Tadeusz Wladyslaw Konopka
December 7, 1923
Terryville, Connecticut, U.S.
|Died||August 26, 1986 (aged 62)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California, U.S.|
Ted Knight (born Tadeusz Wladyslaw Konopka; December 7, 1923 – August 26, 1986) was an American actor well 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.
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. Knight dropped out of high school to enlist in the United States Army in World War II along with his best childhood friend Bernard P. Dzielinski (also from Terryville). He was a member of A Company, 296th Combat Engineer Battalion, earning five battle stars while serving in the European Theatre.
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-TV 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 Murphy that he should take his talents to Hollywood.
Knight spent most of the 1950s and 1960s doing commercial voice-overs and playing minor television and movie roles. He had a small part playing a police officer seen guarding the room where Norman Bates, now in custody, sat wrapped in a blanket at the end of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). He played Phil Buckley on the ABC soap opera The Young Marrieds in the early 1960s. 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 (as a dishonest lawyer in the 1959 S4E36 episode “Print Asper”), 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.
Knight's distinctive speaking voice also brought him work as a voice artist for various animated series produced by Filmation and Hanna-Barbera, including 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
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.
Notable post-MTM appearances
In 1975, Knight recorded an album of mostly novelty songs, Hi Guys, on the Ranwood label (which was co-founded by Lawrence Welk and re-released many of his earlier albums). The title track, in which Knight tries to get out of 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. The spots were produced by UAB Productions for Southgate USA. UAB Productions was the local production arm of United Artists Broadcasting, which owned WUAB-TV in the Cleveland area at that time. Knight also returned to Albany to film promo spots for his former employer, WTEN's local news show.
After The Mary Tyler Moore Show's run, 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 episode was spun off into its own show, The Ted Knight Show, giving Knight his first starring role. The Ted Knight Show lasted for only six episodes in the spring of 1978.
Knight appeared in a few episodes of The Love Boat, including one episode as a rival cruise captain, Captain Gunner Nordquist, versus Mary Tyler Moore Show co-star Gavin MacLeod's Captain Merrill Stubing. This was broadcast in March 1982 as Season 5, Episodes 24 and 25, of The Love Boat, whose segments were titled "Pride of the Pacific", "The Viking's Son", "Separate Vacations", "The Experiment", and "Getting to Know You".
Knight's final big-screen role was in the 1980 golf comedy Caddyshack, where he played Judge Elihu Smails, who is fed up with the shenanigans of Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield), a guest at his golf club.
Too Close for Comfort
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". Throughout the run of the series, Knight would wear sweatshirts from various colleges and universities, which were often sent to him by students who were fans of the show. ABC cancelled the show after three seasons, but it was revived in first-run syndication in 1984 and proved to still be popular. In 1986, the show became The Ted Knight Show and saw Henry Rush retire from cartooning and become part owner of a weekly newspaper. The new format allowed the show to remain a hit, and a second season was planned until his health became a factor.
In 1948, he married Dorothy Smith, and the couple had three children, Ted Jr., Elyse, and Eric.
A few months after the end of the Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1977, Knight was diagnosed with colon cancer for which he received various forms of treatment over several years. In 1985, the cancer returned and, despite vigorous treatments, eventually began to spread to his bladder and throughout his lower gastrointestinal tract.
Knight continued to work, even after having surgery to remove a tumor from his urinary tract. However, he experienced complications from the surgery and was advised not to resume work on Too Close For Comfort until he recovered. Knight's condition continued to worsen and he died on August 26, 1986, at age 62.
Knight was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. His grave marker bears the name Theodore C. Konopka (and, at the bottom, the words "Bye Guys", a reference to his Ted Baxter catchphrase "Hi, guys!")
|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||Cry for Happy||Lt. Glick|
|1961||The Great Impostor||Reporter||Uncredited|
|1962||13 West Street||Baldwin|
|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||Blindfold||Dr. Bob Berford||Uncredited|
|1970||MASH||Offstage Dialog||Voice, uncredited|
|1971||Cold Turkey||Mr. Slick||Uncredited|
|1975||Emilio and His Magical Bull|
|1980||Caddyshack||Judge Elihu Smails|
- Gareffa, Peter M. (January 1, 1987). Newsmakers. Gale Research. ISBN 978-0810322035 – via Google Books.
- Paradis, John (August 27, 1986). "Terryville Recalls Favorite Son Fondly". The Bristol Press. Archived from the original on December 4, 2008.
- Devlin, Philip R. (December 14, 2011). "Remembering Connecticut's Ted Knight of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'". Durham Patch.
- Nesi, Ted (July 10, 2009). "WJAR Turns 60". Providence Business News. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
- "WJAR's Ted Knight". The Providence Journal. February 23, 1955. Archived from the original on February 5, 2007. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
- "WTEN". Ted Knight: Actor, war hero, and friend to my family. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
- Kehr, Dave (2008). "Movies: About Ted Knight". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. Archived from the original on August 1, 2010. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
- 'TV Guide' Guide to TV. Barnes and Noble. 2004. p. 716. ISBN 978-0760756348.
- "Ted Knight — Hi Guys". Discogs.
- "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.
- "Ted Knight". Hollywood Walk of Fame. January 30, 1985.
- Wilborn, Hampton (August 27, 1986). "Ted Knight, Winner of 2 Emmy Awards For Television Series". The New York Times. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
- Final Curtain
- Reid, Jean (April 9, 1987). "Plymouth Dedicates Ted Knight Bridge". Waterbury Republican. Archived from the original on July 30, 2013. Retrieved May 13, 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ted Knight.|
- Ted Knight at IMDb
- Ted Knight at AllMovie
- Ted Knight at Memory Alpha (a Star Trek wiki)
- 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