Melinda Dillon was born October 13, 1939, in Hope, Arkansas, to Norine and W.S Dillon. She attended Hyde Park High School. Melinda started in improvisational comedy, and stage acting before she made her feature-film debut as an eccentric neighbor of Catherine Deneuve's in The April Fools (1969). After a seven year absence, she returned to film with appearances in Bound for Glory (1976). And in Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). She played a mother coping with the alien abduction of her son. Her performance in the film earned her an Oscar nomination. Four years later, she earned a second Oscar nomination for her performance as an emotionally disturbed woman who provided an alibi for a suspect in Sydney Pollack's Absence of Malice (1981). Her warmth fostered two mother roles in the whimsical comedies A Christmas Story (1983) and Harry and the Hendersons (1987). Melinda made strong impressions as Savannah Wingo, Nick Nolte's on-screen mentally disturbed, poet sister whose attempted suicide serves as the catalyst in Barbra Streisands The Prince of Tides (1991). And in Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia (1999). She played the role of Rose Gator.