Monday, December 13, 2010
The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House...Review
When other girls her age were experiencing their first crushes, Melissa Sue Anderson was receiving handwritten marriage proposals from fans as young, and younger, than she was. When other girls were dreaming of their first kiss, Melissa was struggling through hers in front of a camera. From age eleven in 1974 until she left the show in 1981, Melissa Anderson literally grew up before the viewers of Little House on the Prairie.
Melissa, as Mary, is remembered by many as "the blind sister"—and she was the only actor in the series to be nominated for an Emmy. In The Way I See It, she takes readers onto the set and inside the world of the iconic series created by Michael Landon, who, Melissa discovered, was not perfect, as much as he tried to be. In this memoir she also shares her memories of working with guest stars like Todd Bridges, Mariette Hartley, Sean Penn, Patricia Neal, and Johnny Cash.
In addition to stories of life on the set, Melissa offers revealing looks at her relationships off-set with her costars, including the other Melissa (Melissa Gilbert) and Alison Arngrim, who portrayed Nellie Oleson on the show. And she relates stories of her guest appearances on iconic programs such as The Love Boat and The Brady Bunch.
Filled with personal, revealing anecdotes and memorabilia from the Little House years, this book is also a portrait of a child star who became a successful adult actress and a successful adult. These are stories from "the other Ingalls sister" that have never been told.
The reviews for this book really run the gamut from 1 to 5 stars. Having read Prairie Tale by Melissa Gilbert and Confessions of a Prairie Bitch by Alison Arngrim, I was curious to learn Melissa Sue Anderson's perspective.
Melissa's story is certainly interesting. Perhaps not as salacious as the other two, but still interesting. Both Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim talk about Melissa Sue Anderson in fairly negative terms and, from their stories, it is clear that the three were not real friends. By them, she is portrayed as haughty and snotty and stuck up. But, from Melissa Anderson's perspective, she simply states that the girls weren't encouraged to be good friends. I inferred that because she was older, she had her own life and interests and they didn't include strong associations with all of her fellow cast members. She had nothing overly negative to say about Melissa or Alison.
It's apparent that Melissa values her privacy and there aren't any tabloidesque stories here, probably because that is not how she seemed to live her life. She left show business several years after Little House, when she got married and wanted to raise her family. I have a great deal of respect for people who make that decision and stick with it.
Melissa talks about some of the Mary-centric episodes that she did on Little House and provides commentary about her experiences filming those episodes, especially the blind ones. I found that commentary enlightening.
Overall, Melissa's story is a bit more sterile than other, recent Little House memoirs, but it is also an interesting look at life on one of America's favorite television shows.
Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow. You can purchase your own copy here.
* * *