Shirley Knight, a multiple award-winning actress, has died at the age of 83 of natural causes. Her passing was confirmed by her daughter Kaitlin Hopkins, known to soap fans as Kelsey Harrison on Another World in the 1990s.
Shirley Knight — A Life Well Lived
Knight was born on July 5, 1936, in Goessel, Kansas. At the age of 11, she studied to be an opera singer. Upon completing her junior year at Wichita State University, Knight moved to Southern California to study acting at the Pasadena Playhouse and UCLA. She landed a role as a teenaged unwed mother opposite Michael Landon (Little House on the Prairie) in 1957 on NBC Matinee Theater.
She won three Primetime Emmys and a Tony award over the course of her career. Knight also received Oscar nominations for the films Sweet Bird of Youth and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs.
The actress passed away at Hopkins’ home in San Marcos, Texas, according to the Hollywood Reporter. A native of Kansas, Knight won her Tony Award for her portrayal of an alcoholic actress in Kennedy’s Children. She performed Blanche DuBois on stage in the Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire.
“I was absolutely born to play that role,” she said in a 2010 interview for the Classic TV blog. She recalled: “Tennessee came backstage and said, ‘Finally, I have my Blanche. My perfect Blanche.'”
Williams said of Knight in a 1982 interview with James Grisson: “There are talented people — brilliant people — who have courage, and those you want to keep around you … Shirley Knight has incredible courage: She’ll take her talent wherever it needs to go to get the job done well, and she has no fear about sharing it with anyone ready for it. I like daring people, bold people. Shirley is daring and bold.”
In 1986, Knight played the short-term role of Claire on One Life to Live. She won not one, but two Emmys in 1995; one was for playing Peggy Buckley, the real-life owner of the McMartin daycare center, who was tried for child molestation. The other statue came courtesy of a guest spot on NYPD Blue.
Additionally, Knight played Marcia Cross’s (Bree) mother-in-law, Phyllis Van De Camp, on Desperate Housewives in 2005 and 2007. Other credits include two appearances on Law & Order: SVU as well as Hot in Cleveland and Drop Dead Diva.
She was wed to director Gene Persson. Their union ended in divorce in 1969. That same year, she wed playwright John R. Hopkins. He died in 1998.
In addition to Hopkins, Knight is survived by daughter Sophie Jacks, a screenwriter, and a stepdaughter Justine. A memorial will be held in Los Angeles early next year. The family has requested that in lieu of flowers that donations may be sent to The Shirley Knight Memorial Fund at Texas State University.