Shirley Knight

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Shirley Knight
Shirley Knight 1960s.JPG
Knight in 1963
Born(1936-07-05)July 5, 1936
DiedApril 22, 2020(2020-04-22) (aged 83)
Alma mater Wichita State University
Years active1955–2018
(m. 1959;div. 1969)

(m. 1969;died 1998)
Children2, including Kaitlin Hopkins

Shirley Knight Hopkins (July 5, 1936 – April 22, 2020) was an American actress who appeared in more than 50 feature films, television films, television series, and Broadway and Off-Broadway productions in her career, playing leading and character roles. She was a member of the Actors Studio.


Knight was nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress: for The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960) and Sweet Bird of Youth (1962). [1] In the 1960s, she had leading roles in a number of Hollywood films such as The Couch (1962), House of Women (1962), The Group (1966), The Counterfeit Killer (1968), and The Rain People (1969). She received the Volpi Cup for Best Actress for her role in the British film Dutchman (1966).

In 1976, Knight won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her performance in Kennedy's Children, a play by Robert Patrick. In later years, she played supporting roles in many films, including Endless Love (1981), As Good as It Gets (1997), Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002), and Grandma's Boy (2006). For her performances on television, Knight was nominated eight times for a Primetime Emmy Award (winning three), and she received a Golden Globe Award.

Early life

Knight was born in Goessel, Kansas, the daughter of Virginia (née Webster; 1916-1977) and Noel Johnson Knight (1913-1985), an oil company executive. [2] She had a brother and a sister. She spent her young life in Mitchell, Kansas, and later lived in Lyons, Kansas, where she graduated from high school. She began studying to be an opera singer at age 11.

At the age of 14, she wrote a short story that was published in a national magazine. Knight later attended Phillips University and Wichita State University. After studying at the Pasadena Theatre School she began her film career in 1959. She then went to New York and began her theatre career. She trained in acting with Jeff Corey, Erwin Piscator, Lee Strasberg, and Uta Hagen at HB Studio. [3] [4] [5]


Knight with Alan Arkin in The Defection of Simas Kudirka (1978) Alan Arkin - Kudirka - 1978.jpg
Knight with Alan Arkin in The Defection of Simas Kudirka (1978)

Knight's feature films include The Group (1966), The Dutchman (1967), Petulia (1968), The Rain People (1969), Juggernaut (1974), As Good as It Gets (1997), and Elevator (2011), in which she plays one of several people trapped in a Wall Street elevator with a bomber.

Knight was cast in 1958 and 1959 as Mrs. Newcomb in 20 of the 29 episodes of the television series Buckskin , with Tom Nolan, Sally Brophy, and Mike Road. She became a Warner Brothers Television contract star who while on breaks from filming feature films appeared in television series such as Maverick , Bourbon Street Beat , Sugarfoot , Cheyenne , and The Roaring 20s . [6]

A life member of The Actors Studio, [7] Knight's stage credits include Three Sisters (1964), We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1966), Kennedy's Children (1975), which earned her the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play, [8] and A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur (1979).

She was nominated for the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play twice, for Landscape of the Body and The Young Man from Atlanta, for which she received another Tony nomination. [8] She also appeared in Come Back, Come Back, Wherever You Are (2009), an original play by Arthur Laurents.

Her television credits include Target: The Corruptors! , The Eleventh Hour , The Outer Limits ("The Man Who Was Never Born"), The Reporter , The Fugitive , The Invaders , The Virginian , Murder, She Wrote , Thirtysomething , Law & Order , L.A. Law , Law & Order: Special Victims Unit , Maggie Winters , ER , House M.D. , Crossing Jordan , Cold Case , and Hot in Cleveland , among others.[ citation needed ]

She appeared in various television films, including Playing For Time and Indictment: The McMartin Trial . For the latter, she won both the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie and the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. Her guest performance in thirtysomething earned her a 1988 Emmy for Best Guest Performer in a Drama Series. She won an Emmy in 1995 for her guest performance in the NYPD Blue episode "Large Mouth Bass". [9]

She appeared in the first segment of If These Walls Could Talk . She also had a recurring role on Desperate Housewives . [10]

Personal life and death

Knight was married to American actor and producer Gene Persson from 1959 until their divorce in 1969. They had one child, actress Kaitlin Hopkins (born February 1, 1964). [11]

Her second marriage was to English writer John Hopkins from 1969 until his death in 1998. They had one child, elementary school teacher Sophie C. Hopkins. She and Hopkins raised her daughter with Persson together. [12]

Knight died of natural causes on April 22, 2020, at her daughter Kaitlin Hopkins' home in San Marcos, Texas. She was 83. [13]



1955 Picnic Minor RoleUncredited
1959 Five Gates to Hell Sister Maria
1960 Ice Palace Grace Kennedy
1960 The Dark at the Top of the Stairs Reenie FloodNominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress
1962 The Couch Terry Ames
1962 Sweet Bird of Youth Heavenly FinleyNominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
1962 House of Women Erica Hayden
1964 Flight from Ashiya Caroline Gordon / Stevenson
1966 The Group Polly Andrews Ridgeley
1966 Dutchman Lula Volpi Cup for Best Actress
1968 The Counterfeit Killer Angie Peterson
1968 Petulia Prudence "Polo" Bollen Laurel Award for Best Female Supporting Performance
1969 The Rain People Natalie Ravenna
1971 Secrets Beatrice
1974 Juggernaut Barbara Bannister
1979 Beyond the Poseidon Adventure Hannah Meredith
1981 Endless Love Ann ButterfieldNominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress
1982 The Sender Jerolyn
1982 Prisoners Virginia
1994 Color of Night Edith Niedelmeyer
1994The Secret Life of HousesAunt Fergie
1995 Stuart Saves His Family Mrs. Smalley
1996 Diabolique Edie Danziger
1996 Somebody Is Waiting Irma Cill
1997 As Good as It Gets Beverly ConnellyNominated—Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
1997 Little Boy Blue Doris Knight
200075 Degrees in JulyJo Beth Anderson
2001 The Center of the World Uncredited
2001 A House on a Hill Mercedes Mayfield
2001 Angel Eyes Elanora Davis
2002 The Salton Sea Nancy Plummer
2002 P.S. Your Cat Is Dead Aunt Claire
2002 Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood Necie Rose Kelleher
2005 Sexual Life Joanna
2006 Grandma's Boy Bea
2006 Open Window Dr. Ann Monohan
2006Thanks to GravityLea
2008 The Other Side of the Tracks Helen
2008Not Fade AwayDiane
2009 Paul Blart: Mall Cop Margaret Blart
2009 The Private Lives of Pippa Lee Dot Nadeau
2010 Listen to Your Heart Grandma Sam
2011 Our Idiot Brother Ilene Rochlin
2011 The Melancholy Fantastic MorVoice
2011 Elevator Jane Redding
2013 Redwood Highway Marie Vaughn
2014 Mercy Mercy
2015 Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 Margaret Blart
2015 The Missing Girl Mrs. Colvins
2016Doll in the DarkMorVoice
2018PeripheryLeanne CrossFinal film role


1958–1959 Buckskin Mrs. Newcomb20 episodes
1959 The Restless Gun Episode: "Better Than a Cannon"
1960 77 Sunset Strip Mari Ellen TaylorEpisode: "Fraternity of Fear"
1961 Maverick Nancy PowersEpisode: "The Ice Man"
1961 The Roaring 20s Ellie HollisEpisode: "Big Town Blues"
1962 Naked City Kathy MeigsEpisode: "Five Cranks for Winter... Ten Cranks for Spring"
1962, 1965 The Virginian Susan Morrow / Clara Malone2 episodes
1963 The Outer Limits Noel AndersonEpisode: "The Man Who Was Never Born"
1964 The Fugitive Janice PruittEpisode: "The Homecoming"
1965 The Fugitive Mona RossEpisode: "A.P.B."
1966 The Fugitive Jane WashburnEpisode: "Echo of a Nightmare"
1967 The Invaders Margaret CookEpisode: "The Watchers"
1967The OutsiderPeggy LeydonTV film
1968Shadow Over ElveronJoanne TregaskisTV film
1973 The Streets of San Francisco Mary Rae DortmunterEpisode: "A Room With a View"
1973 Circle of Fear BethEpisode: "Legion of Demons"
1973 The Lie AnnaTV film
1973 Orson Welles Great Mysteries Margot BrennerEpisode: "The Power of Fear"
1974The Country GirlGeorgie ElginTV film
1974 Nakia Faye ArnoldEpisode: "Pete"
1975 Barnaby Jones Kay LewistonEpisode: "Fantasy of Fear"
1975 Friendly Persuasion Eliza BirdwellTV film
1975 Medical Story Phyllis LenahanTV film
1976 Return to Earth Joan AldrinTV film
1976 21 Hours at Munich Anneliese Graes TV film
1978 The Defection of Simas Kudirka Genna KudirkaTV film
1979Champions: A Love StoryBarbara HarlichTV film
1979A Last Cry for HelpJoan MuirTV film
1980 Playing for Time Frau Lagerfuhrerin Maria Mandel TV film
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1982Kennedy's ChildrenCarlaTV film
1982 Nurse Sylvia DennisEpisode: "Euthanasia"
1982 Tales of the Unexpected Elizabeth BourdonEpisode: "A Woman's Help"
1984 Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense Ann Fairfax DenverEpisode: "The Sweet Scent of Death"
1984With Intent to KillEdna ReineckerTV film
1985–1987 Spenser: For Hire Katie Quirk2 episodes
1987–1990 Thirtysomething Ruth Murdoch2 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
1989 Murder, She Wrote Grace FentonEpisode: "Smooth Operators"
1989 The Equalizer KayEpisode: "Time Present, Time Past"
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
1990 Murder, She Wrote Grace LambertEpisode: "Always a Thief"
1990 Matlock Phyllis ToddEpisode: "The Mother"
1991 Bump in the Night KatieTV film
1991 Shadow of a Doubt Mrs. PotterTV film
1991To Save a ChildRinda LarsonTV film
1991 Law & Order Melanie CullenEpisode: "The Wages of Love"
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
1993 L.A. Law Belinda CollinsEpisode: "Hello and Goodbye"
1993When Love Kills: The Seduction of John HearnEdna LarsonTV film
1993 Angel Falls Edie Wren CoxTelevision series
1993 A Mother's Revenge Bess WardenTV film
1994 Baby Brokers SylviaTV film
1995 Children of the Dust Aunt BerthaTV film
1995 Fudge Mrs. AEpisode: "Fudge-a-mania"
1995 NYPD Blue Agnes CantwellEpisode: "Large Mouth Bass"
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
1995 Indictment: The McMartin Trial Peggy BuckeyTV film
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1996 Stolen Memories: Secrets from the Rose Garden Sally AnnTV film
1996 Cybill LorettaEpisode: "Romancing the Crone"
1996 If These Walls Could Talk Mary DonnellyTV film
1998–1999 Maggie Winters Estelle Winters16 episodes
1998 The Wedding Caroline "Gram" ShelbyNominated—Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
1998 Significant Others Mrs. Callaway2 episodes
1998 A Father for Brittany Donna MinkowitzTV film
2001 The Fugitive Delores DalkowskiEpisode: "Past Perfect"
2001 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Dr. WhartonEpisode: "Repression"
2001 My Louisiana Sky Jewel RamseyTV film
2002 Ally McBeal Helen AppleEpisode: "Homecoming"
2002 ER Mrs. BurkeEpisode: "Insurrection"
2003 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Rose GranvilleEpisode: '"Tragedy"
2004 Crossing Jordan Frances LittletonEpisode: "Most Likely"
2005 House Georgia AdamsEpisode: "Poison"
2005–2007 Desperate Housewives Phyllis Van De Kamp5 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
2009 Drop Dead Diva Millie CarlsonEpisode: "Dead Model Walking"
2010 Hot in Cleveland LorettaEpisode: "Meet the Parents"
2012 The Mob Doctor Ann WilsonEpisode: "Turf War"

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  12. "ACTORS' DIALOGUE: Shirley Knight & Kaitlin Hopkins" . Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  13. Barnes, Mike (April 22, 2020). "Shirley Knight, Adventurous Actress and Two-Time Oscar Nominee, Dies at 83". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 22, 2020.