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Melinda Dillon
Melinda Dillon, 1976.jpg
Melinda Dillon, c. 1976
Melinda Ruth Clardy

(1939-10-13) October 13, 1939 (age 83)
Education Art Institute of Chicago
Occupation Actress
Years active 1959–2007
(m. 1963; div. 1978)
Children 1

Melinda Dillon (born Melinda Ruth Clardy, October 13, 1939) is a retired 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 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 in Absence of Malice (1981). Her other film appearances include Bound for Glory (1976), F.I.S.T. (1978), A Christmas Story (1983), Harry and the Hendersons (1987), The Prince of Tides (1991), and Magnolia (1999)

Early life

Born in Hope, Arkansas but raised in Cullman, Alabama, Dillon was the daughter of Essie Norine (née Barnett) and Floyd Clardy, an oil company representative. They were divorced 5 years later, and in 1947 Barnett married Wilbur S. Dillon, an Army officer. 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. Her 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. .....

Dillon is 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".

Personal life

Dillon married actor Richard Libertini on September 30, 1963, and had one child with him, Richard. They divorced in 1978.

She is a Methodist.



Year Title Role Notes
1959 The Cry of Jazz Faye short film
1969 The April Fools Leslie Hopkins
1976 Bound for Glory Mary Nominated—Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress
1977 Slap Shot Suzanne Hanrahan
1977 Close Encounters of the Third Kind Jillian Guiler Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actress
1978 F.I.S.T. Anna Zarinkas
1979 The Muppet Movie Woman with Balloon Uncredited
1981 Absence of Malice Teresa Kansas 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
1983 A Christmas Story Mother Parker
1984 Songwriter Honey Carder
1987 Harry and the Hendersons Nancy Henderson Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actress
1988 Shattered Innocence Sharon Anderson
1989 Staying Together Eileen McDermott
1990 Spontaneous Combustion Nina
1990 Captain America Mrs. Rogers
1991 The Prince of Tides Savannah Wingo
1994 Sioux City Leah Goldman
1995 To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar Merna
1995 How to Make an American Quilt Mrs. Darling
1996 Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story Sister Aloysius
1999 Magnolia Rose Gator Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Cast
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
2001 Cowboy Up Rose Braxton
2004 Debating Robert Lee Mrs. Lee
2005 Adam & Steve Dottie
2007 Reign Over Me Ginger Timpleman


Year Title Role Notes
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 and Wynonna: Love Can Build a Bridge

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
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