After years of playing the overburdened Mary Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie, securing herself a Leading Actress Emmy nomination at the age of 16 along the way, Melissa Sue Anderson, understandably wanted to branch out. With a daring pixie cut, quite the opposite of Mary’s angelic country tresses, Anderson took on the role of Vivian Sotherland, a (very bad) witch in training, in 1981’s truly enjoyable television film Midnight Offerings.
With a glint in her eye and venom dripping from her voice, Anderson obviously reveled in playing a person who was happy to torture her romantic rival – here another (shiningly nice) witch in training, played, in perfect stunt casting style, by The Waltons’ Mary McDonough.
In Hooray for Homicide, a first season episode of Murder, She Wrote, Anderson also explored darker worlds as starlet Eve Crystal. Here, though, her crimes are almost accidental. Thus, all of Anderson/Crystal’s manipulations and cover-ups are born out of soft sorrow and regret – a situation that Anderson displays at the episode’s denouement with a downcast tone in her voice and teary sorrow in her eyes.
Horror Hall of Fame:
Of course, true terror stalwarts know that Anderson’s most famous attempt at ripping off those calico dresses occurred with Happy Birthday to Me, the now classic 1981 slasher film. The film’s iconic tagline boasted of a celluloid delight that featured “six of the most bizarre murders that you will ever see,” but fans of women in horror will always appreciate Anderson’s quietly mysterious performance. Although, ultimately a red herring, here she makes you believe that her character just might be responsible for all the bloodshed at hand – a nice feat of acting prowess, indeed.
…and she didn’t even notice the shirt! As a kid I had a wall covered with the posters of the actors that I dreamed of working with one day. Melissa Sue Anderson was one of them. While on a 2010 book store tour for her memoir, Anderson would ask for audience members to read with her. While not exactly primetime television…I guess that I can check that hope off of the bucket list…