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Also Known As: Shirley Enola Knight, Shirley Knight Hopkins Died:
Born: July 5, 1936 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Goessel, Kansas, USA Profession: actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Kansas-born Shirley Knight originally intended to be an opera singer until she saw a touring company of "The Lark" starring Julie Harris and switched to acting. In 1957, she headed west to study at the Pasadena Playhouse where she made her stage debut the following year in "Look Back in Anger". Knight was put under contract by Warner Bros. and the petite blonde earned critical acclaim and a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination as an Oklahoman in love with a Jew in the screen adaptation of William Inge's "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs" (1960). She picked up a second nod in the same category as Heavenly Finley, the woman seduced and abandoned by Chance Wayne, in "Sweet Bird of Youth" (1962). In "The Group" (1966), her character found seeming happiness with James Broderick while later that same year she delivered a strong turn as a sluttish white woman who confronts a young black male passenger in "The Dutchman". After a strong turn as a pregnant woman who runs off with a football player in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Rain People" (1969), Knight moved to England with her second husband, British playwright John Hopkins and did not act on screen for five years, returning in "Juggernaut" (1974)....

Kansas-born Shirley Knight originally intended to be an opera singer until she saw a touring company of "The Lark" starring Julie Harris and switched to acting. In 1957, she headed west to study at the Pasadena Playhouse where she made her stage debut the following year in "Look Back in Anger". Knight was put under contract by Warner Bros. and the petite blonde earned critical acclaim and a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination as an Oklahoman in love with a Jew in the screen adaptation of William Inge's "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs" (1960). She picked up a second nod in the same category as Heavenly Finley, the woman seduced and abandoned by Chance Wayne, in "Sweet Bird of Youth" (1962). In "The Group" (1966), her character found seeming happiness with James Broderick while later that same year she delivered a strong turn as a sluttish white woman who confronts a young black male passenger in "The Dutchman". After a strong turn as a pregnant woman who runs off with a football player in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Rain People" (1969), Knight moved to England with her second husband, British playwright John Hopkins and did not act on screen for five years, returning in "Juggernaut" (1974). Her subsequent film roles have generally cast her in maternal roles as in "Endless Love" (1981), "Stuart Saves His Family" (1995) and "As Good As It Gets" (1997).

While she found almost immediate success in films, Knight has a stated preference for stage work. Spurning an offer to play Ophelia to Richard Burton's "Hamlet", she opted to co-star with Geraldine Page and Kim Stanley in an Actors Studio production of Chekhov's "Three Sisters" (1964). She acquired a Tony as Featured Actress in a Play for her turn as a floozy in "Kennedy's Children" (1975) and has appeared in several classics including twice playing Blanche in "A Streetcar Named Desire", Lola in "Come Back, Little Sheba" and Amanda Wingfield in "The Glass Menagerie". More recently, Knight returned to Broadway and netted a Tony nomination for her turn as a woman who refuses to accept that her son committed suicide in Horton Foote's Pulitzer-winning "The Young Man From Atlanta" in 1997.

The small screen has also provided the actress with challenging roles. She made her first appearance in the medium in a live broadcast in 1959 and amassed numerous guest credits in the 60s and 70s. Knight co-starred opposite Jason Robards in a "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentation of "The Country Girl" (NBC, 1974) and Alan Arkin in the above average CBS movie "The Defection of Simas Kudirka" (1978). She offered a strong turn and earned her first Emmy nomination as a concentration camp inmate in the acclaimed "Playing for Time" (CBS, 1980) before picking up the award for a guest appearance as the mother of Mel Harris' Hope in a 1987 episode of ABC's "thirtysomething".

Knight had her first regular series role in the short-lived 1993 CBS drama "Angel Falls". At the 1995 Emmy Awards, she picked up two statuettes, one for her guest appearance as the mother of a murder victim in an episode of "NYPD Blue" and the second as day care center owner Peggy Buckley who was accused of and tried for child molestation in the fact-based HBO drama "Indictment: The McMartin Trial". Knight has continued to be a powerful presence in the medium, offering effective supporting turns in such made-for-television fare as "Stolen Memories: Secrets From the Rose Garden" (Family Channel, 1996), "Mary & Tim" (CBS, 1996) and "The Wedding" (ABC, 1998). She returned to regular series work cast as the mother of the titular "Maggie Winters" in the short-lived 1998 CBS sitcom starring Faith Ford. The actress's schedule remained packed with continual roles in feature films--including "Angel Eyes" (2001), "The Salton Sea" (2002) and "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" (2002).

Knight became a regular fixture on the small screen with guest appearances on such series as "Ally McBeal," "ER," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "Crossing Jordan," and "Cold Case" and "House," and in 2005 she began a recurring stint on "Desperate Housewives" as Phyllis Van De Kamp, the meddling mother-in-law of tightly wound Bree (Marcia Cross).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Mercy (2014)
2.
3.
4.
6.
 Not Fade Away (2009)
7.
 Open Window (2007)
8.
9.
 Grandma's Boy (2006)
10.
 Sexual Life (2005)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in Kansas
:
While in college, spent one summer singing in the chorus of operas in Center City, Colorado
1958:
Joined Pasadena Playhouse and made stage debut in "Look Back in Anger"
1959:
Made TV acting debut
1959:
Signed contract with Warner Bros.
1959:
Film debut "Five Gates to Hell"
:
While making the 1960 film "Ice Palace", tutored in Shakespeare by Richard Burton
1960:
Received first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs"
1961:
Early TV credit, a guest appearance on "Maverick"
1962:
Earned second Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for "Sweet Bird of Youth"
1963:
Off-Broadway debut in "Journey to the Day"
:
Offered role of Ophelia opposite Richard Burton's "Hamlet" and role of Irina in Actors Studio production of Chekhov's "Three Sisters"
1964:
Broadway debut in "Three Sisters" alongside Geraldine Page and Kim Stanley; replaced in film version by Sandy Dennis
1966:
Co-starred in "The Group"
1967:
TV-movie debut "The Outsider" (NBC)
1969:
Had starring role in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Rain People"
1970:
Lived in England
1970:
British stage debut in "A Touch of the Poet"
1974:
Played Georgie Elgin in a the NBC "Hallmark Hall of Fame" production of "The Country Girl"
1974:
Returned to films after a five year absence in "Juggernaut"
1976:
Earned a Tony Award as Featured Actress in a Play for her performance in "Kennedy's Children"
1978:
Co-starred alongside Alan Arkin in the CBS movie "The Defection of Simas Kudirka"
1980:
Offered a strong supporting turn as a concentration camp inmate in "Playing for Time" (CBS)
1981:
Cast as Brooke Shields' mother in "Endless Love"
1983:
Last film appearance for a decade "Sweet Scene of Death"
1987:
Won first Emmy Award playing Hope's mother in an episode of the ABC drama "thirtysomething"
1990:
Reprised her award-winning role of Hope's mother in another episode of "thirtysomething"
1993:
TV series debut as regular in the short-lived CBS series "Angel Falls"
1993:
Returned to films in "The Secret Life of Houses"
1995:
Won second Emmy as the mother of a murder victim in an episode of "NYPD Blue"
1995:
Played Peggy Buckley, a real-life pre-school owner accused of child molestation, in the acclaimed HBO movie "Indictment: The McMartin Trial"; received third Emmy Award
1995:
Played Al Franken's mother in "Stuart Saves His Family"
1996:
Co-starred with Mary Tyler Moore and Linda Lavin in the Family Channel TV-movie "Stolen Memories: Secrets From the Rose Garden"
1997:
Returned to Broadway as co-star with Rip Torn in Horton Foote's Pulitzer-winning "The Young Man From Atlanta"; received Tony nomination
1997:
Portrayed Helen Hunt's mother in "As Good As It Gets"
1998:
Appeared as Gram, the Caucasian matriarch of a biracial family in "The Wedding" (ABC)
:
Returned to series TV as Estelle, the mother of Faith Ford's "Maggie Winters" (CBS)
2001:
Had featured role in "Angel Eyes"
2001:
Acted in Hartford Stage production of "Necessary Targets"
2006:
Earned an Emmy nomination for Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for "Desperate Housewives"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Lyons High School: Lyons , Kansas -
Philipps University: Enid , Oklahoma -
University of Wichita: Wichita , Kansas -
Center For Advanced Film Studies, American Film Institute: - 1991

Notes

She was named Shirley after screen actress Shirley Temple

Knight received an honorary doctorate of fine arts from Lake Forest College in 1978

"My husband has always said I don't have enough vanity to be an actress." --Shirley Knight to The New York Times, May 24, 1997.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Gene Persson. Producer. Married in 1959; divorced in 1969.
husband:
John R Hopkins. Playwright. Married from 1970 until his death on July 23, 1998; British.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Noel Johnson Knight. Oil company executive.
mother:
Virginia Knight.
step-daughter:
Justine Hopkins.
daughter:
Kaitlin Hopkins. Actor. Father, Gene Persson.
daughter:
Justine Hopkins. Father, John Hopkins.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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