Ted Knight (December 7, 1923 – August 26, 1986) was an American actor best known for playing the comedic role of Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Henry Rush on Too Close for Comfort, and Judge Elihu Smails in Caddyshack.
Born Tadeus Wladyslaw Konopka to a Polish-American family in Terryville, Connecticut, Knight dropped out of high school to enlist for military service in World War II, He was a member of A Company, 296th Engineer Combat Battalion, earning five battle stars while serving in the European Theatre.
In 1948, he married Dorothy Smith, and eventually had three children: Ted Knight, Jr., Elyse, and Eric.
During the postwar years, Knight studied acting in Hartford, Connecticut. He became proficient with puppets and ventriloquism, which led to steady work as a television kiddie-show host at WJAR in Providence, Rhode Island from 1950 to 1955. In 1955, he left Providence for Albany, New York, where he landed a job at station WROW-TV (now WTEN), hosting The Early Show featuring MGM movies and a kids’ variety show, playing a "Gabby Hayes" type character named "Windy Knight". He was also a radio announcer for sister station WROW radio. He left the station in 1957 after receiving advice from station manager (and future Capital Cities Chairman) Thomas S. Murphy that he should take his talents to Hollywood.
Knight spent most of the 1950s and 1960s doing commercial voice-overs and essaying minor television and movie roles. He was the cop guarding Norman Bates at the end of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). In the 1962-1963 season, he appeared as "Haskell" in the short-lived drama and situation comedy The New Loretta Young Show on CBS. He appeared frequently in television shows such as How to Marry a Millionaire, The Eleventh Hour, Bonanza, The Man and the Challenge, Combat!, Get Smart, The Twilight Zone, and The Wild Wild West.
Knight's distinctive speaking voice brought him work as an announcer, notably as narrator of most of Filmation studio's superhero cartoons as well as voice of incidental characters. He was narrator of the first season of the Super Friends (his signature line was, "Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice..."), while other animated television series featuring his work included the voices of the opening narrator and team leader Commander Jonathan Kidd in Fantastic Voyage.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
His role as the vain and untalented WJM newscaster Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show brought Knight widespread recognition, and his greatest success. He received six Emmy Award nominations for the role, winning the Emmy for "Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Comedy" in 1973 and 1976.
Knight used some of this character's style for regional commercials. In the Cleveland area during the early to late 1970s, a newsman simply known as "Ted" would provide news of the events at a local shopping center known at Southgate USA, often finishing the 60-second spot with a comedic flair, including wearing a jacket that resembled his blue "WJM" blazer. The spots were produced by UAB Productions for Southgate USA. UAB Productions was the local production of United Artist Broadcasting which own WUAB TV in the Cleveland area back at that time.
After the show's run, Knight appeared in one episode of The Love Boat as a rival cruise captain opposite Mary Tyler Moore co-star Gavin MacLeod ("Captain Stubing").
Too Close for Comfort
After The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Knight landed the lead role as the kind, curmudgeonly cartoonist Henry Rush in the series Too Close for Comfort in 1980. During scenes in which Henry draws in his bedroom, Knight used his earlier acquired ventriloquism talents for comical conversations with a hand-puppet version of his comic book's main character "Cosmic Cow." The show was cancelled by ABC after three seaons, but first run episodes continued to be produced and successfully syndicated. The show was renamed The Ted Knight Show in its final season although it aired as Too Close For Comfort in rerun syndication, but despite its continued success, ended in 1986 due to Knight's illness.
A few months after the end of the Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1977, Knight was diagnosed with cancer for which he received various forms of treatment over several years. In 1985, the cancer returned as colon cancer which, despite rigorous treatment, eventually began to spread to his bladder and throughout his lower gastrointestinal tract.
Knight died on August 26, 1986, from complications due to surgery; he was 62 years old. Knight was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. His grave marker bears the name Theodore C. Konopka.
For his contribution to the television industry, Ted Knight has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6673 Hollywood Boulevard.
His hometown of Terryville, Connecticut dedicated a bridge on Canal Street in his memory. There is a bronze plaque bearing his likeness on the bridge.
- Paradis, John (1986-08-27). "Terryville Recalls Favorite Son Fondly". The Bristol Press.
- "WJAR Turns 60". Providence Business News 10 July 2009. Text " accessdate 8 August 2010" ignored (help)
- "WJAR's Ted Knight". Providence Journal 23 February 1955. Retrieved 8 August 2010.
- Kehr, Dave. "Movies: AboutTed Knight". The New York Times. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
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- Ted Knight at Memory Alpha (a Star Trek wiki)
- Ted Knight fansite
- Interview with Lydia Cornell by Michael Sutton
- Interview with Lydia Cornell on the podcast The Future And You (anecdotes about Ted Knight and Too Close For Comfort)
- Link to the home page of the Ted Knight Memorial 'Gof' Tournament
- Ted Knight at Find a Grave
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