R.I.P. Shirley Knight

Just got the news from her daughter Kaitlin Hopkins (also a lovely actress) that the highly respected stage and screen star Shirley Knight has passed at age 83. Knight was “Heavenly” (the character’s name) in the 1962 film of Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Birth of Youth, opposite Paul Newman, and also George C. Scott’s wife in Petuliah (1968). Those are the performances of hers I’ve known the longest. Stuff I’ve discovered more recently includes Coppola’s The Rain People (1969), Irwin Allen’s Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979), where she has an affecting death scene, and Sidney Lumet’The Group (1966), which I saw for the first time on TCM just last night!

Other important stuff on her resume: the screen versions of Inge’s The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960) and Leroi Jones’ The Dutchman (1966), the 1974 thriller Juggernaut, Stuart Saves His Family (1995), the 1996 remake of Diabolique, As Good As It Gets (1997), Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002), Grandma’s Boy (2006), and the Paul Blart: Mall Cop comedies. Beyond this, scores of television and theatrical credits.

When Knight was young she was possessed of a bewitching, quiet beauty not unlike that of Olivia De Havilland. In later years, more heavyset, she tended to play grandmothers and neighbor ladies, and the like.  At any rate, she always possessed an angelic quality. Picturing her in heaven will not be a stretch.

If, like me, you’d been wondering whether the actress had died of Covid-19, this excellent article clears it up. The answer is yes, but only indirectly. She experienced a fall in her long-term care facility and didn’t get the proper care because the place was overstressed due to coronavirus cases. More here.