Melinda Dillon, who played pivotal roles in such films as Close Encounters of the Third Kind and A Christmas Story, has died at the age of 83.
Dillon passed away on January 9, according to an obituary published by Neptune Society, a cremation service in Long Beach, California; yet, the word of her death only recently spread.
Dillon’s mother divorced her father and remarried an Army man shortly after Dillon’s birth on October 13, 1939, therefore the young Dillon spent much of her childhood relocating. Dillon and her mother followed her stepfather everywhere he was sent.
Dillon felt she could no longer maintain that lifestyle, so she set out to find work and become financially independent after turning eighteen. During that time, she began her career in the entertainment industry working as a coat check girl for the renowned improv comedy group The Second City. A short time later, she began performing on stage at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre.
When “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” premiered on Broadway in 1962, Dillon was a part of the original cast and was soon nominated for a Tony Award. “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.”
Dillon was nominated twice for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Twice, actually, the first time for her part in Close Encounters by Steven Spielberg and the second time for Absence of Malice by Paul Newman.
Dillon continued working in films throughout the ’80s and ’90s, but as was previously said, she will always be most known for her part as Mother Parker in Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story, which tens of millions of Americans still enjoy watching every year.
Members of Dillon’s immediate family, friends, and coworkers all spoke out in her honor. Steven Spielberg was one of them. He told Variety, “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.”
Her son, Richard Libertini Jr., is Dillon’s sole heir.
It is with deep regret that we learn about Melinda Dillon’s demise. Peace be with her soul.
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