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Cancer Claims Life of Actor Ted Knight

August 27, 1986 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Comic actor Ted Knight, who recalled ″all the prima donnas″ he’d met in broadcasting for his Emmy-winning role as the bombastic, nincompoop newscaster on ″The Mary Tyler Show,″ has died of cancer at 62.

But the role that brought him fame was a mixed blessing and Knight, who went on to star in two of his own comedy series, was dismayed that some people expected him to be a loud-mouthed buffoon in real life.

Knight, who starred in the short-lived ″Ted Knight Show″ and ″Too Close for Comfort,″ died at his Pacific Palisades home Tuesday with his wife of 38 years, Dorothy, and their three children at his side.


Spokeswoman Vanita Cillo said private funeral services will be held Friday at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

″He had been ill a relatively short period of time,″ but he knew he had cancer last year, said Knight’s agent, Sol Leon.

Knight was hospitalized last fall for removal of a cancerous growth from his urinary tract. Earlier this year, he returned to the hospital for treatment of complications from that surgery.

Knight won Emmys in 1973 and 1976 for outstanding performance by an actor in a supporting role in comedy for his role in ″The Mary Tyler Moore Show,″ which ran from 1970-77.

Knight patterned the arrogant, childish but stylish Ted Baxter after ″all the prima donnas around the radio and TV stations where I’d worked.″

Larry Bloustein, vice president for publicity at Mary Tyler Moore Enterprises, said there would be no comment from Miss Moore. ″We are terribly private about this sort of thing,″ said Bloustein.

Ed Asner, who co-starred in ″Mary Tyler Moore″ as news director Lou Grant, said in Las Vegas, Nev., ″We regarded ourselves as brothers. Sometimes you hate your brother, but the vast amount of time, you love your brother. I had great love for Ted.″

Cloris Leachman, another co-star, said, ″I think people liked to look at him and say, ‘Ted, you’re our guy,’ and, ’You’re our kind of guy.‴

Grant Tinker, head of MTM Enterprises when it produced ″The Mary Tyler Moore Show,″ said: ″I really loved Ted Baxter and Ted Knight all together. I loved them both. They gave so many of us so many great laughs.″

But it was an image Knight wanted to shed.

″I’ve really wanted to shake Ted Baxter,″ he said in 1981. ″People want to see that character. Ted Baxter gave the whole world a superiority complex.″

Nobody had ever heard of Knight before ″The Mary Tyler Moore Show.″ It had taken him a long time to achieve stardom.

Knight accepted the ″Too Close for Comfort″ role of a middle-aged illustrator specifically to get away from the Baxter persona.

″He was limited in that he could never display any intelligence,″ Knight said. ″He was always the butt of the jokes. One of his charms was that he was never a threat to anybody.″

Knight followed ″Mary Tyler Moore″ with CBS’ ″The Ted Knight Show,″ which lasted a month in 1978. ″Too Close,″ on ABC went into syndication after running from 1980-83, and was set for shooting this month as a new ″The Ted Knight Show.″ Shooting was delayed by his illness, officials said.

Knight also starred with Rodney Dangerfield and Chevy Chase in the 1980 movie ″Caddyshack,″ a farce about golf, and performed on Broadway in the play ″Some of My Best Friends.″

He was born Dec. 7, 1923, in Terryville, Conn., Tadewurz Wladzui Konopka.

He served with the First Army Group’s combat engineers as a radio reconnaissance operator during World War II, and was with the first American troops to enter Berlin. He was awarded five Bronze Stars during his duty.

His acting career started in the late 1940s at the Randall School of Dramatic Arts in Hartford, Conn., where he performed in productions such as ″Liliom,″ ″Grand Hotel,″ ″Antigone″ and ″Time of Your Life.″

Jobs as a disc jockey, announcer, singer, master of ceremonies, ventriloquist, puppeteer and pantomimist in North Carolina, Rhode Island and New York followed before he moved to New York City for more training at The American Theater Wing.

In 1957, Knight moved to Los Angeles and appeared in hundreds of commercials and television shows, including ″Gunsmoke,″ ″The F.B.I.,″ and ″Get Smart.″

In 1985, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Ironically, Knight was a health addict. ″Stay with fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fish and lean meat. I don’t smoke and I drink very lightly,″ he said in 1980.

Mrs. Knight is director and treasurer of the Price-Pattenger Nutrition Foundation. Knight’s family has asked that in lieu of flowers, mourners send donations to the foundation for the Ted Knight Memorial Fund, which will be used to finance a series of films for children on nutrition and natural lifestyles, Ms. Cillo said.