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Shirley Enola Knight (born July 5, 1936) is an American stage, screen, and television actress. She has been nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, in 1960 for The Dark at the Top of the Stairs and in 1962 for Sweet Bird of Youth.


Knight's feature films include Sidney Lumet's The Group (1966), Richard Lester's Petulia (1968), Francis Ford Coppola's The Rain People (1969), and As Good As It Gets (1997).

Knight's theatre credits include Three Sisters (1964), We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1966), Kennedy's Children (1975), which earned her the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play, and A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur (1979). She was nominated for the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play twice, for Landscape of the Body and The Young Man from Atlanta, which also garnered her a Tony nomination for Best Leading Actress in a Play.

Knight's many television credits include Target: The Corruptors!, The Eleventh Hour, The Reporter, Maggie Winters, L.A. Law, Murder, She Wrote, Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, House M.D., Crossing Jordan, Cold Case, and ER, among others, in addition to many television movies, including Indictment: The McMartin Trial, for which she won both the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie and the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. Her guest performance in thirtysomething earned her a 1988 Emmy for Best Guest Performer in a Drama Series.

She also appeared in the first segment of If These Walls Could Talk, the HBO series about the various faces of abortion co-written and directed by Nancy Savoca, and has played the recurring role of Bree Hodge's mother-in-law Phyllis Van De Kamp on Desperate Housewives. She also appeared in a popular episode from the original The Outer Limits series titled 'The Man Who Was Never Born' co-starring Martin Landau.

Personal life

Knight was born in Goesselmarker, Kansasmarker, the daughter of Virginia (née Webster) and Noel Johnson Knight, an oil company executive. Knight was married twice, to Gene Persson from 1959 until they divorced in 1969, and to John Hopkins from 1969 until his death in 1998. She has two daughters, actress Kaitlin and television writer Sophie.

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