‘Little House on the Prairie’: Melissa Sue Anderson Turned Down the Lead Role in Iconic Brooke Shields Film

by Madison Miller
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Sometimes actors turn down what will eventually be considered an iconic role. Melissa Sue Anderson is most known for her role as Mary Ingalls on the NBC show “Little House on the Prairie.” This role alone from 1974 to 1981 was enough to make her an influential actress.

However, there is one role that she turned down that could have made her even more influential in the entertainment business. Although, Anderson continues to have a significant role in the acting world.

Melissa Sue Anderson Turns Down Role

According to IMDb, Anderson turned down the role to be Emmelyn in the film “The Blue Lagoon” in 1980.

It was a year before she would end up leaving “Little House on the Prairie.” Her character went blind at the end of the fourth season. Her portrayal of a blind person received high praise and she even earned an Emmy nomination for her acting. However, as the show progressed her character’s storylines slowly got darker and darker.

Her baby dying in a fire and then becoming catatonic herself is likely two of the most significant. Melissa Sue Anderson decided to leave the show in 1981 after her character’s plot had become too much.

Her reason for denying the role for “The Blue Lagoon” didn’t have anything to do with “Little House on the Prairie,” however. According to Biography.com, she actually turned down the role because she didn’t want to do any of the nudity that the movie called for. Instead of “The Blue Lagoon” she made her film debut in the horror movie “Happy Birthday to Me” in 1981.

Possible Film Debut and Actual Debut

The movie “The Blue Lagoon” stars Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins. The movie tells the story of two children who end up shipwrecked on a tropical island in the South Pacific.

Emmeline and Richard are left on the island for years. Together they develop a real home and living situation. However, hormones and feelings become the biggest strain for life on the island.

Instead of being Melissa Sue Anderson’s breakout role, it was one of the first major roles for Brooke Shields. She is also known for “Pretty Baby,” “Suddenly Susan,” and “Wanda Nevada.” She is also known for a series of guest roles in shows like “Hannah Montana,” “Jane the Virgin,” “The Middle,” and “Creative Galaxy.”

Anderson’s accepted film debut was in the film “Happy Birthday to Me” where she played Virginia Wainwright. The movie takes place at a school called Crawford Academy. Virginia returned to the private school after surviving a nearly tragic accident and having brain surgery.

As she tries to return to her normal life, her friends start to get gruesomely murdered. Due to her memory loss and blackouts, Virginia begins to blame herself. It all leads up to her 18th birthday party.

The film was a dramatic change in pace and theme compared to “Little House on the Prairie.” However, it started her more dramatic and action-filled movie and TV career in titles like “10.5: Apocalypse” and “The Equalizer.”

Outsider.com