Born in 1962, Melissa Sue Anderson had done commercials and TV guest spots before being hired to play Mary Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie. She appeared in the role from 1974 until 1981. After Little House, Anderson continued to act, but didn't replicate her earlier success. She relocated to Canada with her family in 2002. In 2010, Anderson released a memoir entitled The Way I See It.
Early Life and Acting Career
Melissa Sue Anderson was born in Berkeley, California, on September 26, 1962. She was the younger of two daughters (older sister Maureen was 12 years her senior). When Anderson was 7, the family relocated to Southern California.
Due to her asthma, Anderson was encouraged to get involved in activities such as dance class; it was one of her dance teachers who encouraged her to take acting lessons. After her family was put in touch with an agent, Anderson started to pursue work as a child actor.
With her golden hair and blue eyes, Anderson was a hit with casting directors. She landed commercials, then showed up as a love interest for Bobby Brady on The Brady Bunch in 1973 (a kiss with Anderson's character made Bobby see fireworks, but also made him worry about potential exposure to the mumps). That same year she also appeared on television in Shaft, the series based on the hit film of the same name.
Little House on the Prairie
In 1974, at the age of 11, Anderson was cast on Little House on the Prairie, a TV series adapted from the popular books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. She embraced the chance to portray Mary Ingalls, the well-behaved eldest Ingalls daughter, and to work with Michael Landon. However, the reserved Anderson, whose parents divorced when she was 13, didn't get close to any of her fellow child actors.
At the end of the show's fourth season, Anderson's character went blind; after this storyline aired she received an Emmy nomination for lead actress in a drama series in 1978. It was the first and only Emmy nod for any Little House actor.
Anderson received kudos for her accurate portrayal of a blind person. However, as the show continued, Mary's story lines ended up involving a slew of calamities, including the death of her baby in a fire and her own catatonia. As a result, Anderson opted to leave the series in 1981; her last appearance was in the episode "A Christmas They Never Forgot."
Life Outside Little House
Anderson had pursued other opportunities while on Little House. She acted in TV movies, guest-starred on The Love Boat and won an Emmy for her work in the ABC Afterschool Special Which Mother Is Mine? (1979).
Anderson was offered the Brooke Shields role in The Blue Lagoon (1980), but decided she didn't want to do the nudity the part called for. She instead made her feature film debut in the horror flick Happy Birthday to Me (1981).
After ending her run on Little House, Anderson continued to act in movies, both on TV and in theaters. She also guest-starred on shows like Murder She Wrote and The Equalizer. Anderson received additional attention for dating Frank Sinatra Jr. and Lorenzo Lamas.
Family Life and Continuing Career
In 1990, Anderson married Michael Sloan, a writer, producer and director. The couple had two children: daughter Piper, born in 1991, and son Griffin, born in 1996. Anderson soon decided to focus on motherhood instead of acting. Her family relocated to Canada in 2002; she and her husband became Canadian citizens in 2007.
As her children grew older, Anderson began to step back into the public eye. In 2006, she appeared in the NBC miniseries 10.5: Apocalypse. She also penned an autobiography, The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House (2010), and participated in a Little House cast reunion on the Today show in 2014.
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