Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ted Knight who played Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Ted Knight was born Tadeusz Wladyslaw Konopka in 1928 in Connecticut.  He is best known as playing Ted Baxter on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show".  He is also know as Henry Rush on the TV show "Too Close for Comfort", and as a star of the classic comedy film "Caddyshack" as Judge Smails.

Ted Knight as Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Ted Knight in his early days of television

Knight served in WWII in Europe and won the bronze star 5 times serving with the 296th Engineer Combat Battalion in the service of his country.  After the war in the 1950s, Ted originally worked in radio and also did a ventriloquist act. He did kiddie shows and acted as the character "Windy Knight".

Ted Knight and his ventriloquist dolls

Ted first appeared on TV on the show "Mike Hammer" with Darren McGavin in 1956.  Two years later he appeared in "How to Marry a Millionaire" with Merry Anders, Barbara Eden and Lori Nelson.  He appeared in various shows such as "Highway Patrol", "Lassie" with Jon Provost and June Lockhart (1959), "The Donna Reed Show", "Peter Gunn", "Twilight Zone", and "Bourbon Street Beat".

In 1960 Knight landed his first credited movie rold in "Twelve Hours to Kill" with Barbara Eden, Grant Richards and future "Mary Tyler Moore Show" co-star, Gavin MacLeod.  The same year he starred in "13 Fighting Men".  He also starred in many credited and uncredited roles such as "Mr. Lucky", "Psycho", "Cage of Evil", and "Pete and Gladys".

The following year Ted starred in the film "Double Trouble" with Peter Marshall, Barbara Eden, Ray Charles, and Alan Carney.  That year he also starred on screen with Glenn Ford and Donald O'Connor in "Cry for Happy".  His TV credits that year included "Manhunt", "Outlaws", "Surfside 6", "Sea Hunt", "The Asphalt Jungle", and "Dr. Kildare".

In 1962 Ted appeared in the film "Hitler" as well as "13 West Street " with Alan Ladd and Rod Steiger.  He also appeared in many TV shows that year such as "Cain's Hundred", "Hawaiian Eye", and "The Eleventh Hour".  It was all TV shows in 1964 including "The Untouchables" with Robert Stack and "The Virginian".

Ted starred in the film "The Candidate" in 1964 with Mamie Van Doren and June Wilkinson as well as "Nightmare in Chicago" with Andrew Duggan, Charles McGraw, Michael Murphy, and Carroll O'Connor.  TV appearances that year for Knight included "The  Lieutenant", "The Outer Limits", and "McHale's Navy" co-starring Ernest Borgnine, Tim Conway, and Gavin MacLeod.  He also appeared in "The Young Marrieds" with Charles Grodin, Robert Hogan, Lee Meriwether, and Peggy McCay.

In 1965, Ted Knight was cast in "Young Dillinger" with Nick Adams, Robert Conrad, John Ashley, Mary Ann Mobley, and Victor Buono.  Also in 1965, he appeared in a few TV shows such as "Gunsmoke", "Run For Your Life", and "12 O'Clock High".

1966 brought TV roles in shows such as "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.", "Combat!" with Vic Morrow, "The F.B.I.", and "The Fugitive" with David Janssen, William Conrad and Barry Morse.  He also appeared in several episodes of "Bonanza" with Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, Dan Blocker, and Pernell Roberts.

Through the end of the '60s, Knight mad a couple of TV show appearances, however mostly used his voice talents to lend character to many cartoon characters of the time such as "Batman", "Superman", and "Aquaman".

Ted Knight as "Ted Baxter" in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"
Mary Tyler Moore (Mary Richards) and Ted Knight (Ted Baxter) in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"

In 1970, Knight was cast in the role of Ted Baxter in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" co-starring Mary Tyler Moore,Georgia Engel, Valerie Harper, Ed Asner, Gavin MacLeod, Cloris Leachman, and Betty White.  The show was a huge hit and ran for seven seasons until it ended in 1977.  

Cast of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" Front: Betty White (Sue Ann Nivens), Mary Tyler Moore (Mary Richards), Georgia Engel (Georgette Franklin).  Back: Gavin MacLeod (Murray Slaughter), Ed Asner (Lou Grant), Ted Knight (Ted Baxter)
Ted Knight as "Ted Baxter" in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"

During his run on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", Knight continued to exploit his voice talents in the cartoon world in shows such as "The New Scooby-Doo Movies" and "Super Friends".  He also made appearances in "Star Trek" with William Shatner, "The Fireman's Ball" with  Fred Grandy, "The Ghost Busters" with Forrest Tucker, and an appearance in the wedding episode of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" spin-off "Rhoda" starring Valerie Harper.

Ted Knight in 1979

After "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" ended, Knight had his very own run on "The Ted Knight Show" which only lasted six weeks.  He then rebounded however in 1980 with his memorable role as Judge Elihu Smails in the classic comedy film "Caddyshack" co-starring Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray.  

Ted Knight as "Judge Smails" in "Caddyshack" 1980

Ted Knight as "Judge Smails" in "Caddyshack" 1980

Also in 1980 he appeared in 6 episodes of "The Love Boat" starring his old colleague from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", Gavin MacLeod as well as 
Lauren Tewes, Bernie Kopell, Fred Grandy, Jill Whelan, and Ted Lange.  That same year he also was cast in the role of Henry Rush in the series "Too Close For Comfort" co-starring Nancy Dussault, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Lydia Cornell, Jim J. Bullock, Deena Freeman, and Selma Diamond.  

The Cast of "Too Close for Comfort" Front: Ted Knight (Henry Rush), Nancy Dussault (Muriel Rush)  Back: Deena Freeman (April Rush), Deborah Van Valkenburgh (Jackie Rush), Lydia Cornell (Sara Rush), Jim J. Bullock (Monroe Ficus)
Ted Knight (Henry Rush) and Selma Diamond (Mildred Rafkin) of "Too Close for Comfort"

The show ran until 1987.  However, Ted Knight appeared posthumously in the last season as he succumbed to colon cancer and died on August 26, 1986.  You left us some great memories Ted.

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