Melinda Dillon, Who Appeared in 'A Christmas Story,' 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind,' Dies at 83

Oscar and Tony-nominated actor Melinda Dillon, who played Mother Parker in “A Christmas Story,” and appeared in “Magnolia” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” died Jan. 9. She was 83.

Her death was reported by the Neptune Society.

Dillon is celebrated for her role as Jillian Guiler in Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977), for which she earned an Oscar nomination for supporting actress. She received a second supporting actress nomination in 1982 for her role as Teresa in Sydney Pollack’s “Absence of Malice” (1981). In 1977, she received a Golden Globe nomination for acting debut in a motion picture for Hal Ashby’s “Bound for Glory” (1976).

The actor played the matriarch of the Parker family in Bob Clark’s holiday classic “A Christmas Story” (1983) and went on to appear in “Harry and the Hendersons” (1987), “Captain America” (1990) and “Nightbreaker” (1989). Her most recent appearances were in “Heartland” in 2007, and before that in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia” (1999) as Rose Gator.

Dillon’s career began as a stage actor and improvisational comedian in Chicago’s “The Second City.” In Edward Albee’s 1962 original “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf,” the actor played Honey and received a Tony nomination for featured actress in a play. She also acted in “Paul Sill’s Story Theater” and “You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running.”

“The April Fools” in 1969 was her first feature film. On TV, her portfolio includes episodes of “Bonanza,” (1969), “The Twilight Zone” (1985) and “Law & Order: SVU” (2005).

Born Oct. 13, 1939, in Hope, Ark., the actor was raised in Cullman, Ala., and spent four years in Germany before graduating from high school in Chicago. She graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago’s Goodman School of Drama (which is now at DePaul University). Dillon married actor Richard Libertini, and the two divorced in 1978.

Dillon is survived by her son Richard Libertini Jr.