Ted Knight
Knight in 1972
Born
Tadeusz Wladyslaw Konopka

(1923-12-07)December 7, 1923
DiedAugust 26, 1986(1986-08-26) (aged 62)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California, U.S.
OccupationActor
Years active1950–1986
Spouse
Dorothy Smith
(m. 1948)
Children3

Ted Knight (born Tadeusz Wladyslaw Konopka; December 7, 1923 – August 26, 1986) was an American actor known for playing the comedic roles of Ted Baxter in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Henry Rush in Too Close for Comfort and Judge Elihu Smails in Caddyshack.

Early life

Knight was born in the Terryville section of Plymouth in Litchfield County, Connecticut to Polish-American parents Sophia (Kavaleski) and Charles Walter Konopka, a bartender.[1] He withdrew from high school to enlist in the United States Army in World War II and was a member of A Company, 296th Combat Engineer Battalion, earning five battle stars while serving in the European theatre.[2][3]

Career

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Early roles

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 children’s show host at WJAR-TV in Providence, Rhode Island from 1950 to 1955.[4][5] 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 children's variety show, playing a Gabby Hayes-type character named Windy Knigh".[6] He was also a radio announcer for sister station WROW radio and briefly for WFNS in Burlington, North Carolina. He left the station in 1957 after receiving advice from station manager (and future Capital Cities chairman) Thomas Murphy that he should take his talents to Hollywood.

Knight spent most of the 1950s and 1960s creating commercial voiceovers and playing minor television and film roles. He had a small part playing a police officer guarding the room where Norman Bates sat wrapped in a blanket at the end of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960).[7] He played Phil Buckley on the ABC soap opera The Young Marrieds in the early 1960s.[8] He also made guest appearances in numerous series, including How to Marry a Millionaire, Highway Patrol, Lassie, The Donna Reed Show, Peter Gunn, The Twilight Zone (in the episode "The Lonely"), Bourbon Street Beat, Death Valley Days, The Man and the Challenge, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Mr. Lucky, One Step Beyond, Pete and Gladys, Surfside 6, Sea Hunt, The Asphalt Jungle, Dr. Kildare, General Electric Theatre, Manhunt, Cain's Hundred, The New Loretta Young Show, The Eleventh Hour, The Untouchables, Sam Benedict, The Virginian, Arrest and Trial, Ripcord, The Lieutenant, The Outer Limits (in the episode "The Invisible Enemy"), McHale's Navy, Gunsmoke, Kraft Suspense Theatre, Run for Your Life, 12 O'Clock High, Bonanza, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., Combat!, T.H.E. Cat, The Fugitive, The F.B.I., Get Smart, The Invaders, Judd, for the Defense, Garrison's Gorillas, The Wild Wild West, The Outsider and The Immortal.

Ted Knight and Georgia Engel on The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Knight's speaking voice also brought him work as a voice artist for various animated series produced by Filmation and Hanna-Barbera, including Star Trek: The Animated Series, The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure, The Batman/Superman Hour, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Fantastic Voyage, The New Scooby-Doo Movies, Super Friends and Lassie's Rescue Rangers.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Knight's role as the vain and untalented WJM newscaster Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show brought 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.

Post-MTM appearances

In 1975, Knight recorded an album of mostly novelty songs, Hi Guys, on the Ranwood label.[9] The title track, in which Knight tries to extract himself from various embarrassing situations by using his signature "Hi, guys!" line, received some play on the Dr. Demento show.

Knight was the special guest star on the first episode of The Bobby Vinton Show in September 1975. Vinton highlighted Knight's Polish heritage and the two sang a duet of Vinton's hit "My Melody of Love" in Polish. Knight was also featured in a production number based on one of the songs from the Hi Guys album, "I'm in Love with Barbara Walters".

Knight used a variation of the Ted Baxter character 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 as Southgate USA, often finishing the 60-second spot with a comedic flair, including wearing a jacket that resembled Baxter's blue WJM blazer. Knight also returned to Albany to film promo spots for his former employer WTEN.

Knight guest-starred in "Mr. Dennis Steps Out", the October 26, 1977 episode of the situation comedy Busting Loose, as Roger Dennis, the owner of an escort service in New York City. This appearance launched a new show, The Ted Knight Show, Knight's first starring role. The Ted Knight Show lasted for only six episodes in the spring of 1978.

Knight appeared in several episodes of The Love Boat, including one episode as a rival cruise captain.[10]

Knight's final film role was in the 1980 golf comedy Caddyshack, in which he played Judge Elihu Smails, a foil for Rodney Dangerfield's character.

Too Close for Comfort

Knight was cast in the lead role as the curmudgeonly cartoonist Henry Rush in the series Too Close for Comfort in 1980. Throughout the series' run, Knight would wear sweatshirts from colleges and universities sent to him by students who were fans of the show. ABC canceled the show after three seasons, but it was revived in first-run syndication in 1984. In 1986, the show was retitled The Ted Knight Show and saw Henry retire from cartooning and become part-owner of a weekly newspaper. A second season was planned until Knight's health became a factor.

Personal life

In 1948, Knight married Dorothy Smith, and the couple had three children, Ted Jr., Elyse and Eric.

In January 1985, Knight was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the television industry. It is located at 6673 Hollywood Boulevard.[11]

Death

A few months after the end of the Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1977, Knight was diagnosed with colon cancer, for which he received treatment. In 1985, the cancer returned and spread to his bladder and gastrointestinal tract.[12]

Ted Knight's grave

Knight experienced complications from the surgery and was advised to not resume work on Too Close for Comfort until he recovered. His condition worsened and he died on August 26, 1986 at age 62.

Knight was interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. His grave marker bears the name Theodore C. Konopka and the words "Bye Guy", a reference to his Ted Baxter catchphrase "Hi, guys!"[13]

His hometown of Terryville, Connecticut dedicated a bridge on Canal Street over the Pequabuck River in his memory. There is a bronze plaque bearing his likeness on the bridge.[14]

Filmography

Film
Year Title Role Notes
1960 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Mr. Maynard Season 5 Episode 33: "Party Line"
1960 Man on a String Prof. Vasheen Uncredited
1960 13 Fighting Men Samuel
1960 Twelve Hours to Kill Police Sgt. Denton
1960 Psycho Policeman in Hallway Opening Door Uncredited
1960 Cage of Evil Lt. Dan Ivers Uncredited
1960 Key Witness Cowboy's Lawyer Uncredited
1961 Two Rode Together Lt. Upton Uncredited
1961 Swingin' Along Priest
1961 Cry for Happy Lt. Glick
1961 The Great Impostor Reporter Uncredited
1962 13 West Street Baldwin
1962 Hitler Maj. Buch
1962 The Pigeon That Took Rome Steve Uncredited
1962 The Interns Photographer's Assistant at Fashion Shoot Uncredited
1964 Nightmare in Chicago Dan McVeay
1964 The Candidate Frank Carlton
1965 Young Dillinger Johnsyn
1965 Blindfold Dr. Bob Berford Uncredited
1967 Countdown Walter Larson
1970 MASH Offstage Dialog Voice, uncredited
1971 Cold Turkey Mr. Slick Uncredited
1975 Emilio and His Magical Bull
1980 Caddyshack Judge Elihu Smails

References

  1. ^ Gareffa, Peter M. (January 1, 1987). Newsmakers. Gale Research. ISBN 978-0810322035 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Paradis, John (August 27, 1986). "Terryville Recalls Favorite Son Fondly". The Bristol Press. Archived from the original on December 4, 2008.
  3. ^ Devlin, Philip R. (December 14, 2011). "Remembering Connecticut's Ted Knight of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'". Durham Patch.
  4. ^ Nesi, Ted (July 10, 2009). "WJAR Turns 60". Providence Business News. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  5. ^ "WJAR's Ted Knight". The Providence Journal. February 23, 1955. Archived from the original on February 5, 2007. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  6. ^ "WTEN". Ted Knight: Actor, war hero, and friend to my family. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  7. ^ Kehr, Dave (December 1, 2008). "Movies: About Ted Knight". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 1, 2008. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
  8. ^ 'TV Guide' Guide to TV. Barnes and Noble. 2004. p. 716. ISBN 978-0760756348.
  9. ^ "Ted Knight — Hi Guys". Discogs.
  10. ^ "The Love Boat: Season 5, Episode 24 Pride of the Pacific; The Viking's Son; Separate Vacations; The Experiment; Getting to Know You". TV Guide. March 6, 1982.
  11. ^ "Ted Knight". Hollywood Walk of Fame. January 30, 1985.
  12. ^ Wilborn, Hampton (August 27, 1986). "Ted Knight, Winner of 2 Emmy Awards For Television Series". The New York Times. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  13. ^ Final Curtain
  14. ^ Reid, Jean (April 9, 1987). "Plymouth Dedicates Ted Knight Bridge". Waterbury Republican. Archived from the original on July 30, 2013. Retrieved May 13, 2012.