John Emmet Raitt (January 29, 1917 – February 20, 2005) was an American actor and singer best known for his performances in musical theater.
Raitt was born in Santa Ana, California. He got his start in theatre as a high school student at Fullerton Union High School in Fullerton, California. While there, he played in several drama productions in Plummer Auditorium. Raitt sang in the chorus of The Desert Song. (A few years before he died, Raitt again came back to the Plummer to see a rehearsal, visit students and recollect his beginnings.) He is on the school's "Wall of Fame" for his accomplishments. In 1935, Raitt won the "football throw" at the California State High School Track and Field Championship; his mark of 220 feet remains the state record in that short-lived event. He was named "Athlete of the Meet" after that accomplishment. He graduated from the University of Redlands in 1939.
He is best known for his stage roles in the musicals Carousel, Oklahoma!, The Pajama Game, Carnival in Flanders, Three Wishes for Jamie, and A Joyful Noise, in which he set the standard for virile, handsome, strong-voiced leading men during the golden age of the Broadway musical. His only leading film role was in the 1957 movie version of The Pajama Game opposite Doris Day.
On television, he was seen many times on the Bell Telephone Hour. A clip of a television performance of Raitt singing the final section of the song "Soliloquy" from Carousel is included in the documentary film Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There. In 1957, also for television, he and Mary Martin re-created their starring roles in the national touring version of Annie Get Your Gun. On September 29, 1953, he joined Jackie Gleason and Phil Foster in an appearance on the CBS panel discussion This Is Show Business. On January 26, 1961, he appeared in the last season of NBC's The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford.
In addition, Raitt made several studio cast recordings of Broadway musicals, including Oklahoma! (as Curly) and Show Boat (as Gaylord Ravenal).
In 1945, John Raitt was one of the recipients of the first Theatre World Award for his debut performance in Carousel. In 1965, he starred in the twentieth-anniversary production of the show at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
In January 1992, Raitt was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Live Theatre.
In 1981, he found out that his high school sweetheart was widowed. Having recently divorced from his second wife, he phoned her. "Having played Zorba, I believe in grabbing at life," he recalled. "So I called her and this sweet voice answered. 'I'm free now,' I told her, 'and I'm coming to dinner.'" They married.
Raitt appeared in a 1996 cameo role in Season 1 (episode 12, "Frozen Dick") of 3rd Rock from the Sun in which he sings a portion of the title song from Oklahoma!
He died on February 20, 2005, at his home in Pacific Palisades, California, from complications due to pneumonia, aged 88. Raitt was laid to rest at Anaheim Cemetery in Orange County, CA., beside his beloved wife of 23 years Rosemary.
He is the father of singer Bonnie Raitt, and former father-in-law of Michael O'Keefe. His grandson is Bay Raitt, the creator of Gollum's face for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.