Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

- Advertisement -

Melinda Dillon, actress in ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ and ‘A Christmas Story,’ dies at 83

Melinda Dillon, who received supporting Oscar nominations for her performances Close Encounters of the Third Kind And Absence of malice and portrayed the loving mother in the perennial for the holidays A Christmas story, died on January 9, her family announced. She turned 83.

Right out of the gate, Dillon earned a Tony nomination and Theater World award in 1963 for her Broadway debut performance as the childlike wife Honey in the original production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Later, the Arkansas native played two characters opposite David Carradine — Woody Guthrie’s first wife, Mary, and a dark-haired folk singer named Memphis Sue — in the biopic Bound for glory (1976), directed by Hal Ashby; was a lesbian hockey wife at George Roy Hill’s Clap Shot (1977); and portrayed John Lithgow’s wife in the family film Harry and the Hendersons (1987).

Her big screen resume also included Norman Jewison’s FIST (1978), as the girlfriend/wife of a Teamster played by Sylvester Stallone; Barbara Streisands The Prince of the Tides (1991), as the suicidal sister of Nick Nolte’s character; and that of Paul Thomas Anderson Magnolia (1999), as the wife of a flirtatious quiz show host (Philip Baker Hall).

She was married to the late actor Richard Libertini from 1963 until their divorce in 1978, and they had one son.

In Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Dillon portrayed Jillian Guiler, the single mother who goes to Devils Tower with her neighbor (Richard Dreyfuss) in search of her 3-year-old son, who has been abducted by aliens through the dog door in the kitchen. Ashby had recommended her to Spielberg for the role, and she was hired just days before filming began.

Sydney Pollack Absence of malice (1981) had her back Blow shot co-star Paul Newman, this time as a Catholic woman who commits suicide after a reporter (Sally Field) writes a story about her abortion.

At the Oscars, Dillon lost to Vanessa Redgrave or Juliet in 1978 and to Maureen Stapleton of Red in 1982.

Yet, unlike those two, Dillon appears on TV rebroadcasts every holiday season as the lovable mother of Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) and Randy (Ian Petrella) and wife of Darren McGavin’s Old Man Parker in A Christmas story (1983), directed by Bob Clark.

In the film, Sam Kashner noted in a 2016 article Vanity purse, “Dillon has a sweetly comedic presence that threatens to dissolve into creative anarchy. She’s a watchful mother, but still a child at heart, which is evident when she encourages her youngest, Randy, a fussy eater, to pretend he’s a pig in a trough. Randy gets into it, sniffing and sticking his face in his meatloaf and mashed potatoes as he and his mom burst into laughter.’

As The New York Times noted that the poor woman “hadn’t had a hot meal for herself in 15 years.”

Melinda Ruth Dillon was born on October 13, 1939 in Hope, Arkansas. Her mother divorced and remarried an army veteran, and she lived on several military bases, including one in Nuremberg, Germany, before graduating from high school in Chicago.

While working as a coat checker for The Second City, she filled in for an ailing Barbara Harris and performed in a skit, launching her acting career. (In Second City, she also met Libertini, who was a member of the improv comedy troupe.)

Melinda Dillon with Richard Dreyfuss in ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’

Columbia Pictures/Photofest

After her acting studies at DePaul University, she came to New York and starred opposite Uta Hagen, Arthur Hill and George Grizzard in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? However, she left the intense game after nine months and spent time in a mental hospital.

“I was in Virginia Woolf, and I just went crazy; it really was that simple,” she said in a 1976 interview with The New York Times.

“I think it was the way I lived; the play was so long and the actors’ union wouldn’t let us play the matinee. We had to have a completely different cast for that, but I was called in very often because the girl would get sick. I would do it for three in the afternoon, then study with Lee Strasberg for two hours and do the play for three in the evening. Then George Grizzard left to do Hamlet, and something strange happened. I had learned to lean hard on George, and I just collapsed. I do not know why.

“I had had the American dream: to go to New York and study with Lee Strasberg. I guess I just wasn’t prepared for it all to happen so quickly in New York. I am not refined; I had no cultural training at all, so when it came to meeting people and presenting ideas I had to offer, I would be terrified.”

Meanwhile, Sandy Dennis played Honey in Mike Nichols’ 1966 film version Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and won an Oscar.

Dillon returned to Broadway in 1967 and spent two seasons in the hit You know I can’t hear you when the water is flowingand in 1970 for a Second City reunion via The Story Theater of Paul Sills. In between, she made her big screen debut in The April Fools (1969), starring Jack Lemmon.

Dillon went on to appear in other films, including The Muppet movie (1979), Songwriter (1984), Sioux city (1994), To Wong Foo, thank you for everything, Julie Newmar (1995), How to Make an American Quilt (1995) and Reign over me (2007). She also guest-starred on TV shows like The Jeffersons, Picket fences And Hartland.

!function(f, b, e, v, n, t, s) {
if (f.fbq) return;
n = f.fbq = function() {n.callMethod ? n.callMethod.apply(n, arguments) : n.queue.push(arguments);};
if (!f._fbq) f._fbq = n;
n.push = n;
n.loaded = !0;
n.version = ‘2.0’;
n.queue = [];
t = b.createElement(e);
t.async = !0;
t.src = v;
s = b.getElementsByTagName(e)[0];
s.parentNode.insertBefore(t, s);
}(window, document, ‘script’, ‘https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/fbevents.js’);
fbq(‘init’, ‘352999048212581’);
fbq(‘track’, ‘PageView’);

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.