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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 Smails in Caddyshack. Ted Knight has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker for his contributions to television, at 6673 Hollywood Boulevard.

Life and career

Early years

Born Tadeusz Władysław Konopka to a Polish-American family in Terryville, Connecticutmarker, 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.

Career

During the postwar years, Knight studied acting in Hartford, Connecticutmarker. He became proficient with puppets and ventriloquism, which led to steady work as a television kiddie-show host. In 1955, he left Hartford for Albany, New Yorkmarker, where he landed a job at station WROW-TV (now WTENmarker), 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 WROWmarker 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 Hollywoodmarker.

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 the first season of the Super Friends (his signature line was, "Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice..."), as well as several other animated television series, including the voices of the opening narrator and team leader Commander Jonathan Kidd in Fantastic Voyage.

In addition to his television work, Knight appeared in the film Caddyshack as bigoted, overbearing Judge Elihu Smails (1980)

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.

Ted Knight was a social conservative who often disagreed with former co-star Ed Asner. While the two were political opposites, they remained friends.

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, 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.

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 ABC series Too Close for Comfort (renamed The Ted Knight Show in later seasons) which ran from 1980 to 1986. 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." Despite the series' ongoing success in first-run syndication, it ended due to Knight's illness.

Death

A few months after the end of the Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1977, he was diagnosed with cancer for which he received various forms of treatment over several years. In 1985, he was diagnosed with colon cancer which, despite rigorous treatment, eventually began to spread to his bladder and throughout his lower gastrointestinal tract. He died on August 26, 1986, from complications due to surgery. Knight was 62 years old. He was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Parkmarker in Glendale, Californiamarker. His grave marker bears the name Theodore C. Konopka.

References

  1. http://www.film.com/celebrities/ted-knight/biography/14671061
  2. http://movies.nytimes.com/person/38822/Ted-KnightM
  3. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0461095/


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