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Melinda Dillon, ‘Close Encounters,’ ‘A Christmas Story’ star, dead at 83

( NYPost )

Melinda Dillon, the Oscar-nominated actress who starred in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and played Ralphie’s high-strung mother in “A Christmas Story,” died last month. She was 83.

The “Absence of Malice” star’s family confirmed Friday that Dillon died in California on Jan. 9. A cause of death was not revealed.

The Post could not immediately reach a family member for comment.

Born in Arkansas on Oct. 13, 1939, Dillon spent her childhood in Alabama, Germany and Chicago before joining the famed Second City troupe as the comedy club’s first coat check girl.

She later moved to New York City, where she received a Tony nomination and Theatre World award in 1963 for her Broadway debut as Honey in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

However, she claimed the intense play made her “go crazy,” admitting she spent time in a psychiatric hospital.

“I think it was the way I was living; the play was so long, and the actors’ union wouldn’t let us play the matinee,” she explained to the New York Times in 1976.

“We had to have a whole different cast for that, but I was called in to do it many, many times because the gal would get sick. I would do it three hours in the afternoon, then study with Lee Strasberg for two hours, and do the play three hours at night. Then, George Grizzard left to do ‘Hamlet,’ and a strange thing happened. I had learned to lean on George hard, and I just crumbled inside. I don’t know why.”

Dillon was twice nominated for supporting actress Academy Awards: for Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters” in 1978 and Sydney Pollack’s “Absence of Malice” in 1982.

She portrayed Mother Parker in the 1983 holiday classic “A Christmas Story,” delivering the famous line as Ralphie wages his BB gun campaign: “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

Dillon was married to fellow actor Richard Libertini for more than a dozen years until they divorced in 1978. They have one son, Richard Libertini Jr.

Libertini died from cancer in 2016 at the age of 82.

Dillon retired from acting 15 years ago. Her final film credit came in 2007 as Ginger Timpleman in “Reign Over Me.” She also appeared in three episodes of TNT’s medical drama “Heartland” that same year.

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