Actress Shirley Knight, who won a Tony and multiple Emmys throughout her decades-long career, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 83.
Fox News reported that the two-time Academy Award nominee died of natural causes at her daughter’s home in San Marcos, Texas.
“Early this morning April 22nd you passed away, and your sweet soul left us for a better place,” Knight’s daughter, Kaitlin Hopkins, wrote on Facebook. “I was at your side and you went peacefully. To me, you were ‘just mom’, to some you were ‘Miss Knight’, ‘Miss Shirley’, ‘Mama Shirley’ (to my students), ‘Shirl the Girl’ (to your friends), and ‘Shirley Knight’ to your fans.”
Born in Kansas, Knight’s two Oscar nominations came early in her career, with the first coming for just her second screen role in 1960’s The Dark at the Top of the Stairs. Knight, just 24 years-old in the movie, played an Oklahoma girl who fell in love with a Jewish man in a story that was originally a play by William Inges.
Just two years later, Knight was nominated for a Best Supporting Oscar again for playing the young woman seduced and abandoned by Paul Newman in the screen adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play Sweet Bird of Youth. Many stars fizzle out after finding success so early on, but not Knight. Instead, she was able to spend the next few decades working successfully as a character actress on both stage and screen.
Knight’s versatility as an actress was proven when she was awarded a Tony in 1976 for featured actress in a play for her work in Robert Patrick’s “Kennedy’s Children.” She was then nominated for this award again in 1997 for Horton Foote’s Pulitzer Prize winner “The Young Man From Atlanta.” At the time of her second nomination, the Times stated “the splendid Ms. Knight, who doesn’t waste a single fluttery gesture, brings an Ibsenesque weight to a woman frozen in the role of petulant, spoiled child bride.”
Success in television came as well, with Knight winning a guest actress Emmy in 1988 for playing Mel Harris’ mother in “Thirtysomething.” She then one two Emmys at the same ceremony in 1995: one for a supporting actress role in the TV drama “Indictment: The McMartin Trial,” and a second for a guest actress role as a murder victim in “NYPD Blue.”
Knight had wanted to be an opera singer when she was growing up in Kansas, but she switched to dreaming of being an actress after she saw Julie Harris in a touring company of “The Lark.” It’s safe to say that the dreams of this Kansas girl came true, as she left behind an acting career that anyone would be proud of.
This piece originally appeared in UpliftingToday.com and is used by permission.
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