Miss Newman is like that hot-shot rookie on your favorite sports team who plays for a dozen years or so but never lived up to the promise of that early, golden season. Although Melissa looked well on her way to stardom early in her career, it never came. She showcased plenty talent as a young, up-and-coming thespian opposite John Wayne and Rock Hudson but she never did fulfill that early promise. Her career is one of untapped potential. Given her terrific screen presence and unique beauty, Miss Newman should have skyrocketed to stardom, but her fuse failed to ignite. Instead of blasting off into the sky and illuminating her surroundings, Melissa’s light was one that shined eclectic–those who witnessed it will never forget it.
Melissa would often get confused with the daughter of screen legend Paul Newman who had the same name. Although she shared not the genes of Cool Hand Luke and his bride Joanne Woodward, Melissa was a solid talent in the acting world. She broke into the industry in 1968 with a guest spot on the series THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR. The following year she teamed with Wayne and Hudson in the Civil War era western flick THE UNDEFEATED. This film was an adequate showcase for Miss Newman’s talents for Wayne had always been box office gold and Rock Hudson had been a Hollywood heart-throb prior to the release of this picture. Melissa shines as Rock’s southern belle daughter. She expertly handles the down-home accent and her doe-eyed, breathtaking beauty made her character Charlotte the one that made young men’s hearts skip a beat. THE UNDEFEATED isn’t considered one of Wayne’s finest but it was a solid launching pad for a pretty young actress.
But the launch never really happened. Melissa, who seemed destined for roles in A-list films after shooting THE UNDEFEATED, went the route of television instead and became a familiar face as a guest star on many of America’s favorite weekly series. She had a notable role in an episode of the now forgotten series HEADMASTER in 1970 before guest starring on BONANZA. Melissa made a few tv-movies in the early 1970s of little repute before accepting more guest bits on series. Melissa graced STARSKY & HUTCH with her presence and couldn’t quite shake her western roots with a role in the classic oater GUNSMOKE.
Work slowed down for Miss Newman in the late 1970s. By 1980 her career looked stagnate. She landed a small role in the made-for-tv movie REVENGE OF THE STEPFORD WIVES in 1980 which starred Don Johnson and Sharon Gless. A couple of years later Melissa gave a strong performance in the underrated horror flick ONE DARK NIGHT. In her last movie, Melissa excels as Olivia McKenna, distraught daughter of a world-famous magician. After her father dies, she learns that her old man had perfected a way to move objects with his mind. Even after death, her father could still perform such a trick and Melissa had to rescue a trio of high school girls from the mausoleum her father was haunting. Although more for the teenage crowd, Melissa shines in this well-made frightfest as a neglected daughter and wife who proves to her husband, as well as herself, that her father’s absence had no ill effects on her psyche. Although she gives a great performance, Melissa made her last on-screen appearance in ONE DARK NIGHT. Her last role in the business was voice work on the cartoon ROBOTECH.
ACTING ABILITY: 6.2