Melinda Dillon

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Melinda Dillon
Melinda Dillon in trailer for Bound For Glory (1976)
BornMelinda Rose Dillon
(1939-10-13) October 13, 1939 (age 75)
Hope, Arkansas, U.S.
Years active1963–present
Spouse(s)Richard Libertini (1963–1978; divorced; 1 child)
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Melinda Dillon
Melinda Dillon in trailer for Bound For Glory (1976)
BornMelinda Rose Dillon
(1939-10-13) October 13, 1939 (age 75)
Hope, Arkansas, U.S.
Years active1963–present
Spouse(s)Richard Libertini (1963–1978; divorced; 1 child)

Melinda Rose Dillon (born October 13, 1939) is an American actress, perhaps best known for her roles as Jillian Guiler in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the mother of Ralphie Parker in A Christmas Story.

Early life and career[edit]

Dillon was born in Hope, Arkansas, the daughter of E. Norine (née Barnett) and W. S. Dillon, an army officer.[1] Dillon attended Hyde Park High School in Chicago.

Dillon was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play,[2]her first major role. Dillon got her start as an improvisational comedian and stage actress as Honey in the original 1962 Broadway production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. She then appeared in You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running and Paul Sill's Story Theatre.

Dillon's first 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 as "Memphis Sue" with David Carradine in 1976 and was nominated in the Best Female Acting Debut category of the Golden Globe for the role Woody Guthrie biopic Bound for Glory. The next 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. The same year, she did 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 Paul Newman.

As a comedienne, Dillon is perhaps best known for her role as the compassionate mother of Ralphie and Randy in Bob Clark's 1983 classic Christmas 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.[3]

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. [4]

In 1999 she appeared in Magnolia, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, as Rose Gator, the wife of TV game-show host Jimmy Gator, played by Philip Baker Hall.

In 2005, she guest-starred in the episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit entitled "Blood".

Personal life[edit]

Melinda Dillon has remained a private person, and information about her personal life is largely unknown. She was married to character actor Richard Libertini from 30 September 1963 to 18 January 1978 and had one child with him, Richard Libertini, Jr.[5]



1969The April FoolsLeslie Hopkins
1976Bound for GloryMaryNominated—Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress
1977Slap ShotSuzanne Hanrahan
1977EnigmaDora HerrenTelevision movie
1977Close Encounters of the Third KindJillian GuilerNominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actress
1978F.I.S.T.Anna Zarinkas
1979The Muppet MovieWoman with BalloonUncredited
1980The Shadow BoxAgnesTelevision movie
1981Fallen AngelSherry PhillipsTelevision movie
1981Absence of MaliceTeresaKansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress
1982The Juggler of Notre DameDulcyTelevision movie
1983A Christmas StoryMother Parker
1983Right of WayRuda DwyerTelevision movie
1984SongwriterHoney Carder
1985SpaceTelevision movie
1986Shattered SpiritsJoyce MollencampTelevision movie
1987Harry and the HendersonsNancy HendersonNominated—Saturn Award for Best Actress
1989NightbreakerPaul BrownTelevision movie
1989Staying TogetherEileen McDermott
1990Spontaneous CombustionNina
1990Captain AmericaMrs. Rogers
1991The Prince of TidesSavannah Wingo
1993Judgment Day: The John List StoryElanor ListTelevision movie
1994State of EmergencyBetty AndersonTelevision movie
Nominated—CableACE Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1994Sioux CityLeah Goldman
1995To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie NewmarMerna
1995How to Make an American QuiltMrs. Darling
1996Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day StorySister Aloysius
1999MagnoliaRose GatorFlorida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Cast
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
2001Cowboy UpRose Braxton
2003A Painted HouseGran ChandlerTelevision movie
2004Debating Robert LeeMrs. Lee
2005Adam & SteveDottie
2007Reign Over MeGinger Templeman


1963The DefendersJeannie BirchEpisode: "The Empty Heart"
1964East Side/West SideStacey BarbellaEpisode: "The Beatnik and the Policeman"
1969BonanzaCissy SummersEpisode: "A Lawman's Lot Is Not a Happy One"
1975The JeffersonsDaphneEpisode: "Harry and Daphne"
1976SaraLily HenchardEpisode: "Lady"
1979CHiPsUnknownEpisode: "Death Watch"
1981InsightJanetEpisode: "A Decision to Love"
1981InsightMysterious WomanEpisode: "Rendezvous"
1982InsightSusieEpisode: "The Fiddler"
1983The MississippiUnknownEpisode: "Cradle to Grave"
1984InsightWomanEpisode: "The Game Room"
1985The Twilight ZonePennyEpisode: "A Little Peace and Quiet"
1995The ClientVerna CaldwellEpisode: "The Peach Orchard"
1996Picket FencesMrs. KlausnerEpisode: "Liver Let Die"
2001Judging AmyViolet LoomisEpisode: "Surprised by Gravity"
2003The Lyon's DenCharlotte BarringtonEpisode: "Pilot"
2005Law & Order: Special Victims UnitJenny RogersEpisode: "Blood"
Nominated—Prism Award for Performance in a Drama Series Episode
2007HeartlandJanet Jacobs3 episodes


  1. ^ "Melinda Dillon Biography (1939-)". Film Reference Library. Retrieved 2011-12-24. 
  2. ^ "Melinda Dillon". Film Bug. Retrieved 2011-12-24. 
  3. ^ "Melinda Dillon". Retrieved 2011-12-24. 
  4. ^ "Melinda Dillon". Retrieved 2011-12-24. 
  5. ^ Kleiner, Dick. "Libertini Trying to Avoid Typecasting." Ocala Star-Banner. April 20, 1985, p. TV Week-10, 71. Accessed 2013-12-25.

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