Why Melissa Sue Anderson Doesn’t Think ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Would Be Successful Without Michael Landon
Melissa Sue Anderson starred alongside Michael Landon (Charles Ingalls) and Melissa Gilbert (Laura Ingalls) on Little House on the Prairie for eight seasons. Playing oldest daughter Mary Ingalls, Anderson was just 11 years old when she landed the role on the historical drama.
While the series was a hit during its run from 1974 to 1983, Anderson noted that Little House probably wouldn’t work without Landon’s presence.
Michael Landon and Melissa Sue Anderson had a strong bond over the years
Landon created Little House on the Prairie after leaving Bonanza in 1973. Serving as the show’s executive producer and star, Landon often shared the screen with Anderson. The two ended up working on projects together outside of the NBC series, and remained friends up until Landon’s death in 1991 from pancreatic cancer.
“I was friends with him and worked with him up to the year before he died,” Anderson told PopEntertainment.com in 2010. “He came to my wedding. He got sick right after I had my daughter. All those years I was close to him.”
While the two Little House stars had a strong bond, Anderson and Landon’s relationship went through turmoil at times. When Landon left his wife for Anderson’s stand-in actor, she was disappointed in his actions.
“He went in and out of favor with me occasionally,” she said of her co-star and boss. “When you hold someone in such high esteem, you can’t believe it when they fall. And I don’t think I was the only one. But it taught me a great lesson very early on that I had to work with him every day. … He was my boss and I did love him. He was a great guy and a great person in my life, like a big brother to me. So I had to get over it and move on. … He’s not perfect, and he never said that he was.”
Melissa Sue Anderson credited Michael Landon for the success of ‘Little House’
The NBC series was based on the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. While Anderson noted the comfort Little House brought to viewers with its moral messages, she felt that current audiences may need more plots with instant gratification.
“Every little girl growing up certainly reads and loves those Little House books,” Anderson remarked. “It’s longing for that simple life. … People ask me all the time if I think the show would be a hit now, and I think no. The audience is too sophisticated now in the sense that the stories would move too slowly. To air a show like ours, it has to be at a slower pace. I don’t know if people want to invest in something that’s slower now when you’re so used to everything being fast.”
Anderson noted Landon’s absence as the main reason a Little House reboot wouldn’t see the same success that it did during its initial run.
“Without Mike Landon, it wouldn’t happen,” she said. “The whole reason that Little House sold as a pilot and went to a series was because of him. It certainly wasn’t the rest of us. I mean, we were all fine, but he was a huge star with great charisma.”
‘Little House’ alum considered herself ‘shy’
Though Gilbert played Anderson’s younger sister and the two had plenty of scenes together, they never formed a close bond. Anderson felt people misunderstood her timidity for snootiness.
“People thought I was aloof,” she revealed. “But I was really just shy. I was serious about what I did. I wanted to do a great job.”
Despite any ups and downs during her time on the series, Anderson expressed gratitude for being a cast member of the iconic show.
“I’m constantly surprised at its impact,” she said of Little House on the Prairie. “It really is surprising to travel around and see all these people who love the show so much. I don’t know why I’m surprised, but when you’re part of it, you don’t think about it. I’m very happy to have been a part of something that’s so special to so many people.”