Melinda Dillon, Close Encounters of the Third Kind Star, Dies 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 malicedied at the age of 83. The news of her death was announced through her family, revealing that she passed away on Monday, January 9. The cause of death is unknown at this time.

Born October 13, 1939, in Hope, Arkansas, Dillon attended Chicago’s Goodman School of Drama and worked as a coat-check girl for The Second City before finally taking the stage with the iconic improv troupe. Dillon quickly became known as an improvisational comedian and theater actress. She was soon nominated for a Tony Award for her first major role in the 1962 Broadway production Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfa role that led to her spending time in a mental hospital.

“I was in Virginia Woolf, and I just went crazy; it really was that simple,” she said said in a 1976 interview with The New York Times. “I think it was the way I lived; the play took so long and the actors’ union wouldn’t let us do the matinee. We needed a completely different cast for that, but I was asked to do it many times, often because the maid would get sick I did it for three in the afternoon then studied with Lee Strasberg for two hours and did 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.”

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 biopic Woody Guthrie Bound for glory. A year later, she would be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Her second Oscar nomination would come four years later, for her work in the drama Absence of malice.

Her most famous performance is perhaps as Mother Parker in A Christmas story, the 1983 film that has become a holiday classic in the decades since. Including her later work Harry and the Hendersons, Magnolia, The Twilight Zone, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Tracey Takes On…, Reign Over Meand 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.

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