‘Little House’s Melissa Sue Anderson Refused to Kiss Her Show Love Interest, So Her Character Lost Her Sight
It’s best to just go with the flow on the prairie.
That’s what Mary Ingalls actor Melissa Sue Anderson learned, according to a co-star on Little House on the Prairie. Anderson’s refusal to kiss a scripted boyfriend on the show resulted quickly in her character losing her sight.
Here’s how the situation reportedly happened.
This show star said Anderson was not very friendly on set
Nellie Oleson actor Alison Arngrim recalled in her 2010 memoir Confessions of a Prairie B*tch her initial reaction to meeting Anderson, who portrayed Laura Ingalls’ older sister Mary. The actor, according to Arngrim, was frosty at best toward her.
“[Anderson]’s hair was not mixed dishwater blond like mine; it was perfect, shining, yellow-white blond, like a Breck commercial. She was spectacular,” Arngrim wrote.
“‘Oh crap,’ I thought. Girls like this always hated me. As if on cue, Melissa Sue Anderson turned to look at me, her huge, round blue eyes narrowing to slits.”
Anderson’s other co-star Melissa Gilbert shared Arngrim’s assessment of their cast mate in her 2009 memoir Prairie Tale. “There was a distance to her, a coldness, though sometimes I wonder if it was just that I never knew how to get her to let me in,” she said. “She wasn’t easy to get along with. I think her reserve came across on-screen and was certainly apparent off-screen.”
Anderson ‘hated’ her co-star and it affected her character’s fate
To hear Arngrim’s tell the story, it was Anderson’s refusal to cooperate with a romantic story line that led to her character being given such a tragic story shift.
“[Radames Pera] played John Jr., Mary’s gorgeous boyfriend,” Arngrim wrote. “Michael had decided to postpone the whole plot line about her blindness indefinitely and let her become a romantic lead.”
Pera’s character, she said, was supposed to marry the eldest Ingalls’ daughter. The problem, the Nellie Oleson actor said, was that “Melissa Sue hated his guts, refused to kiss him, and eventually he left the show.”
What that meant for Anderson, then, was that “Michael had to go back to the old plot line and make her blind.
“The logical consequences of one’s actions or spiritual karma? You decide,” Arngrim queried, tongue in cheek.
Anderson worried that Mary Ingalls would be written off the show
It isn’t clear if the show’s plot line would have changed had Anderson been more receptive to her romantic interest who portrayed Isaiah Edwards’ elder adopted son John.
The Mary Ingalls actor grew anxious that the end of her time on the show was near when the series’ show runner, sometime-director, and main actor Michael Landon decided to have Mary become blind.
For his part, Landon said at the time that he tried his best to assure the actor he intended to keep Mary Ingalls on the show.
He kept his word when the character learned to live with her lack of sight, became a teacher, and married.