Michael Landon cast Melissa Sue Anderson as his onscreen daughter, Mary Ingalls, on Little House on the Prairie in 1974. When storylines for her character became problematic in the historical drama’s later seasons, Anderson decided to leave the show and recalled her final scene with her longtime co-star.
Melissa Sue Anderson had a challenging role on ‘Little House’
Landon created the television show from the Little House book series written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Set in the 1870s, Little House took on many factual themes from Wilder’s stories, including when Mary goes blind. Though Anderson found the plot line in the fourth season to be an excellent opportunity as an actor, she felt constricted by the role due to the time period and her blind status in later seasons. The Little House alum felt Mary became a target for calamities.
“It was very limiting, what you could or couldn’t do,” Anderson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2010. “I used to say I was blind and boring. Either I was just there not doing much or going through some tragedy. I couldn’t take it anymore. It became too soap opera-ish.”
Mary married Adam Kendall (Linwood Boomer) in Season 5 of Little House. With Adam also being blind, Anderson noted that their storylines began wearing thin.
“I could tell that the writers were having trouble coming up with ideas for Mary and Adam,” she wrote in her memoir, The Way I See It. “You know you’re in trouble when your character is suffering more tragedies than on a soap opera. This was the problem: It was either feast or famine.”
Mary and Adam move to New York in Season 8 of ‘Little House’
In Season 7, a freak accident grants Adam his sight and he decides to pursue a law degree. By Little House’s eighth season, Anderson was ready to move on. Mary and Adam were written out of the series as moving to New York City for Adam’s law career. She described her final scene with Landon in her book.
“We were about to leave Walnut Grove for good and are saying our goodbyes,” she explained. “Pa’s (Landon) turn: ‘Don’t you go lettin’ those city folks change you too much, alright?’ ”
Mary responded, “I won’t. I’ll eat with my shoes off at least once a week.”
“We hug and he says, ‘I love ya’ “, Anderson recalled of her embrace with Landon. “And I reply, ‘I love you, too.’ “
‘Little House’ star shed tears in her last scene
Anderson admitted she was caught up with emotion during her final moments in the role she had played for eight seasons. She expressed her affection for Landon and knew she would feel a void by no longer sharing the screen with him.
“Mike and I weren’t acting in this scene,” Anderson wrote. “We did love each other and knew we were going to miss working together after seven-plus years.
The former Little House star added, “My face was wet from all those tears, my nose running. It was hard to say goodbye.”
Anderson and Landon’s friendship lasted until his death in 1991.