Sunday, December 26, 2010

Melinda Dillion who played Ralphie's Mom in "A Christmas Story"

Melinda Rose Dillon was born October 1939 in Hope, Arkansas. One of her best known roles is as Ralphie's mother in "A Christmas Story" and Jillian Guiler, the mother of the little boy named Barry who was abducted in the film "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".  A role for which she was nominated for an Oscar.

Melinda Dillon as (Mrs. Parker) in "A Christmas Story" 1983
Melinda Dillon and Cary Guffey in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" 1977

Dillon got her start as a comedian and on-stage actress. She starred in the 1962 Broadway production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf".  She was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Performance. Other Broadway shows she appeared in include "You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running" and "Story Theatre".

Melinda Dillon and Arthur Hill in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" 1962

Melinda got her television start in the show "The Defenders" in 1963 starring E.G. Marshall, Robert Reed and Ossie Davis.  The following year she appeared in "East Side/West Side" starring George C. Scott, Elizabeth Wilson and Cicely Tyson.  She then appeared in the Spanish drama "Un hombre solo" starring Robert Brown, Rafael Calvo and Carlos Casaravilla (1969).

Dillon landed her first major American film role in "The April Fools" co-starring Jack Lemmon, Catherine Deneuve, Peter Lawford, Kenneth Mars, Harvey Korman, and Sally Kellerman (1969).  That same year she also appeared on the TV show "Bonanza" starring Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, Pernell Roberts, and Dan Blocker.  In 1970 she appeared on the show "Men at Law" starring Robert Foxworth, Sheila Larken and David Arkin.

Melinda Dillon in her younger days

In 1975, Melinda appeared in "The Jeffersons" starring Isabel Sanford, Sherman Hemsley and Marla Gibbs.  The following year she starred in "Bound for Glory" co-starring David Carradine, Ronny Cox, Gail Strickland, and Randy Quaid (1976).  In 1977 Melinda starred in "Enigma" with Barbarao, Judith Hannah Brown, Jim Davis, Peter Coffield, and Soon-Tek Oh.  This movie was followed by "Slap Shot" with Paul Newman, Michael Ontkean, Strother Martin, and Jennifer Warren (1977).  It was also in 1977 that she landed a role in Steven Spielberg's blockbuster "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" co-starring Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Teri Garr, J. Patrick McNamara, Cary Guffey, and Lance Henriksen. Dillon was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Acress for her role in this film.

Melinda Dillon in "Slap Shot" 1977

Melinda Dillon and Richard Dreyfus in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" 1977

Melinda also starred in "F.I.S.T" co-staring Sylvester Stallone, Rod Steiger, Peter Boyle, and Ken Kercheval (1978); "The Critical List" co-starring Lloyd Bridges, Buddy Ebsen, Barbara Parkins, Robert Wagner, Ken Howard, James Whitmore Jr., Pat Harrington Jr., and Louis Gossett Jr. (1978); "Transplant" co-starring Kevin Dobson, Granville Van Dusen, Helen Hunt, and Ronny Cox (1979); "CHiPs" starring Erik Estrada, Larry Wilcox and Robert Pine.

Melinda Dillon

Dillon continued into the '80s with "Marriage Is Alive and Well" co-starring Jack Albertson, Deborah Baltzell, Judd Hirsch, Joe Namath, Susan Sullivan, and Swoosie Kurtz (1980); "The Shadow Box" co-starring Joanne Woodward, Christopher Plummer and Valerie Harper (1980); "Fallen Angel" co-starring Dana Hill, Richard Masur, Ronny Cox, and David Hayward (1981); "Hellinger's Law" co-starring Telly Savalas, Morgan Stevens, Rod Taylor, and Ja'net DuBois (1981); "Absence of Malice" co-starring Paul Newman, Sally Field, Bob Balaban, and Wilford Brimley (1981), Dillon was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporing Acress for this role; and "The Juggler of Notre Dame" co-starring Carl Carlsson, Sherilyn Wolter, Henry Proach, and Merlin Olsen (1982).

Melinda Dillon in "Absence of Malice" 1981

It was in 1983 that Melinda Dillion starred in what would eventually turn out to be the biggest movie in her career, the Holiday classic "A Christmas Story" co-starring Darren McGavin (Mr. Parker), Peter Billingsley (Ralphie Parker), Ian Petrella (Randy Parker), Scott Schwartz (Flick), and Zack Ward (Farkus).  The story involved Ralphie's quest to get a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas which everyone kept telling him "You'll shoot your eye out kid" of which his mom (Melinda Dillon) was the first and he believed that she was convicing everyone else to tell him the same.

The Parker family from "A Christmas Story" Peter Billingsley (Ralphie), top: Ian Petrella (Randy), Darren McGavin (Mr. Parker), and Melinda Dillon (Mrs. Parker)

Darren McGavin (Mr. Parker), and Melinda Dillon (Mrs. Parker) and the infamous "leg lamp"
Melinda Dillon (Mrs. Parker), Peter Billingsley (Ralphie), and Ian Petrella (Randy) and the infamous "leg lamp"

After "A Christmas Story", Melinda starred in "Right of Way" co-starring Bette Davis and James Stewart (1983); "Songwriter" co-starring Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Lesley Ann Warren, Rip Torn, and Robert Gould (1984); "Space" co-starring James Garner, Susan Anspach, Beau Bridges, Blair Brown, Bruce Dern, and Martin Balsam (1985); "The Twilight Zone" (1985); "Shattered Spirits" co-starring Martin Sheen, Matthew Laborteaux, Jill Schoelen, and Jenny Gago (1986); "Harry and the Hendersons" co-starring John Lithgow, Margaret Langrick, Joshua Rudoy, and Kevin Peter Hall (1987); "Shattered Innocence" co-starring Jonna Lee, John Pleshette, Kris Kamm, and Richard Cox (1988); "Nightbreaker" co-starring Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez and Lea Thompson (1989); and "Staying Together" co-starring Sean Astin, Stockard Channing, Daphne Zuniga, and Jim Haynie (1989); 

Melinda Dillon

Melinda Dillon,  Joshua Rudoy, Margaret Langrick, and John Lithgow in "Harry and the Hendersons" 1987

Melinda Dillon, John Lithgow, Kevin Peter Hall, Margaret Langrick, Joshua Rudoy in "Harry and the Hendersons" 1987

Starting off the '90s, Dillon starred in "Spontaneous Combustion" Brad Dourif, Cynthia Bain, Jon Cypher, Dey Young (1990); "Captain America" co-starring Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty, Francesca Neri, and former "A Christmas Story" co-star Darren McGavin (1990); "The Prince of Tides" co-starring Barbra Streisand, Nick Nolte, Blythe Danner, and George Carlin (1991); "Judgment Day: The John List Story" co-starring Robert Blake, Beverly D'Angelo, Alice Krige, and David Caruso (1993); "Confessions: Two Faces of Evil" co-starring Jason Bateman, James Wilder, Arye Gross, Ari Meyers, and James Earl Jones (1994); "State of Emergency" co-starring Joe Mantegna, Lynn Whitfield, and Paul Dooley (1994); and "Sioux City" co-starring Lou Diamond Phillips, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Lise Cutter, and Ralph Waite (1994);

In the later half of the '90s, Melinda starred in "Naomi & Wynonna: Love Can Build a Bridge" co-starring Kathleen York, Viveka Davis, Bruce Greenwood, Megan Ward, Cari Shayne, Laura Morgan, Lisa Waltz, A.J. Langer (1995); "To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar" co-starring Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, Stockard Channing, Blythe Danner, John Leguizamo, and Jason London (1995); and "How to Make an American Quilt" co-starring Winona Ryder, Ellen Burstyn, Anne Bancroft, Kate Capshaw, and Rip Torn (1995).

After many years not appearing in a TV series, since "The Twighlight Zone", Melinda appeared in "The Client" starring JoBeth Williams, John Heard, Ossie Davis, and Polly Holliday (1995); "Picket Fences" starring Kathy Baker, Tom Skerritt, Lauren Holly, and Holly Marie Combs (1996); "Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story" co-starring Moira Kelly, Martin Sheen, Heather Graham, Lenny von Dohlen, and Brian Keith (1996); "The Effects of Magic" co-starring Kathy Bates, Robert Carradine, Kristin Minter, and David Carradine (1998); and "Magnolia" co-starring Tom Cruise, Jason Robards, Philip Baker Hall, William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman,  Alfred Molina, Melora Walters, and April Grace (1999). 

Melinda Dillon (Rose Gator) in "Magnolia" 1999
Melinda Dillon (Rose Gator) and Philip Baker Hall (Jimmy Gator) in "Magnolia" 1999

Melinda acted her way into the new millennium after a two year hiatus in "Cowboy Up" staring Kiefer Sutherland, Marcus Thomas, Molly Ringwald, Russell Means, and Daryl Hannah (2001); "Judging Amy" starring Amy Brenneman, Tyne Daly, Richard T. Jones, Karle Warren, Marcus Giamatti, and Jillian Armenante (2001); "A Painted House" co-starring Scott Glenn, Arija Bareikis, Robert Sean Leonard, and Diane Delano (2003); "The Lyon's Den" starring Rob Lowe, Perrey Reeves, Paula Newsome, Megahn Perry (2003); "Debating Robert Lee" co-starring Daniel Letterle, Dale Midkiff, Kaley Cuoco, Danielle Harris, Rachel Nichols, and Beau Bridges (2004); "Adam & Steve" co-starring Craig Chester, Malcolm Gets, Parker Posey, and Sally Kirkland (2005); "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" starring Mariska Hargitay, Christopher Meloni, Richard Belzer, Ice-T, Tamara Tunie, and Diane Neal (2005); and "Reign Over Me" co-starring Adam Sandler, Don Cheadle, Jada Pinkett Smith, Liv Tyler, Saffron Burrows, Donald Sutherland, and Robert Klein (2007).

Melinda Dillon in "Reign Over Me" 2007

Melinda Dillon today

In 2007, Melinda appeared in the TV series "Heartland" starring Treat Williams, Kari Matchett, Chris William Martin, Danielle Nicolet, Gage Golightly, Rockmond Dunbar, and Dabney Coleman.  This is the last known appearance Medina Dillon has made.  Hopefully, we will be seeing more of this lovely actress.

Melinda Dillon


  1. I can't believe there are no comments on this awesome lady and her acting career,some one told me once that she looked a lot like goldie hawn, to which I corrected and said that goldie if anything, looked a lot like Melinda, I know she is a private person, but I really really hope that she appears again in something just so us who love her work can be blessed with another opportunity to see her, we all get older and don't dazzle like we use to when we were younger, but this lady has always dazzled us with her beauty as a person and a lady,God Bless her..

    1. She is still a beautiful lady even today! I have always enjoyed her work. I pray she is in good health these days!

  2. we have been blessed to have seen Melinda Dillon on film . A first rate actress and always truthful In every part. She was outstanding as well on Broadway in the original Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

  3. The kiss in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS might be the best kiss in any film ever.

  4. I like her a lot.

  5. Thanks to Melinda Dillon for her kindness to the Police Unity Tour, a 300 mile bicycle ride that honors fallen police officers. She is a private individual and she has that right, but being from Cleveland OH where the movie A Christmas Story was partially filmed, I know the people of Cleveland would love it if she came for a visit to the A Christmas Story House and Museum. She gave the world a gem in that low budget movie directed by Bob Clark and it would be wonderful if we could show her our love in person. Absent that, posts like this will have to serve to let her know we are thankful for her career and she is loved.

  6. Christmas Story... awesome classic... the scene in the Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day... unforgettable!!!

    1. I just watched that again and her laugh was priceless. She is was perfect in this movie.

  7. Just watched Christmas Story for the millionth time!
    Ms. Dillon is enchanting, warm and masterful as an actress.
    That role is embedded into the American psyche forever ~
    Timeless and beautiful, as is the amazing Melinda Dillon.

  8. Gorgeous, talented woman who played everyone's dream mother (and wife, though much more subtly) in A Christmas Story. Look forward to her next endeavor.

    1. That's right! Amazing how many people are reacting the same way this year after watching ACS. I've always had a thing for her but I've fallen in love with her all over again watching this today. That hair is divine! And she is sooo sweet!

  9. Watching Christmas Story and I just love to see this beautiful, talented woman doing her thing. Just saw the Chinese Restaurant scene, her laugh is priceless!

  10. Watching A Christmas Story and wondering why we haven't seen the talented and lovely Ms Dillon. She reminds me of Kate Capshaw from the Indiana Jones movies

  11. I love her in Christmas story!!

  12. We watched A Christmas Story again yesterday. After all these years, I finally realized that this great movie wasn't about the kids, dad or the Red Rider BB Gun. It as all about "MOM" and how she kept the family close and wrapped them all in her love and acts of kindness. Her role could not have been cast better. Love and kindness flowed from her for her family.

  13. I just watched her in Close Encounters. Great job!