffin Show,” and “The Mike Douglas Show” (which originated out of KYW-TV, Channel 3 in Philadelphia), the puppets were regular performers on NBC-TV’s educational children’s shows, “Exploring” and “Watch Your Child.”
In the early sixties, Paul and Mary Ritts were the hosts of “Family,” a daily talk and variety show, broadcast over WNBC-TV. Later, the Ritts Puppets appeared as hosts of NBC-TV’s “The Pink Panther.”
In 1980, the puppets were seen in a series of 20 award-winning public service announcements.
An author and a playwright as well as a puppeteer, Paul Ritts wrote “The TV Jeebies” in the early fifties, the first humorous book about television. The CBS Repertory Workshop produced his play, “The Quartet.” He wrote many dramatic scripts for such programs as ABC-TV’s “Kid Power” and NBC-TV’s “Muggsy” TV series.
Two more plays, “Oregon Bound” and “A Piece of Cake,” were televised by NBC-TV in the late seventies. He also wrote and performed with his wife, Mary, in “For the Love of Fred,” an award-winning NBC Children’s Special, and “The Great Silence” plus “Albert, the Magnificent” for CBS-TV.
Paul lived in Philadelphia and then beginning in 1960 in Princeton, New Jersey.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
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