‘A Christmas Story’ mom Melinda Dillon has died at 83

Melinda Dillon is photographed by the paparazzi in December 1988 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo: Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Melinda Dillon is photographed by the paparazzi in December 1988 in Hollywood, California. (Photo: Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Melinda Dillon, who earned Academy Award nominations for her dramatic roles in Steven Spielberg’s 1977 sci-fi classic Close encounters of the third kind and in Paul Newman’s news drama Absence of malice, but he was perhaps best known for playing Ralphie’s mom in the original A Christmas storydied at 83 years old.

According to a public obituary, she died on Jan. 9, though no further details were provided.

During his five-decade career in Hollywood, Dillon also played roles in films Harry and the Hendersons; Slap; The Prince of Tides; To Wong Foo, thanks for everything! Julie Newmar; How to make an American quilt; AND Magnolia. On TV, she has appeared in Tracy hires…, Judging Amy, The twilight zone; The Jeffersons; AND Bonanza.

The movie mom-to-be was born in Hope, Ark., though she spent her early years in Alabama, Germany and, as an Oct. 1962 story, New York Daily News put it, “wherever the army sent his stepfather.” She went on to work in the famed Second City improv group during her early years before embarking on stage in a more dramatic project. She played the part of Honey in the original 1962 Broadway production Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, for which she received a Ton Award nomination for Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a Play. She was just 23 years old.

Fourteen years later, he played two different roles in the Woody Guthrie biopic Destined for glory, for which she received a Golden Globe nomination in the Best Female Debut category. Spielberg came calling after that for Close encounters, where Dillon earned a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination for playing single mother Jillian Guiler whose son is abducted by aliens. She earned a second Supporting Actress nomination four years later, in 1981, for Malicealso starring Sally Field.

The beloved A Christmas story was released in 1983. In it, Dillon was a tough but loving mother, making her son put a bar of soap in his mouth when he swore and, when he hit his bully, helped set things right with his intimidating father. The film continues to be a holiday favorite and airs 24 hours straight on cable starting on Christmas Eve.

Dillon quit acting in 2007, last appearing in the Canadian family drama Heartland – so he didn’t reprise his role in the past year A Christmas story Continuation, A Christmas Story Christmas. The role of her was played by Julie Hagerty. Billingsley revealed a Entertainment Weekly in December that “Melinda, as you say, has retired from acting and has wished us the best in our endeavours. I had told her about this.”


The cast of ‘A Christmas Story’ – including Scott Schwartz, Melinda Dillon, Mary E. McLeod, Peter Billingsley and Reuben Freed – attend a screening of ‘A Christmas Story’ on the film’s 35th anniversary in 2018. (Photo: Morgan Lieberman/Getty Images)

Off screen, Dillon was married to Richard Libertini for 15 years, before they divorced in the late 1970s. They shared a son.

After news of her death broke on Friday, she was mourned by some famous peers.

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