Shirley Enola Knight (born July 5, 1936) is an American stage, film and television actress. She has been nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, in 1960 forThe Dark at the Top of the Stairs and in 1962 for Sweet Bird of Youth, eight times for Emmy Awards (winning three), and has also netted a Golden Globe and Volpi Cup for Best Actress for her role in the 1967 film Dutchman.
Knight was born in Goessel in Marion County in east central Kansas, 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 Hopkins and television writer Sophie Hopkins.
Knight's feature films include The Group (1966), The Dutchman (1966), Petulia (1968), The Rain People (1969) and As Good as It Gets (1997), and Elevator (2011), in which she plays one of several people trapped in a Wall Street elevator with a bomber.
Shortly before she turned twenty, Knight was cast in 1958 and 1959 as Mrs. Newcomb in twenty of the thirty-nine episodes of the NBC western television series, Buckskin, with Tom Nolan,Sally Brophy, and Mike Road. She became a Warner Brothers Television contract star who while on breaks filming movies appeared in such WB television series as Maverick ("The Ice Man" episode with Jack Kelly), 77 Sunset Strip, Bourbon Street Beat, Sugarfoot, Cheyenne, and The Roaring 20s.
A life member of The Actors Studio, Knight's stage 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 Playtwice, 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. She also appeared, with Alison Fraser, inCome Back, Come Back, Wherever You Are, (2009) an original play by legendary playwright, Arthur Laurents.
Her many television credits include Target: The Corruptors!, The Eleventh Hour, The Fugitive, The Virginian, thirtysomething, The Invaders, The Reporter, L.A. Law, Murder, She Wrote, Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Maggie Winters, House M.D., Crossing Jordan, Cold Case, ER and Hot in Cleveland, among others, in addition to television movies such asIndictment: 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 won another Emmy in 1995 for her guest performance in the NYPD Blue episode "Large Mouth Bass".
She appeared in the first segment of If These Walls Could Talk. She has also had a recurring role on Desperate Housewives as Bree Hodge's annoying former mother-in-law, Phyllis Van de Kamp, mother of Bree's first husband, Rex Van de Kamp (Steven Culp). She also appeared in a popular episode from the original The Outer Limits series, "The Man Who Was Never Born".