R.I.P. John R. Cherry III, Director and Ernest P. Worrell Creator Dead at 73

The filmmaker died of Parkinson's

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John R. Cherry III, photo via Facebook

    John R. Cherry III, the director and screenwriter known for creating the character Ernest P. Worrell, died on May 8th. He was 73.

    The news was announced on the official Ernest P. Worrell Facebook page, citing a long battle with Parkinson’s disease as his cause of death: “Unfortunately, I have some devastating news to share with you all. Our beloved John Cherry passed away this morning after a long and well-fought battle with Parkinson’s disease.”

    The tribute continues: “Buster, as his friends lovingly knew him by, was probably the most brilliant man I’ve ever met. Even as Parkinson’s began to rob him of some things, that creative mind of his was always going full-force to the best of its ability. He was kind, amazingly funny, generous and had a heart of gold. In addition to being a brilliant writer, he was also an amazing artist, a skilled fisherman, and an all-around amazing human being.”


    Cherry was born on October 11th, 1948 in Nashville. He worked in advertising before creating the character of Ernest P. Worrell, a man who “thought he knew everything but did not know anything,” inspired by an employee of his father’s. Ernest appeared in a number of commercials throughout the early 1980s, and was played by the late Jim Varney until Varney’s health began declining.

    Cherry’s feature-length directorial debut was the 1985 sci-fi horror-comedy Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam, which was also the first film to feature the Ernest P. Worrell character. Cherry made 10 films total surrounding Ernest’s shenanigans, and while they never reached critical acclaim, they were continuously profitable despite the franchise’s low budget. After Varney’s passing, Cherry directed two more films, both in 1999: For Love or Mummy, and Pirates of the Plain. 

    Cherry had three children named Josh, Emilie, and Chapman.


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