Melinda Dillon, the Close Encounters star, passed away at 83
Melinda Dillon, who starred in the films CHRISTMAS STORY and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS of the Third Kind, has passed away at 83. She was a great actress who educated a generation about the risks of shooting one’s eye out.
Rest in peace, Melinda Dillon, a wonderful actress known for Close Encounters, A Christmas Story, Harry and the Hendersons, Slap Shot, Magnolia, and many more. pic.twitter.com/6ry5OIvB6q— Scott Weinberg (@scottEmovienerd) February 3, 2023
Dillon’s Broadway debut performance as the naive wife Honey in the Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The original production of Edward Albee garnered her a Theatre World award in 1963 and a Tony nomination.
Later, the American actress from Arkansas played two roles opposite David Carradine in 1976’s Bound for Glory (a biopic of Hal Ashby), where she portrayed Mary, the first wife of Woody Guthrie, and a dark-haired folk singer named Memphis Sue.
Besides that, Melinda Dillon acted as a lesbian hockey wife in 1977’s Slap Shot, directed by George Roy Hill, and the wife of John Lithgow in the 1987’s family movie Harry and the Hendersons.
She also starred in 1978’s F.I.S.T., directed by Norman Jewison, as the girlfriend/wife of a Teamster (portrayed by Sylvester Stallone). Followed by 1991’s The Prince of Tides, by Barbra Streisand, as Nick Nolte’s suicidal sister, and 1999’s Magnolia by Paul Thomas Anderson, as the wife of a show host of a philandering game (Philip Baker Hall).
She had a son during her marriage to the late actor Richard Libertini, which lasted from 1963 until their divorce in 1978.
Dillon played Jillian Guiler, the single mother who travels to Devil’s Tower. She got accompanied by her next-door neighbor (Richard Dreyfuss) in pursuit of her 3-year-old son, who had been stolen by aliens through the kitchen doggy door, in the 1977’s film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, by Steven Spielberg.
A few days before filming started, Spielberg hired her after Ashby recommended her for the role.
With her Slap Shot co-star Paul Newman, Melinda Dillon returned in 1981’s film Absence of Malice by Sydney Pollack, playing a Catholic woman who commits suicide after a reporter (Sally Field) publishes a story about her abortion.
Dillon got defeated at the Oscars in 1982 by Maureen Stapleton of Reds and Vanessa Redgrave of Julia in 1978.
However, unlike those two, the Arkansas native appeared on TV rebroadcasts as Randy (Ian Petrella) and the beautiful mother of Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) every holiday season.
1983’s film, A Christmas Story, directed by Bob Clark, Dillon played the spouse of Darren McGavin’s Old Man Parker.
On October 13, 1939, in Hope, Arkansas, the beautiful actress was born Melinda Ruth Dillon. Before she completed high school in Chicago, her mother separated and remarried an Army veteran. She also lived on various military stations, including one in Nuremberg, Germany.
She stepped in for an unwell Barbara Harris and took the stage in a sketch while working as the coat check girl for The Second City, through which she launched her acting career. (It was in Second City that she first met Libertini, a member of the improv comedy group.)
Dillon’s theatrical acting and improv comedy career began in “The Second City.” Melinda Dillon also performed in the plays “You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running” and “Paul Sill’s Story Theater.”
Her first major motion picture was “The April Fools” in 1969. Dillon’s television credits include appearances on “Bonanza,” 2005’s “Law & Order: SVU,” and “The Twilight Zone.”