Actor Melinda Dillon, best known for her roles in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Absence of Malice, and A Christmas Story, has sadly passed away at the age of 83.

Melinda Dillon was an award-winning actress who had a career that spanned over five decades. She earned a Tony nomination and Theatre World award in 1963 for her debut performance on Broadway as the childlike wife Honey in the original production of Edward Albee‘s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? She then went on to star in a number of films and television shows, including Norman Jewison’s F.I.S.T. (1978), Barbra Streisand’s The Prince of Tides (1991), and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia (1999).

However, Dillon is perhaps best known for her roles in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and A Christmas Story (1983). In Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Dillon portrayed Jillian Guiler, the single mother who heads to Devils Tower with her next-door neighbor (Richard Dreyfuss) in search of her 3-year-old son, who’s been abducted by aliens through the kitchen doggy door. Meanwhile, in A Christmas Story, Dillon played the role of the sweet mother of Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) and Randy (Ian Petrella) and wife of Darren McGavin’s Old Man Parker.

Melinda Ruth Dillon was born on October 13, 1939, in Hope, Arkansas. She studied acting at DePaul University and came to New York, where she was cast opposite Uta Hagen, Arthur Hill, and George Grizzard in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? However, Dillon left the play after nine months and spent time in a psychiatric hospital.

Dillon went on to appear in other films including The Muppet Movie (1979), Songwriter (1984), Sioux City (1994), To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995), How to Make an American Quilt (1995) and Reign Over Me (2007). She also guest-starred on such TV shows as The Jeffersons, Picket Fences and Heartland.

We are deeply saddened by the loss of Melinda Dillon, an iconic actress who left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry. Our thoughts are with her family and friends during this difficult time.