Melinda Dillon, the Oscar-nominated actor who sought the truth in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and battled a leg lamp in A Christmas Story, is dead at 83.
Dillon passed away January 9th, her family announced in an obituary. No cause of death was revealed.
Born October 13th, 1939, Dillon burst onto Broadway in the original 1963 production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? earning a Tony nomination for her work as the naive Honey. Her breakthrough film performance came in Hal Ashby’s Bound for Glory (1976), for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe, and she followed that in 1977 with memorable turns in the Paul Newman hockey cult classic Slap Shot and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters, which brought her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards.
She’d pick up her second Oscar nod reuniting with Newman in Sydney Pollack’s 1981 noir Absence of Malice, and her hilarious and heartfelt performance in 1983’s A Christmas Story helped that movie become a perennial holiday favorite. Dillon also received a Saturn nomination for Best Actress in 1987 for playing Nancy in Harry and the Hendersons.
Her pace of work slowed in the 1990s, though several of her projects are widely regarded as either cult or consensus classics, especially the drag queen comedy To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, where she played the wife of an unravelling quiz show host.
Dillon retired from acting in 2007, with her final roles coming in the film Reign Over Me and a three-episode run on the TNT drama Heartland.