Melinda Dillon, Close Encounters of the Third Kind Star, Dead at 83

Melinda Dillon, a Tony and Oscar-nominated actress known for her work on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, A Christmas Story, and Absence of Malice, has passed away at the age of 83. The news of her passing was announced via her family, revealing that she passed away on Monday, January 9th. The cause of death is currently unknown at this time. 

Born on October 13, 1939 in Hope, Arkansas, Dillon studied at Chicago's Goodman School of Drama and worked as a coat check girl for The Second City, before eventually making her way onto the stage of the iconic improvisational group. Dillon quickly became known as an improvisational comedian and theatre actress. She quickly was nominated for a Tony award for her first major role in the 1962 Broadway production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, a role that led to her spending time in a psychiatric hospital.

"I was in Virginia Woolf, and I just went crazy; it was really that simple," she said in a 1976 interview with The New York Times. "I think it was the way I was living; the play was so long and the actors' union wouldn't let us play the matinee. We had to have a whole different cast for that, but I was called in to do it many, many times because the gal would get sick. I would do it three hours in the afternoon, then study with Lee Strasberg for two hours, and do the play three hours at night. Then, George Grizzard left to do Hamlet, and a strange thing happened. I had learned to lean on George hard, and I just crumbled inside. I don't 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'm not sophisticated; I hadn't had any kind of cultural education, at all, so when it came to meeting people, and presenting any kind of ideas I might have to offer, I would be terrified."

She would make her feature film debut a few years later with The April Fools. in 1976, she was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance as Memphis Sue in the Woody Guthrie biopic Bound for Glory. A year later, she would be nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her appearance in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Her second Oscar nomination would happen four years later, for her work in the drama Absence of Malice.

Her most well-known performance might be as Mother Parker in A Christmas Story, the 1983 film that has become a holiday classic in the decades since. Her later work included Harry and the Hendersons, Magnolia, The Twilight Zone, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Tracey Takes On..., Reign Over Me, and Heartland. She also portrayed Mrs. Rogers in the 1990 Captain America television movie.

Our thoughts are with Dillon's family, friends, and fans at this time.