Childhood & Early Years
Ted Knight was born on December 7, 1923 in the Terryville, located in Litchfield County of Connecticut, as Tadeusz Wladyslaw Konopka, to Charles Walter Konopka and Sophie Konopka. His father was a bartender. Ted has a brother named Henry Konopka.
Nothing is known about Ted Knight’s early years except that he dropped out of high school to join the US Army during the Second World War. Eventually, he served with the A Company, 296th Combat Engineer Battalion, as a radio reconnaissance operator..
In 1945, he was with the first American troops which entered Berlin. and was awarded five Bronze Stars for his services during the war years. However by then, he had developed an interest in acting, deciding to pursue it as a career option after his release.
Sometime towards the end of 1940s, he entered the Randall School of Dramatic Arts in Hartford, Connecticut and became proficient with puppets and ventriloquism. During this period, he performed in productions like ‘Liliom’, ‘Grand Hotel’, ‘Antigone’ and ‘Time of Your Life’.
Continue Reading Below
In 1950, Ted Knight moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where he began hosting children’s show on WJAR-TV; he remained with them till 1955. Thereafter, he moved to Albany, New York, where he began working for WROW-TV (now WTEN).
At WROW-TV, he hosted ‘The Early Show’, featuring MGM movies and a kids’ variety show, playing the role of "Windy Knight". Concurrently, he also worked as a radio announcer for its sister station, WROW Radio and received further acting training at ‘The American Theatre Wing’.
In 1957, he moved to Los Angeles, where he began to support himself by doing commercials, earning minor roles in television productions such as ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘Bonaza’ in 1959.
In 1960, he debuted in films when he played the un-credited role of Professor Vasheen in ‘Man on a String’.
All through 1960s, he continued to appear in number of films and TV productions in insignificant roles. During this lean period, his well-modulated voice helped him to earn his living, sometime as an announcer, at others as narrator or cartoon voice character in animated productions like 'Fantastic Voyage’ (1968).
In 1970, Knight was chosen to play the role of Ted Baxter, an untalented but vain newscaster on ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’. The series ran for seven years, earning him two Emmy Awards; first in 1973 and then in 1976.
Although the show made him a household name, it also stereotyped him for rest of his life. Although he tried his best to shake off the image, he had to use some of Ted Baxter’s styles in his commercials and TV spots all through 1970s.
In 1975, he released a music album called ‘Hi, Guys!’, consisting mostly of novelty songs on the Ranwood label. In October 1977, he starred as Andrew Mumford in a stage production called ‘Some of My Best Friends’. Also in the same month, he starred in one episode of ‘Busting Lose’.
In April 1978, his role as Rodger Denis in ‘Busting Lose’ spun off into ‘The Ted Knight Show’, giving him his first star role. The series was aired on CBS from April 8, 1978 to May 13, 1978.
In 1980, he appeared as Judge Elihu Smails in his last film, 'Caddyshack'. Also in the same year, he appeared in the star role in ‘Too Close for Comfort’, which ran for three seasons. In 1984, it was revived as ‘The Ted Knight Show’ in its first-run syndication.
Family & Personal Life
On 14 September, 1948, Knight married Dorothy Clark Smith, who later served on the Board of Directors of Price Pottenger Nutrition Foundation. The couple had three children: Ted Jr., Elyse, and Eric.
In 1977, Knight was diagnosed with cancer for which he received treatment. In 1985, it returned as colon cancer, which eventually spread to his bladder and lower gastrointestinal tract. He died on August 26, 1986 and was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
On January 30, 1985, he was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6673 Hollywood Boulevard.
In Terryville, his hometown, the bridge over the Pequabuck River on Canal Street, has been dedicated to his memory.