A Christmas Story’s Peter Billingsley Pens Tribute To His Onscreen Mother Melinda Dillon After Her Death

Ralphie's Mom sees the leg lamp on A Christmas Story on HBO Max
(Image credit: HBO Max )

Melinda Dillon is one of those names that modern film audiences might not recognize, but she’s an actress nearly everybody has seen. Dillon played the mother of Peter Billingsley’s Ralphie in the classic A Christmas Story and Billingsley has penned a touching tribute to the actress following news of her death at the age of 83.

Dillon died back on January 9 but news of her death only recently surfaced. The New York Times reports that it came via a public notice from a cremation service. Following the reveal that Dillon had passed away, Billingsley took to Instagram to post a remembrance of the actress he called “kind” and “supportive.” The actor wrote…

So very sad to hear of Melinda Dillon’s passing. Working with her on 'A Christmas Story' was such a privilege. She was kind, supportive, cool, thoughtful, giving, and committed. Her body of work demonstrated her incredible range and talent. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to call her my on-screen mother. Rest in peace, Melinda.

It sounds like Melinda Dillon played the role of a strong supporting person for Peter Billingsley behind-the-scenes of A Christmas Story just as she was Ralphie in the film itself. Considering how young so much of the cast was, it's not that surprising.

Billingsley calls attention to Melinda Dillon’s body of work which, as he said, showed incredible range. While best known for playing the comedic mother at her wit’s end in A Christmas Story, and playing a similar role in the comedy Harry and the Hendersons a few years later, she was recognized for her talent in playing very different roles throughout her career.

Dillon played one of the lead roles in the original Broadway run of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in the 1960s. Overnight Dillon was a Broadway star who was seen as someone with an incredible career in front of her. 

Prior to her Christmas Story stardom, Dillon was a two-time Oscar nominee for her supporting roles in Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, where she played a very different sort of mother role, and Absence of Malice, where she plays a catholic woman who admits to having an abortion. 

While Dillon never became a massive star she is remembered every Christmas season when A Christmas Story plays on television. In the film, she is constantly tasked with dealing with one family crisis after another, from dealing with a son using fowl language to a husband who has an unhealthy relationship with a lamp.

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Dillon had retired from acting by 2007. In the recent HBO Max sequel A Christmas Story Christmas, the sequel to the original film starring Billingsly, Dillon’s role was recast and played by Julie Hagerty

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.