Melissa Sue Anderson’s Hollywood Exit: Little House Star’s Journey to Canada

A whole generation of TV viewers fondly remembers “Little House on the Prairie,” the classic drama series depicting the adventures of the Ingalls family throughout the late 19th century.

With a large cast of memorable characters and performances, the show often sparks curiosity about the current whereabouts of its actors. Melissa Sue Anderson, renowned for her portrayal of Mary Ingalls, is one such actor who decided to step away from showbiz. She recently disclosed the reasons behind her departure from Hollywood and decision to leave the spotlight.

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Melissa Sue Anderson, born on September 26, 1962, in Berkeley, California, had a childhood marked by her shy demeanor and a preference for reading over outdoor activities. Despite her reserved nature, her talent for performing on stage was evident from an early age, prompting one of her dance teachers to suggest that her parents contact an agent.

Starting her career as a child actress, Anderson, who excelled academically as a straight-A student, landed guest roles on sitcoms like “Bewitched” and “The Brady Bunch.” Notably, she portrayed Millicent, the girl who gave Bobby his first kiss on the latter show. However, her breakthrough and defining role came when she was cast as Mary Ingalls, a central character, on “Little House on the Prairie.”

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Melissa Sue Anderson played the role of Mary Ingalls in the first seven seasons of “Little House on the Prairie” and made guest appearances in the final eighth season. Her performance earned her a nomination for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

Reflecting on her portrayal of Mary, Anderson expressed gratitude for the character’s development in the TV series compared to the original books by Laura Ingalls, who wrote the “Little House” novels. Anderson acknowledged that in the books, Mary’s character was not as prominent, and the focus was more on Laura’s interactions with other characters.

Despite the fame and recognition, being in the spotlight at such a young age while simultaneously attending high school posed its challenges for the budding actress.

During her time on “Little House on the Prairie,” Melissa Sue Anderson faced the challenges of being a child actress in Hollywood. She encountered inappropriate questions from curious schoolmates, who often inquired about her income, a topic she found embarrassing. Anderson addressed such inquiries by either giving them a disapproving look or stating that it was none of their business.

Despite the assumption that actors make a significant amount of money, Anderson revealed that her salary during her tenure on “Little House” wasn’t exceptionally high. Approximately 25% of her pay went into a trust fund, 10% to her agent, and the remaining portion was allocated to various expenses, including her fan club, which had 1,500 members. Anderson explained the costs associated with maintaining the fan club, such as sending out letters, bulletins, and Christmas cards. Additionally, she mentioned paying her mom for accompanying her to the set daily, as she would have needed transportation regardless.

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The success and enduring popularity of “Little House on the Prairie” can be attributed in part to its beloved characters and the breakout success of the actors who portrayed them. The show catapulted young actors like Melissa Gilbert to stardom and established Michael Landon in a defining role as the family patriarch, Charles Ingalls.

While the on-screen chemistry among the cast created the impression of a real family, off-screen relationships were not always smooth. Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls, openly expressed her feelings about her co-star who portrayed Mary Ingalls, Melissa Sue Anderson. Gilbert described Anderson as “hateful, horrid, mean, terrible, difficult” and even claimed that Anderson had influenced her negatively when she was just nine years old.

Lance Kerwin and actress Melissa Sue Anderson promoting the NBC television film James at 15, which aired Monday September 5, 1977.

After the conclusion of “Little House on the Prairie,” Melissa Sue Anderson’s career shifted toward television films, with notable projects like “Which Mother Is Mine?” and “Survival of Dana.” While she continued working, she, like many former child and teen stars, did not find a role as high-profile as Mary Ingalls.

In the 1980s, Melissa Sue Anderson dated Frank Sinatra Jr. for a brief period. The two met when Anderson, then 17 years old, guest-starred on “The Love Boat.” Despite their age difference, with Sinatra Jr. being 19 years her senior, they formed a connection during the filming. Anderson recalled Sinatra Jr. standing next to the camera and cheering her on during her performance, describing him as a great help.

Melissa Sue Anderson and Frank Sinatra Jr. (Getty Images)

Despite rumors suggesting a romance with Frank Sinatra Jr., Melissa Sue Anderson clarified that he was just a very good friend. In 1990, she married television producer Michael Sloan. The couple has a daughter named Piper, born in 1991, and a son named Griffin, born in 1996.

Family life played a significant role in Melissa’s life decisions. She made a substantial choice by becoming a Canadian citizen. The family moved to Montreal in 2002 and completed the naturalization process in 2007.

Melissa Anderson with her daughter Piper (Twitter)

“The whole family is Canadian exactly now, and my husband and I had to take the test, and we studied and studied and studied,” Melissa Sue Anderson shared in an interview with E-Talk.

She also disclosed that her decision to step away from show business was driven by her desire to spend time with her growing children and to avoid pressuring them into becoming child stars themselves.

Melissa Anderson with her husband (Twitter)

“I really stepped away for a long time,” Melissa Sue Anderson explained. “That was really for the kids so they would have their own sense of who they were as opposed to being with me.”

She mentioned that her children currently have no interest in acting. However, Melissa, now 60, has returned to the spotlight, taking on small TV and movie roles. Additionally, she wrote a memoir about her experiences on “Little House on the Prairie,” titled “The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House.”

Matthew Labyorteaux, Michael Landon, Jr., Alison Arngrim, Dean Butler, Lindsay Greenbush, (L-R seated) Karen Grassle, and Melissa Sue Anderson of ‘Little House On The Prairie’ visit “Extra” at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square on April 30, 2014 in New York City. (Getty Images)

It’s wonderful to hear your positive sentiments towards Melissa Sue Anderson. Many fans appreciate her down-to-earth and genuine qualities, valuing her authenticity in an industry that often leans towards glamour and artificiality.

Melissa Sue Anderson attends the closing ceremony during the 61st Monte Carlo TV Festival on June 21, 2022 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

It’s always fascinating to hear what the stars of our old favorite shows are up to. Glad Melissa Sue Anderson is still doing well!

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