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So Long Shirley Knight an Actress Who Embodied an Era

So Long Shirley Knight an Actress Who Embodied an Era

Shirley Knight has died of natural causes April 22, 2020 at her daughter Kaitlin Hopkin’s home in San Marcos, Texas. She was 83.

Shirley Knight in Kennedy’s Children Photo: Martha Swope

Shirley appeared in more than 50 feature films, television movies, television series, and Broadway and Off-Broadway productions. She was a lifetime member of the Actors Studio.

Paul Newman and Shirley Knight in 1962’s “Sweet Bird of Youth.”

Knight began studying to be an opera singer at age 11 and 14, she wrote a short story that was published in a national magazine. She studied at the Pasadena Theatre School and 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.

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, 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. She also appeared in Come Back, Come Back, Wherever You Are, (2009) an original play by Arthur Laurents.

Shirley Knight in the world premiere of Tennessee Williams’ “In Masks Outrageous and Austere” 2012 Photo by Carol Rosegg

In 1976, Knight won a Tony Award 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. Knight, became a Warner Brothers Television contract star who while on breaks filming movies appeared in television series such as MaverickBourbon Street BeatSugarfootCheyenne, The Roaring 20s, Target: The Corruptors!The Eleventh HourThe Outer Limits (“The Man Who Was Never Born”),  The ReporterThe FugitiveThe InvadersThe VirginianMurder, She WroteThirtysomethingLaw & OrderL.A. LawLaw & Order: Special Victims UnitMaggie WintersER,  House M.D.Crossing JordanCold Case, and Hot in Cleveland, among others. Knight also appeared in Barnaby Jones in the episode titled “Fantasy of Fear”.

She appeared in various television movies, 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 Movieand 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”.

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

Knight was nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress: for Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960) and Sweet Bird of Youth (1962).In the 1960s, she had leading roles in a number of Hollywood movies such as The Couch (1962), House of Women (1962), The Group (1966), The Counterfeit Killer (1968), and 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.. She received the Volpi Cup for Best Actress for her role in the British film Dutchman (1966). Knight with Alan Arkin in The Defection of Simas Kudirka (1978)

Knight appeared in a Naked City episode (“Five Cranks For Winter … Ten Cranks For Spring,” 1962) with her future co-star in The Rain People (1969), Robert Duvall.

Knight is survived by actress Kaitlin Hopkins and elementary school teacher Sophie C. Hopkins.


Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email:

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