We are sad to report that Melinda Dillon, an award-winning actress with two Oscar nominations and memorable roles in films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, A Christmas Story, Absence of Malice, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? has passed away at the age of 83.
Dillon is best known for her role in Steven Spielberg’s 1977 epic Close Encounters of the Third Kind, where she played a mother whose young son is abducted by aliens. Her performance earned her a Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. She also played the mother of the young lead Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) in the 1983 holiday classic A Christmas Story, memorably warning the boy who wants a BB rifle that, “You’ll shoot your eye out!”
The versatile actress earned a second Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for 1981’s Absence of Malice, playing a close friend of Paul Newman’s Michael Gallagher. She worked with some of the most renowned filmmakers of her time, including Spielberg, Sydney Pollock, Norman Jewison, Barbra Streisand, Paul Thomas Anderson, Hal Ashby and George Roy Hill.
Dillon also had a successful career on stage, appearing in five Broadway shows, most notably playing Honey in the original 1962 production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Her other Broadway roles in the late ’60s and early ’70s included You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running, A Way of Life, Paul Sills’ Story Theatre and Ovid’s Metamorphosis.
In addition to her film and stage credits, Dillon also had dozens of TV credits spanning 45 years, including guest appearances on Bonanza, The Jeffersons, Picket Fences, Tracey Takes On…, Judging Amy and Law & Order: SVU. Her last screen credit was an arc on Heartland in 2007.
The world has lost a great talent with the passing of Melinda Dillon, but her legacy will live on in her many memorable roles.