Melinda Dillon, ‘Close Encounters’ Actress, Dead at 83


    Melinda Dillon, the two-time Oscar-nominee who starred in such films as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Absence of Malice and A Christmas Story, has died at 83.

    The actress’s passing was confirmed by her family, who noted that her date of death was Jan. 9. No further details were given.

    Born in Hope, Ark., Dillon’s first taste of show business came in Chicago, where she got a job working the coat check desk at the famed comedy club The Second City. She eventually became part of the improv troupe, before heading to New York and the bright lights of Broadway.

    Dillon earned a Tony nomination 1963 for her portrayal of Honey in the original production of Edward Albee‘s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? After further theater work, she’d shift into film and television roles.

    In 1976, Dillon starred alongside David Carradine in the Woody Guthrie biopic Bound for Glory, earning a Golden Globe nomination for her role as Memphis Sue. A year later she’d be cast as Jillian Guiler, a mother whose son is abducted by aliens, in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The Steven Spielberg sci-fi classic earned Dillon as Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Academy Awards.

    See Melinda Dillon in ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’

    She’d land the second Oscar nomination of her career in 1981 thanks to the thriller Absence of Malice. The film starred Paul Newman as a Miami liquor wholesaler who was implicated by a local newspaper reporter for a murder he did not commit. The film was a reunion of sorts for Newman and Dillon, as the two had worked together previously on the cult hockey comedy Slap Shot.

    Dillon’s long career included many more notable credits. In 1983, she played Mrs. Parker, mother of Ralphie in the classic holiday film A Christmas Story. Four years later, Dillon starred alongside John Lithgow in Harry and the Hendersons. The Prince of Tides (1991), Magnolia (1999) and the Adam Sandler drama Reign Over Me (2007) are just some of the many other films which featured the actress. According to IMDB, Dillon’s most recent acting work came in 2007, when she appeared on three episodes of the TV series Heartland.

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