When Melissa Francis was nine years old, she won the role of a lifetime: she would play Cassandra Cooper Ingalls, the little girl who would be adopted with her brother (played by young Jason Bateman) on the worlds most famous soap opera, Little House on the Prairie. Despite her age, she and her older sister Tiffany were already veteran actresses, ...
When Melissa Francis was nine years old, she won the role of a lifetime: she would play Cassandra Cooper Ingalls, the little girl who would be adopted with her brother (played by young Jason Bateman) on the worlds most famous soap opera, Little House on the Prairie. Despite her age, she and her older sister Tiffany were already veteran actresses, having starred in countless commercials and made for television movies; theirs was success fueled by fear, pride, pressure and sometimes grinding cruelty of a star-struck mother. As Melissas star rose, however, her sisters dimmedTiffany began to shy away from show business, and in doing so became invisible to her mother, who was increasingly riveted to Melissas success. Her mother paid no mind to whether (or how) Tiffany made it to school each day, and later, turned away when her emotional problems and substance abuse turned deadly. The storys climax takes place in the early 90s, as Tiffany lays dying at age 32 of pancreatic failure. Melissas mother leaves her husband and arrives on Melissas doorstep asking her to buy her a bed and breakfast. Disbelieving, Melissa tells her that if she cant be a mother to Tiffany even now, then Melissa wants nothing to do with her. Her mother never goes to Tiffany, and Melissa never sees her again. Diary of a Stage Mothers Daughter is a fascinating account of life as a child star in the 80s, particularly as a cast member of the legendary Little House on the Prairie. Its also a startling account of life in a dysfunctional family under the care of a highly neurotic, dangerously selfish mother. But perhaps most importantly, now that Melissa has two sons of her own, its a meditation on motherhood, and the value of pushing your children: at what point are you helping your children, and at what point are you hurting them?
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