We are saddened to share the news of the passing of Melinda Dillon, an Oscar and Tony-nominated actress whose most memorable performance was as Mrs. Parker in 1983’s A Christmas Story. Dillon, who was 83, was a beloved figure on Broadway and in the 70s and 80s cinema, with notable roles in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Absence of Malice, and Harry and the Hendersons.
Dillon was born in Arkansas in the late 1930s and began her career in the theater in Chicago, where she studied at DePaul and worked with the Second City. She moved to New York and was quickly cast in the role of young wife Honey in the original Broadway production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, for which she received a Tony nomination for Best Performance By A Featured Actress.
In the 1970s, she transitioned into film and was cast in Hal Ashby’s Woodie Guthrie biopic Bound For Glory, and Sydney Pollack’s Absence Of Malice, for which she received an Oscar nomination. She also starred in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind as the mother of a three-year-old abduction victim, and her performance in this film earned her a second Oscar nomination.
Dillon was most widely known, however, for her role as Mrs. Parker in A Christmas Story. As the mother to Peter Billingsley’s Ralphie, Dillon brought a unique authenticity and delight to the role that has kept the film in near-permanent holiday rotation for the last 40 years.
Dillon continued to work regularly through the 1990s, appearing in films like The Prince Of Tides, To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything!, and Magnolia; meanwhile, in TV, she showed up for single-episode stints on series like Picket Fences, The Client, and more. She retired in 2007 after her last role in Adam Sandler drama Reign Over Me.
We remember Melinda Dillon as a beloved figure in the theater and cinema, and her loss is deeply felt.