Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie, the most beautiful girl in the series at 61+photos

Melissa Sue Anderson: Little House on the Prairie, which ran over 200 episodes from 1974 to 1983, was one of the most popular shows of its day, drawing viewers in with its nostalgic heartland drama and charming cast of characters.

The show was, of course, based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved series of books, and it brought to life many memorable characters from Ingalls Wilder’s family and social circle. One of the most beloved of these Little House on the Prairie characters was Mary Ingalls, Laura’s kindhearted older sister. Mary was played by Melissa Sue Anderson, who was 11 when the show began.

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Anderson starred in the show for seven out of its nine seasons, and we watched her grow up, going from a soft spoken girl to a strong young woman who faced much tragedy along the way, from going blind in season four to losing her baby in a fire in season six. In 1978, she became the only member of the show’s large cast to be nominated for an Emmy Award.

Here’s a look at how Melissa Sue Anderson became our favorite prairie girl — and what she’s been up to in the decades since the show ended.

Stay with this part of celebrities from the series of entertainment in Eternal Pen magazine.

Before the prairie

Melissa Sue Anderson Little House on the Prairie

Melissa Sue Anderson: With her classic blonde-haired and blue-eyed beauty, Melissa Sue Anderson was destined for stardom. After a chance meeting with an agent as a kid, she began appearing in commercials, and TV roles soon followed.

She made fleeting, uncredited appearances in episodes of Bewitched and Shaft starting in 1972, and had a memorable role as Millicent, a girl who gives Bobby a kiss, in a 1973 episode of The Brady Bunch.

Melissa Sue Anderson on the prairie

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Melissa Sue Anderson: In 1974, Anderson was cast in Little House on the Prairie. The show developed a huge fanbase and Anderson and her onscreen sister, Melissa Gilbert, became stars. In the Little House on the Prairie books, Mary wasn’t one of the main characters, but as the young actress proved her talents, her character became more prominent than she ever was on the page.

Post-prairie life

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Melissa Sue Anderson: The late ’70s and early ’80s saw Anderson acting in many TV movies. She also appeared in Afterschool Specials and episodes of Fantasy Island, The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote.

Like many TV actresses of her day, Anderson’s crossover into movies didn’t bring her the same level of success. Her first movie was the 1981 slasher Happy Birthday to Me, in which, as People described at the time, “she gets to booze, toke, strut around in bra and panties and shove a beef brochette — barbecue fork and all — down the throat of an over-amorous boyfriend” — which was quite the change from being Mary Ingalls!

Anderson then appeared in movies like Chattanooga Choo Choo (1984) and Dead Men Don’t Die (1990). From 1987 to 1988, she had a four-episode arc on the thriller series The Equalizer, which was created by her husband, Michael Sloan.

She called her role on the show one of her biggest achievements, saying, “I’m usually so hard on myself, but I was really proud of my work here. I was happy with what I did in those episodes.” After that, she appeared in two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

In the ’90s, Anderson took some time off to raise her two children. She appeared in the short-lived 1999 series Partners and played the First Lady in the 2006 miniseries 10.5: Apocalypse. Her final two appearances were uncredited roles in the 2014 Veronica Mars movie and the 2018 comedy The Con Is On.

Anderson has kept a low profile in recent years, and in a 2022 interview, she said she didn’t plan to return to acting anytime soon. Even if she’s no longer on our screens, we’ll always have the coziness of the prairie.

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