Actress Melinda Dillon, best known for her roles in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and A Christmas Story, passed away at the age of 83.
According to an obituary from Neptune Society, a cremation provider in Long Beach, California, Dillon died on January 9, but the news of her passing became widely known two days ago.
Dillon was born October 13, 1939, in Hope, Arkansas, but she spent her childhood moving from place to place after her mother divorced her father and married a man who worked in the Army. Whenever her stepfather was forced to move places, Dillon and her mother followed him.
Actress Melinda Dillon attends the world premiere of “F.I.S.T.” on April 13, 1978 at Filmex in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
However, once she turned 18, Dillon felt like she could no longer live that kind of life and decided to look for a job and be independent. That is when she started working as a coat check girl for The Second City, an acclaimed improvisational comedy troupe. Shortly after, she joined the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and started working on stage.
After being part of the original cast of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” on Broadway, Dillon was nominated for a Tony Award in 1962.
“I did go for an audition, but I didn’t go back. I guess I must be perceptive because I really didn’t want to start out in musical comedy. My idol was still Geraldine Page as an actress,” Dillon said back in the day.
“I had had the American dream—to go to New York and study with Lee Strasberg,” she shared with The New York Times in 1976. “I guess I just wasn’t prepared for it all to happen so quickly in New York. I’m not sophisticated.”
Richard Dreyfuss and Melinda Dillon on the set of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
Throughout her career, Dillon earned herself two Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actress. Once, for her role in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters, and later for Absence of Malice, where she starred alongside Paul Newman.
Dillon maintained a presence in film throughout the ’80s and ’90s, but as mentioned before, one of her most prominent roles is that of Mother Parker in Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story, a role fondly remembered to this day by millions of Americans.
Dillon’s close family and friends, as well as fellow co-workers, shared their condolences and paid tribute to the actress. Among them was Steven Spielberg. In a statement to Variety, the famous director said, “Melinda was generous of spirit and lent such kindness to the character she played in ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’… We will all miss her.”
“Melinda Dillon was such a great actress, with a wonderful delicacy about her. She was a delight to direct in Prince of Tides. May she rest in peace,” Barbra Streisand shared in a post, while actor Jon Cryer wrote, “Melinda Dillon’s work had such a profound effect on me. Every moment of her performance in Close Encounters was perfection. I’m so grateful she decided to give her artistry to the world.”
Dillon is survived by her son Richard Libertini Jr.
We are so very sorry for Melinda Dillon’s passing. May she rest in peace.
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