Tony Winner Shirley Knight, Star of Stage and Screen, Dies at 83

Obituaries   Tony Winner Shirley Knight, Star of Stage and Screen, Dies at 83
 
Ms. Knight was also a two-time Oscar nominee.
Shirley Knight_Obit Graphic_HR

Shirley Knight, a Tony and Emmy winner and two-time Academy Award nominee, passed away April 22 from natural causes at the home of her daughter, Kaitlin Hopkins, in San Marcos, Texas. She was 83.

Ms. Knight was born July 5, 1936, to Noel Knight and Virginia Webster in Goessel, Kansas. She attended Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma, and Wichita State University. She later studied with Jeff Corey and Lee Strasberg and became a member of The Actors Studio. She was also the recipient of an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts Degree from Lake Forest College.

Shirley Knight
Shirley Knight

Ms. Knight began her acting career under contract at Warner Brothers Studios in 1955 and spent her early years in classic TV series like Rawhide, Playhouse 90, and 77 Sunset Strip. Over the next 60-plus years, she appeared in more than 40 TV shows and 75 films. Standout performances included the films The Dark at the Top of the Stairs and Sweet Bird of Youth (earning Oscar nominations for both), The Group, Petulia, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rain People, and Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman, as well as TV's Indictment: The McMartin Trial, NYPD Blue, Thirtysomething, Playing for Time, and Desperate Housewives (earning Emmy Awards for the first three and nominations for the latter two). She also appeared in such pop-culture favorites as Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Stuart Saves His Family, Grandma’s Boy, and As Good As It Gets.

Ms. Knight made her Broadway debut in 1964 in a production of Chekhov's The Three Sisters, which was directed by Lee Strasberg and co-starred Kim Stanley and Geraldine Page. She was subsequently seen in We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Watering Place. In 1975, she played Carla in Robert Patrick's Kennedy's Children, winning a Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Play. She was also Tony-nominated for playing Lily Dale Kidder in the 1977 world premiere of Horton Foote's The Young Man From Atlanta, directed by Robert Falls.

Off-Broadway, Ms. Knight appeared in Love, Loss, and What I Wore; Cycling Past the Matterhorn; Necessary Targets; The Vagina Monologues; Come Back, Little Sheba; Losing Time; A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur; Landscape of the Body; Happy End; Rooms; and Journey to the Day.

The cast
The cast Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage

Her last Off-Broadway outing was in 2012, in the world premiere of In Masks Outrageous and Austere, the final full-length play from Tennessee Williams.

Ms. Knight was also the recipient of two Drama Desk Award nominations and many honors from her home state of Kansas, including the Kansan of the Year in 2000 and the Governor's Distinguished Artist Award in 2007.

Ms. Knight was preceded in death by her husband writer John R. Hopkins, in 1998. She is survived by her stepdaughter, Justine Hopkins, and her two daughters, Sophie Jacks and Kaitlin Hopkins.

A memorial service for Shirley Knight Hopkins will be held in early 2021 in Los Angeles. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to The Shirley Knight Memorial Fund at Texas State University.