Shirley Knight, the Kansas-born actress who was nominated for two Oscars early in her career and went on to play an astonishing variety of roles in movies, TV and the stage, has died. She was 83.
Knight passed away Wednesday at her daughter’s home in San Marcos, Texas, according to her daughter Kaitlin Hopkins.
Knight’s career carried her from Kansas to Hollywood and then to the New York theater and London and back to Hollywood. She was nominated for two Tonys, winning one. In recent years, she had a recurring role as Phyllis Van de Kamp (the mother-in-law of Marcia Cross’ character) in the long-running ABC show “Desperate Housewives,” gaining one of her many Emmy nominations.
Knight’s her first Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress came in just her second screen role, as an Oklahoman in love with a Jewish man in the 1960 film version of William Inges’ play “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs.”
She was nominated for best supporting actress two years later for her role as the woman seduced and abandoned by Paul Newman in the 1962 film “Sweet Bird of Youth,” based on the Tennessee Williams play.
As success beckoned in 1960, she told columnist Hedda Hopper that she was struggling to keep on an even keel and keep bettering herself as an actress.
“So many actors, once they became famous, lose some beautiful inner thing, something they should try hard to keep,” she said. “They begin to think too highly of themselves and success.”