Childhood & Early Life
Melissa Sue Anderson was born on September 26, 1962, in Berkeley, California. Her parents, James and Marion Anderson, divorced when she was thirteen years old and thereafter, she was raised by her mother.
She was born younger of her parents’ two children, having an elder sister named Maureen, who is twelve years her senior. Nothing is known about their life in Berkley.
In 1970, when she was seven years old, the family moved to Los Angeles. Sometime now, she also started suffering from asthma and as an antidote, she was encouraged to take up dancing classes.
Mellissa started taking lessons in ballet when she was in her grade school. She liked dancing so much that very soon she decided to become a dancer. But her dance teacher, Louis DePrine, thought otherwise and persuaded her to take up acting lessons as well.
Shortly after entering an acting class, Melissa Sue Anderson developed a passion for acting and started pestering her mother for engaging an agent for her. In the end, Marion Anderson relented, hoping that if she did a few commercials it would help to get acting out of her system.
From the very start, Melissa became very popular with casting directors, appearing in commercials for Mattel and Sears. Her early successes also drew the attention of the television producers and she began her acting career at the age of nine.
Concurrently with acting, Melissa continued her education, attending Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in La Canada Flintridge, albeit at irregular intervals. On set, her tutor was Mrs. Minniear, whom she found “a perfect combination of charm and discipline”. She later said that she learned a lot from her.
In 1978, she graduated from high school and stopped pursuing formal education. Instead, she continued to learn on set, imbibing a lot from Michael Landon, star and co-director of ‘Little House on the Prairie ‘. Landon also appreciated her lot, especially for her inquisitive nature.
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In 1972, nine year old Melissa Sue Anderson debuted on the television, bagging a minor role in one episode of ‘Bewitched’. Entitled ‘Tabitha's First Day in School’, the episode was aired on ABC on February 12, 1972.
Continuing to appear in minor roles, Melissa captured viewer’ attention, when she appeared as Millicent in the ‘Never Too Young’ episode of ‘The Brady Bunch’ and gave Bobby his first kiss. It was aired on October 5, 1973. Also in the same year, she appeared in the television movie, ‘Shaft’.
In 1974, Melissa Sue Anderson bagged her first star role when she was cast as Mary Ingalls Kendallin in the western drama television series called ‘Little House on the Prairie ‘. In it, she depicted the role of the well-behaved eldest Ingalls daughter for seven consecutive series (until 1981).
At the end of the fourth series, her character went blind and she received great kudos as well as an Emmy nomination for her authentic depiction of a blind person. Incidentally, this was the only Emmy nomination received by any actor in this series.
In 1976, while working in ‘Little House on the Prairie’, she was asked by Michael Landon, for whom she had great regard, if she was willing to act in his autobiographical film ‘The Loneliest Runner’. Thrilled that she was asked, she agreed immediately.
’The Loneliest Runner’, in which she appeared as Nancy Rizzy, the first girlfriend of John Curtis, was aired on December 20, 1976 on NBC. Before that, on November 13, 1976, she appeared on the first episode of ‘The Battle of Network Stars’ on behalf of NBC.
In 1977, she co-starred with Lance Kerwin as his love interest in the television drama series ‘James at 15’ and appeared as Kate in ‘Very Good Friends’ episode of ‘ABC Afterschool Special’. Also in 1977, she was selected to host the NBC show, ‘Circus Lions, Tigers, and Melissa Too’.
In 1978, she appeared in the second episode of 'The Hanna-Barbera Happy Hour' and one episode of ‘The Love Boat’. Later, she appeared in three more episodes of the last mentioned comedy/drama television series, set on a luxury passenger cruise ship and aired by ABC.
In May 1979, she appeared as Dana Lee in ‘Survival of Dana’. In the same year, she appeared as sixteen year old Alexandra in ‘Which Mother is Mine?’ episode of ‘ABC Afterschool Special’. ‘A New Kind of Family’, ‘Little House Years’ and ‘CHiPs’ are three more works of this year.
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In 1980, she appeared as Amy Marson in one episode of ‘Fantasy Island’ and as Mary Beth in one episode of ‘Insight’. All along she continued to make regular appearance as Mary Ingalls Kendallin in ‘Little House on the Prairie ‘
As Adult Artist
In 1981, Anderson left ‘Little House on the Prairie’; but later appeared in two episodes of the eighth series. Also in 1981, she appeared in three movies; as Virginia Wainwright in 'Happy Birthday to Me', as Vivian Sotherland in ‘Midnight Offering’ and as Maureen Tyler in ‘Advice to the Lovelorn’.
In 1982, she appeared as Molly Rush in a TV film called ‘An Innocent Love’ and as Katherine 'Kitty' Pryde in one episode of 'Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends'. In the following year, she did only one film, appearing as Toby King in ‘First Affair’.
In 1984, she starred in a comedy film called ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo, appearing in it as Jenny. In addition, she took part in number television series, appearing as Nikki Gatos ‘Finder of Lost Loves’, Eve Crystal in ‘Murder, She Wrote’, Elizabeth in ‘Glitter’ and Cassie Ray in ‘Hotel’.
In 1985, she reappeared in another episode of ‘Hotel’, depicting the role of Anne Goldman in it. In the following year, she starred in one movie, ‘Dark Mansions’. Then in 1987-1988, she appeared as Yvette Marcel in four episodes of ‘The Equalizer’.
In 1988-1989, she appeared in two episodes of ‘The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents’; as Laura Donovan in ‘VCR – Very Careful Rape’ and as Julie Fenton in ‘Murder in Mind’. During this period, she also acted in number of movies; both for small and big screen.
In 1988, she had two movies, ‘The Suicide club’ and ‘Far North’, released. They were followed by ‘Memories of Manon’, ‘The Return of Sam McCloud’ and ‘Looking Your Best’; all released in 1989. Then came ‘Dead Men Don’t Die’ (1990) and ‘Manuel’ (1991).
In 1990s, she concentrated mainly on raising her family and therefore did very few films or television series. Among the works done were X-Men (1993-1994), ‘Burke's Law’ (1994), 'Animated Stories from the Bible: Music Video - Volume 1' (1994), ‘Killer Lady’ (1995), ‘Earthquake in New York' (1998) and 'Partners’ (1999).
Melissa Sue Anderson began the new millennium with ‘Thin Ice’, a television movie released in 2000, appearing in it as Tanya Ferguson. Thereafter, she took a break for another five years, remaining as an at-home mother, raising her two young children.
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In 2006, she appeared as First Lady Megan Hollister in television miniseries '10.5: Apocalypse'. Also in the same year, she returned to the big screen, making an un-credited appearance in ‘Crazy Eight’
In 2007, she appeared in another un-credited voice role (Mother) in the television film, ‘Marco Polo’.
In 2010, she appeared in a short film, ‘Marker 187’. It was followed by an un-credited role in the 2014 film, ‘Veronica Mars’, in which she appeared as Stosh's Mother.
Her last work is ‘The Con Is On’, in which she made a cameo appearance as Guest #2. The film had a limited release on May 4, 2018.
Melissa Sue Anderson is best known for her role of Mary Ingalls Kendallin in 'Little House on the Prairie', an American western drama television series that began on NBC from September 11, 1974. She left the show in 1981 after seven consecutive seasons; her last episode being ‘A Christmas They Never Forgot’.
She is also known for her autobiographical book, ‘The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House’, published 2010. It offers an insight into the sets of 'Little House on the Prairie' and describes the life on the set and her relationship with other stars.
Personal Life & Legacy
On March 17, 1990, Melissa Sue Anderson married Michael Sloan, well-known writer, producer and director. The couple has two children; a daughter named Piper, born in 1991 and a son named Griffin, born in 1996.
In 2002, the couple moved to Canada and set up their home in Montreal, where they live till date. On July 1, 2007, they became naturalized citizens of Canada.
In 1998, Anderson was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
In 1981, Anderson was offered the Brooke Shields role in ‘The Blue Lagoon’. But she refused the role because it called for nudity and she was not ready for it. She made her film debut one year later with ‘Happy Birthday to Me’.
When her character in 'Little House on the Prairie' went blind, she worked hard to make it look authentic. She even went to the Foundation for the Junior Blind, where she received specific instructions on how a young person adjusts when he or she suddenly becomes blind.