MELISSA SUE ANDERSON
THEN: Come on, admit it. We all have that one show that we didn’t want anybody to know about. I’m going to come clean right now about one that I grew up watching but I was too embarrassed to share. Yes folks, I would not miss a rerun of “Little House on the Prairie.” The reason however had nothing to do with its sappy melodramatic sentimentality, or that bratty Laura Ingalls – sorry Melissa Gilbert. No! What kept me watching all the way until she moved out of Ma and Pa Ingalls home was their oldest daughter Mary. Melissa Sue Anderson was something truly special in my little world. Let’s just say everywhere that Mary went this little lamb was sure to go. I loved this Berkeley, California born beauty. Every single thing about her. And as I said, this little lamb followed her straight into the genre that we all love.
One night when I was young I caught Melissa in a made for TV movie called “Midnight Offerings” where she played a little witch. I mean literally she played a high school student who is also a witch. Probably hoping to shed a little of that good girl image, she played the heavy this time around. I rediscovered this little gem a couple of years back and was once again in awe. While of course they skimp on the good stuff being that this was a TV Movie, there is something really nostalgic and cool about it. Even though she was the bad girl, she was a good girl to me. I loved Ms. Anderson being evil and anytime I happen upon this supernatural thriller I will find myself tuning in. She just took my breath away and made me dig witches.
There is one flick from the heyday of Eighties slasher films that is one I watch every single year at least once. 1981’s HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME was a ridiculously awesome movie that featured Melissa as a popular teenage girl whose cliquish friends begin to die off in really creative ways. This underrated J. Lee Thompson (THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, CAPE FEAR) flick was a cut above your typical horror movie and Ms. Anderson quickly made her way into my cache of favorite horror movie scream queens. Even though she never did another slasher film like this, she is absolutely terrific as a girl who may or may not be involved in the grisly murders at hand. If you haven’t had a chance, I urge you to check out HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME for a sort of sophisticated slasher cult classic.
Aside from another scary TV-movie called “Dark Mansions” in 1986, the actress seemed to shy away from horror a bit. She found tons of work on television including a handful of episodes of “The Love Boat” as well “The Equalizer.” The good thing about having a hit television series and not slipping into the pit that many young actors fall into with booze and drugs is that you can usually find work. And all throughout the Eighties she worked steadily. Not to stray too far from genre, she also appeared in a couple of episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” in 1988-89. This was around the time she dropped the “Sue” and was simply known as Melissa Anderson.
Strange to say there was one film that I loved that came out in 1988 starring Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard called FAR NORTH. According to IMDB Melissa is credited as a “Young Nurse” in that film and I don’t remember her at all. Another flick I guess I’ll have to revisit. Even though her days of horror were long gone, she did lend her voice to a couple of “X-Men” video games playing Emma Frost. She always did have a pretty terrific voice so it is no surprise that in the 90’s doing video games and animated TV shows seemed to be her bread and butter. The question is, why didn’t we see more of Melissa after what was a pretty incredible early career?
For Melissa there was more to life than television and movies. She moved to Canada around 2002 with her husband Michael Sloan and two daughters. She traded Hollywood for motherhood and what is most impressive is that she didn’t go crazy or find herself in rehab repeatedly. She took on the very time consuming job of being a stay-at-home mom. In a strange sort of way, it is fitting for the girl who played Mary Ingalls to settle down with her family. Of course, she wasn’t completely done with acting as she has a small handful of credits from that time including another TV Movie called “10.5: Apocalypse” in 2006 which sounds right up my alley.
NOW: In 2010 Melissa published a book entitled “The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House” which you you can check out here. Throughout the years, she has been interviewed and mentioned the fact that her children are grown and she’d like to return to acting. And guess what, I’d like her to return to acting as well. She is still utterly stunning and from the looks of it, a pretty grounded and sweet lady as well. Did I mention she is still absolutely gorgeous?
I may have outgrown “Little House” but to this day I am a fan of Melissa Anderson. In fact, I think I may want her back in front of the camera more than she does. Now will somebody please give this talented actress a good script? If you’d like to learn more about Melissa you can check out her fan page or follow her on Facebook.