Michael Landon stunned fans of Little House on the Prairie with a season 6 episode that led to the death of two characters. Viewers were shaken when a fire at the School for the Blind in Walnut Grove claimed the lives of Alice Garvey (Hersha Parady) and Mary (Melissa Sue Anderson) and Adam Kendall’s (Linwood Boomer) son. Reflecting on the traumatic two-part storyline, Anderson revealed she wasn’t thrilled with how the plot unfolded.
‘May We Make Them Proud’ in season 6
Little House fans surely recall “May We Make Them Proud” in the show’s sixth season. Albert Ingalls (Matthew Labyorteaux) experiments with smoking in the basement of the School for the Blind, which houses Mary, Adam, their infant son, and students. Albert leaves behind some burning embers which causes a fire to rage throughout the building. Anderson recalled some of the scenes in her memoir.
“Adam bursts through the bedroom door,” Anderson wrote in The Way I See It. “I am still sitting on the edge of the bed, cooing at the baby in the cradle. He urges, ‘Mary, come on. There’s a fire. We have to get the kids out.’ He pulls me with him.”
The Little House alum felt it was unrealistic that a mother would leave her baby’s side in the face of danger.
“I must of had some sort of discussion with Mike [Landon] about this scene because I am right in front of that cradle,” Anderson remarked. “Why don’t I grab the baby when Adam tells me about the fire?”
Melissa Sue Anderson’s input didn’t change the scene
Despite Anderson’s opinion on the pivotal placement in the scene, Landon kept the original blocking in place.
“These are the kind of arguments you don’t win,” she said. “I must not have, because Mike did not move me to another part of the room where I wouldn’t have been so close to that baby.”
Anderson also disagreed with the scene where Alice goes in to save the infant but is distracted by cries from down the hall and “leaves the baby”.
“Again, I have a real problem with this,” Anderson wrote. “This just would not happen.”
When Alice goes back to rescue the child, she tries to break a window to escape. Some viewers thought she was trying to use the baby to shatter the glass — a scene that is still debated to this day. Both Alice and the baby boy perish in the flames.
Storylines for Melissa Sue Anderson became frustrating
After the devastating fire,Mary goes into a catatonic state from grief and spends much of the second part of the plot humming to herself. Anderson admitted she grew weary of the overly dramatic storylines.
“I could tell that the writers were having trouble coming up with ideas for Mary and Adam,” she explained. “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.”
Anderson felt the writing was on the wall that her time on Little House was nearing an end. With little left to explore with her character, she felt unchallenged.
“Another terrible tragedy or an episode where I was in a scene only to remind the audience that my character is still alive,” the former Little House star wrote. “It was extremely limiting. I couldn’t really blame the writers — between the era in which the show was set and my character being blind, there wasn’t a lot they could have me do.”
Anderson left Little House in 1981.
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