Melinda Dillon Dies: ‘Close Encounters’, ‘A Christmas Story’ & ‘Absence Of Malice’ Actress Was 83

Melinda Dillon, a two-time Oscar nominee for Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Absence of Malice who also played Richie’s mom in A Christmas Story, has died. She was 83. Her family said she died January 9 but did not give other details.

Dillon probably is best known for playing a mother whose young son is abducted by the aliens in Steven Spielberg’s 1977 epic Close Encounters of the Third Kind. She and Roy (Richard Dreyfuss) are inexplicably drawn to Devils Tower in Wyoming as they struggle to make sense of what has happened to them. She earned a Supporting Actress Oscar for the role.

Dillon would earned a second Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination for 1981’s Absence of Malice, playing a close friend of Paul Newman’s Michael Gallagher. Sally Field also starred.

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She also played the mother of the young lead Richie (Peter Billingsley) in the 1983 holiday classic A Christmas Story, memorably warning the boy who wants a BB rifle that, “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

That film was a reunion with Newman, with Dillon having played a minor league hockey goalie’s wife with whom Newman’s aging player-coach Reggie has a tryst, and tells him some surprising news.

Along with dozens of other film and TV credits spanning 45 years, Dillon also appeared in five Broadway shows, most notably playing Honey in the original 1962 production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? That was her Broadway debut, and she was the last surviving principal cast member from the production.


Greg Evans contributed to this report.

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