Even more sad news is coming in this week as the Emmy and Tony-winning actress Shirley Knight has passed away. Known for her work in movies like The Dark at the Top of the Stairs and Sweet Bird of Youth, Knight was a veteran actress whose impressive performances have stuck with viewers for decades. Reportedly, Knight died on Wednesday due to "natural causes" at the San Marcos, Texas home of her daughter, actress Kaitlin Hopkins.She was 83 years old.
Shirley Knight was born in Goessel, Kansas, on July 5, 1936. Knowing very early in life she wanted to perform, Knight had begun studying to be an opera singer at the age of eleven. After graduating from high school, Knight attended Phillips University and Wichita State University, going on to study at the Pasadena Theatre School to train as an actress. She would make her movie debut in the 1959 movie Five Gates to Hell, the start of what would be a resume with dozens of movie and television roles to follow in the coming years.
Knight established her excellence as an actress early into her acting career as well. For her third movie, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, Knight was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar along with two Golden Globe Award nominations. Two years later, she was again nominated for Best Supporting actress at the Oscars and the Golden Globes for her role as Heavenly Finley in Sweet Bird of Youth. Knight also won an Emmy for a guest spot on the TV series Thirtysomething, going on to win two more for her roles in the crime drama NYPD Blue and the TV movie Indictment: The McMartin Trial. On the stage, Knight also won a Tony Award in 1976 for her part in Kennedy's Children.
When Knight's acting career led to more movie roles in the 1960's, she took on several roles which were considered to be highly controversial given the time period, giving Knight a reputation for taking bold chances as an actress. This includes playing a promiscuous woman sharing a subway ride with a young black man (Al Freeman Jr.) in the 1966 movie The Dutchman and a role as a pregnant housewife who gets involved with other men in Francis Ford Coppola's 1969 movie The Rain People. Some other notable movie roles from Knight's career include parts in Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Grandma's Boy, Juggernaut, Elevator, and A Streetcar Named Desire. Some of her many TV roles also include The Outer Limits, The Fugitive, ER, Murder, She Wrote, and Hot in Cleveland.
Some of Knight's contemporaries have since spoken out about her passing to offer their respects. On Twitter, fellow actress Viola Davis writes: "RIP to the talented, prolific, Shirley Knight. Rest well." Actor Michael McKean also called Knight a "beautiful person with a lot of talent" as well as "lovely and smart." Meanwhile, Knight's Grandma's Boy co-star and writer Allen Covert also spoke touched on the passing of the veteran actress with a Twitter post of his own. "She was an amazing actress and a wonderful person. Her career was long and she could do anything. I am proud to have known her and to have had the honor of working with her," Covert writes.
Knight was previously married to Gene Persson from 1959 until divorcing in 1969; she later married John R. Hopkins, with their marriage lasting from 1969 until Hopkins' death in 1998. Aside from daughter Kaitlin, Knight's survivors also include another daughter, Sophie Jacks, and a stepdaughter, Justine. We extend our condolences to them at this time. A memorial service is also reported to be held in early 2021 in Los Angeles to remember the actress, and may Knight rest in peace. This news comes to us from The Hollywood Reporter.