Melinda Ruth Dillon (October 13, 1939 – January 9, 2023) was an American actress. She received a 1963 Tony Award nomination for her Broadway debut in the original production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her roles as Jillian Guiler in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and Teresa Perrone in Absence of Malice (1981). She is well known for her role as Mother Parker in the holiday classic A Christmas Story (1983). Her other film roles include Bound for Glory (1976), F.I.S.T. (1978), Harry and the Hendersons (1987), The Prince of Tides (1991), and Magnolia (1999), for which she was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award.
Melinda Ruth Clardy
October 13, 1939
Hope, Arkansas, U.S.
|Died||January 9, 2023 (aged 83)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Education||Art Institute of Chicago|
(m. 1963; div. 1978)
Dillon was born as Melinda Ruth Clardy on October 13, 1939, in Hope, Arkansas, but raised in Cullman, Alabama.[a] After spending four years in Germany, Dillon attended Hyde Park High School and the Goodman School of Drama at the Art Institute of Chicago (now at DePaul University) in Chicago.
Though best known for her supporting performances in films, Dillon began as an improvisational comedian and stage actress. Recalling her performance as Sonya in a 1961 student production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, Alan Schneider wrote:
What distinguished and made the whole attempt worthwhile for me was casting the role of Sonya with a young actress named Linda Dillon, who was a senior acting student at Goodman as well as a hanger-on with a Second City troupe that included two young performers named Barbara Harris and Alan Arkin. During our tryouts, John Reich, then the Goodman Theatre's artistic director, had seriously tried to discourage me from using Linda. He admitted her talent but warned me that she was highly volatile and completely unpredictable as an actress. He had found another actress whom he found much more suitable for Sonya. I insisted on using Linda, no matter the consequences. I was fascinated by the combination of her fragility and sensuality, intrigued with the unconventional way in which she was able to make a line seem utterly spontaneous, and impressed with her emotional range and richness. During our four weeks of rehearsal [...], I wound up alternately adoring and hating Linda. She always did too much and yet not enough. She was never the same twice in a given scene, even when she had found something wonderful last time. She was always wanting to quit the cast or leave school or kill herself. And yet, at the same time, I felt she was extraordinary, the most talented young actress I'd ever worked with, the potential peer of Geraldine Page and perhaps even Kim Stanley. I was sure she'd be a big star one day, and I wanted to be with her when that happened.
Dillon's first major role was as Honey in the original 1962 Broadway production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, for which she was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play, and she also appeared in You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running and Paul Sill's Story Theatre.
In 1959, she acted in The Cry of Jazz, an influential short film dealing with jazz music and Black culture. Dillon's first feature film was The April Fools in 1969. She also worked in television, notably in a guest-starring role in 1969 on an episode of the hit TV series Bonanza titled "A Lawman's Lot Is Not a Happy One" (Season 11). She co-starred with David Carradine in the 1976 Woody Guthrie biopic Bound for Glory and was nominated in the Best Female Acting Debut category of the Golden Globe for her role as Memphis Sue.
The following year she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the role of a mother whose child is abducted by aliens in Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. That same year, she made an uncredited cameo in The Muppet Movie and had a role in the comedy Slap Shot with Paul Newman. Four years later, Dillon was again nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance as a suicidal teacher in Absence of Malice in 1981, working again with Newman.
Dillon was perhaps best known for her role as the mother of Ralphie and Randy in Bob Clark's 1983 movie A Christmas Story. The film was based on a series of short stories and novels written by Jean Shepherd about young Ralphie Parker (played by Peter Billingsley) and his quest for a Red Ryder BB gun from Santa Claus.
Four years later, Dillon co-starred with John Lithgow in the Bigfoot comedy Harry and the Hendersons. She continued to be active in stage and film throughout the 1990s, taking roles in the Barbra Streisand drama The Prince of Tides, the low-budget Lou Diamond Phillips thriller Sioux City, and the drama How to Make an American Quilt.
In 1999, she appeared in Magnolia, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, as Rose Gator, the estranged wife of terminally ill television game-show host Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall). In 2005, she guest-starred in the episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit titled "Blood". Dillon's last major acting role was in the 2007 film Reign Over Me.
Personal life and deathEdit
Dillon was married to actor Richard Libertini and together they had a son. They divorced in 1978.
A Methodist, Dillon was a staffer on Democrat Eugene McCarthy's 1968 presidential campaign.
Dillon died on January 9, 2023, at the age of 83. Her remains were cremated.
|1963||The Defenders||Jeannie Birch||Episode: "The Empty Heart"|
|1964||East Side/West Side||Stacey Barbella||Episode: "The Beatnik and the Policeman"|
|1969||Bonanza||Cissy Summers||Episode: "A Lawman's Lot Is Not a Happy One"|
|1970||Storefront Lawyers aka Men at Law||Connie Swann||Episode: "He Lies Better Than I Tell the Truth"|
|1975||The Jeffersons||Daphne||Episode: "Harry and Daphne"|
|1976||Sara||Lily Henchard||Episode: "Lady"|
|1976||Freeman||Madam Arkadina||Television pilot|
|1977||Enigma||Dora Herren||Television movie|
|1978||The Critical List||Kris Lassiter||Miniseries|
|1979||Transplant||Anne Hurley||Television movie|
|1979||CHiPs||Unknown||Episode: "Death Watch"|
|1980||Marriage Is Alive and Well||Jeannie||Television movie|
|1980||The Shadow Box||Agnes||Television movie|
|1981||Fallen Angel||Sherry Phillips||Television movie|
|1981||Insight||Janet||Episode: "A Decision to Love"|
|1981||Insight||Mysterious Woman||Episode: "Rendezvous"|
|1982||Insight||Susie||Episode: "The Fiddler"|
|1982||The Juggler of Notre Dame||Dulcy||Television movie|
|1983||The Mississippi||Unknown||Episode: "Cradle to Grave"|
|1983||Right of Way||Ruda Dwyer||Television movie|
|1984||Insight||Woman||Episode: "The Game Room"|
|1985||The Twilight Zone||Penny||Episode: "A Little Peace and Quiet"|
|1985||Space||Rachel Mott||Television movie|
|1986||Shattered Spirits||Joyce Mollencamp||Television movie|
|1988||Shattered Innocence||Sharon Anderson||Television movie|
|1989||Nightbreaker||Paula Brown||Television movie|
|1993||Judgment Day: The John List Story||Elanor List||Television movie|
|1994||State of Emergency||Betty Anderson||Television movie|
Nominated—CableACE Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
|1995||The Client||Verna Caldwell||Episode: "The Peach Orchard"|
|1995||Naomi & Wynonna: Love Can Build a Bridge||Polly Judd||Television movie|
|1996||Picket Fences||Mrs. Klausner||Episode: "Liver Let Die"|
|1997||Tracey Takes On...||Desiree||Episode: "Mothers"|
|2001||Judging Amy||Violet Loomis||Episode: "Surprised by Gravity"|
|2003||The Lyon's Den||Charlotte Barrington||Episode: "Pilot"|
|2003||A Painted House||Gran Chandler||Television movie|
|2005||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Jenny Rogers||Episode: "Blood"|
|2007||Heartland||Janet Jacobs||3 episodes|
- ^ Thomas, Mike (2012). The Second City Unscripted: Revolution and Revelation at the World-Famous Comedy Theater. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. p. 254. ISBN 9780810128446
- ^ Traub, Alex (February 5, 2023). "Melinda Dillon, 2-Time Oscar Nominee, Is Dead at 83". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 5, 2023. Retrieved February 5, 2023.
- ^ a b Wahls, Robert (October 28, 1962). "90-Day Wonder: An Unknown Only Three Months Ago, 23-year-old Actress Melinda Dillon Shot to Stardom in Broadway Debut". New York Daily News. Sec. 2, p. 16. Retrieved March 18, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
- ^ Schneider, Alan (1986). Entrances : An American Director's Journey. New York, NY: Viking p. 292–293. ISBN 0670806080.
- ^ Stevenson, Isabelle (1987). The Tony Award : A Complete Listing, With a History of the American Theatre Wing. New York: Crown Publishers. p. 76. ISBN 0-517-56664-8.
- ^ "New Film". The Negro History Bulletin. p. 59. Retrieved March 18, 2022.
- ^ "1977 Golden Globe Nominations Listed". Los Angeles Times. Part 4, p. 14. Retrieved March 19, 2022.
- ^ Stevens, Tracy (2001). International Television & Video Almanac. New York: Quigley Publishing. p. 137. ISBN 0-900610-68-9.
- ^ Kleiner, Dick (April 20, 1985). "Libertini Trying to Avoid Typecasting". Ocala Star-Banner. Newspaper Enterprise Association. pp. 10, 54 (TV Week supplement). Retrieved December 15, 2013.
- ^ Pak, Eudie (December 14, 2012). "'A Christmas Story' Cast: Where Are They Now?". Biography.com (FYI / A&E Networks). Retrieved January 10, 2016.
- ^ a b "'Close Encounters' Says We Are Not Alone, but Melinda Dillon Often Has Been During a Traumatic Life". Retrieved 1 August 2018.
- ^ Barnes, Mike (February 3, 2023). "Melinda Dillon, Actress in 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' and 'A Christmas Story,' Dies at 83". The Hollywood Reporter.
- ^ "TV Key: Best Bets". Wisconsin State Journal. September 23, 1970. p. 47. Retrieved March 18, 2022.
- ^ Bok (June 23, 1976). "Television Reviews: 'Freeman'". Variety. p. 46. Retrieved March 18, 2022.
- ^ "Comic Sparks on 'Freeman'". Kenosha News. p. 37. Retrieved March 18, 2022.
- ^ Clarey, Kathey (April 11, 1978). "Tonight's Best: Critical List". Argus-Leader. p. 13. Retrieved March 20, 2022.
- ^ Clarey, Kathey (April 17, 1979). "Please Stand By". The Fresno Bee. p. 18. Retrieved March 20, 2022.
- ^ Williams, Gail (January 25, 1980). "Marriage Is Alive and Well". The Hollywood Reporter. p. 6. "Under Russ Mayberry's direction, Dillon is the only member of the cast that comes through the battle with even a spark of genuine humanity." Retrieved March 19, 2022.
- ^ Warner Brothers. "Marriage Is Alive and Well (TV Movie) Feature Clip". YouTube.
- "Hyde Park Seniors to Give Show". Chicago Tribune. June 9, 1957. p. 8
- "Jack and the Beanstalk". Chicago Tribune. November 8, 1959. p.
- "Billy Eden Wolf and Linda Dillon in 'Rumpelstiltskin'". Chicago Tribune. March 20, 1960. Part 7, Sec. 2, p. 4
- Lyons, Herb (September 19, 1961). "Tower Ticker". Chicago Tribune. p. 22
- "Education and Training for the Stage: The Goodman Memorial Theatre School of Drama". Volume 55 Number 4, 1961. The Art Institute of Chicago Quarterly. pp. 74, 76