A generation of TV viewers has fond memories of Little House on the Prairie, a drama series depicting the life of the Ingalls family at the turn of the 20th century.
The show’s huge array of likeable characters and performances often leaves viewers wondering, “Where are they now?”
Melissa Sue Anderson, who played Mary Ingalls on the sitcom, is one of the many actors to retire from the entertainment industry. She recently opened up about her decision to leave Hollywood and the limelight.
On September 26, 1962, Melissa Sue Anderson was born in Berkeley, California. She was a shy kid who would rather read than play outside. But the young woman with the crystal blue eyes stole the show and became the center of attention. The girl’s dance teacher recommended an agency to the girl’s parents.
Anderson, a child actor who got her start on The Brady Family and Bewitched (where she gave Bobby his first kiss) and went on to get straight A’s in school, began her acting career as Millicent. Mary Ingalls was one of the primary characters in Little House, and this role proved to be her breakthrough.
Throughout the first seven seasons, she was a main cast member, and for the next eight, she appeared as a guest star. Also, Anderson was up for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series.
From her Montreal apartment, she explains, “I’m happy that there even was a character to play, because in the novel, there isn’t much of one.”
Author of the Little House novels upon which the show is based and around which the tale revolves, Laura Ingalls, was a mature lady by the time she penned them. She was thinking back on the best times of her life. The roles of Ma and Mary were rather minor. Mary was noticeably underrepresented compared to other characters such as Pa, Jack, and Mr. Edwards. Anderson said in 2010 to Pop Entertainment, “I’m lucky that they realized that I could act.”
It wasn’t easy for the high school senior actress to become one of the most famous people in the country.
Students often pry with insensitive inquiries such as “How much do you make?” That’s very awkward. After being asked a question, “I’ll just give them a look that lets them know what I think of the question or tell them it’s none of their concern,” she explained to the Iowa City Press-Citizen back in 1977.
Anderson made about $1.5 million during her Hollywood career, according to Celebrity Net Worth. But, the young actress’s income at Little House wasn’t particularly substantial.
Everyone assumes that performers are well compensated. We don’t, however. Not when we factor in some expenses, at least. My employer puts twenty-five percent of my salary into a retirement account. I provide 10 percent to my agency and waste a lot of money (on my 1,500 fans) on a fan club. Membership dues are one thing, but the cost of sending out regular correspondence and seasonal greetings adds up. It’s great for exposure, but it’s draining our resources. In addition, she remarked in 1977, “I compensate my mom for coming to the set every day since I’d hire someone to take me here and home anyhow.
One of the main reasons for the show’s success is the enduring appeal of the characters it features and the actors that played them. Veteran actor Michael Landon was given his most iconic role to date as the family’s “Pa,” Charles Ingalls, thanks to the program, which also made stars out of young actors like Melissa Gilbert Sue.
The co-stars spent a lot of time together off-set, and their on-screen connection made it seem like they were a real family. The actors didn’ relationship wasn’t always harmonious. Melissa Gilbert has been on record as saying how she really feels about the woman who played Mary Ingalls.
She’s challenging because she’s so full of animosity and ugliness. She really had it in for me. She threw me off the wagon when I was nine years old,” Gilbert said.
Once Prairie ended, Anderson’s most recognizable parts were in TV movies like Which Mother Is Mine? and Survival of Dana. She kept performing, but like many child and teen stars, she was never able to repeat the success she had with Little House on the Prairie.
Melissa Sue Anderson dated Frank Sinatra Jr. for a short time in the 1980s. When Melissa, then 17 years old, stepped on The Love Boat, they instantly hit it off. She was 19 years older than Frank Sinatra Jr. when they met.
Melissa added, “Frank Jr. stood next to the camera and cheered me on.”
His assistance was invaluable.
Melissa, however, claims that the significance of the rumored romance has been exaggerated.
He’s just a really terrific friend,” she remarked. Melissa married Michael Sloan, a TV producer, in 1990. Griffin, their 1996-born son, and Piper, their 2002-born daughter, are the couple’s offspring (born 1991). Because of her family, she made the choice to become a Canadian citizen. They moved to Montreal in 2002, and were finally accepted as full citizens in 2007.
She remarked in an interview with E-Talk, “The whole family is Canadian exactly now, and my husband and I had to take the test, and we studied and studied and studied.”
She also admitted that she intended to take a break from the entertainment industry while her children grew up in order to spend more time with them and prevent any pressure to follow in her footsteps and become child stars.
She admitted, “I actually stepped away for a long period.” That was for the kids, so they could develop their own identities outside of our family unit.
She claimed that her children are no longer interested in performing, yet despite this, she has returned to the spotlight by taking on modest TV and film roles. The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House is another memoir Melissa, now 60, wrote on her time on Little House on the Prairie.
Melodi – Your beauty will never fade, you still have a youthful appearance, and most importantly, you have a nice soul! She has good judgment, is modest, and is practical. She really is the real deal. I prefer actors that aren’t too polished and artificial.
Finding out what the cast members of our former favorite shows are doing is always interesting. I’m relieved to learn that Melissa Sue Anderson is healthy and happy.
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