IN 1949, Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster starred in ``Sorry, Wrong Number.'' The psychological thriller won Stanwyck an Academy Award nomination. The movie told the suspense-filled story of a bedridden woman who picks up the phone and accidentally hears a murder being planned - her own. Loni Anderson was 14 years old when she watched the film on the late show in her native St. Paul, Minn. ``The next day,'' she recalled, ``I was standing in front of my bedroom mirror acting out all the scenes.
``My mother came in and smiled. `You certainly know how to entertain yourself,' she said. Mom remembered hearing Agnes Moorehead star in `Sorry, Wrong Number,' on the radio, that was a year before it was made into a movie.
``It's always been an acting favorite of mine,'' Anderson says. That's why she returned to work after a year's absence when she and husband, Burt Reynolds, welcomed a baby boy into their home.
She completed filming ``Sorry, Wrong Number'' last month in Toronto. It airs as a ``World Premi`ere Movie'' tonight on cable's USA Network (9-11 p.m., check local listings).
``The role is different from anything I've ever done,'' Anderson continues. ``The story has been updated. I'm a wealthy socialite, whose husband, played by Carl Weintraub, is plotting to have her murdered to get the insurance money.
She has a psychosomatic illness, which makes it even more gripping when the husband realizes he still loves her and phones her confessing he has sent a killer to the house. The phone line will soon be cut, so he pleads with her to get out of bed and out of the house.''
``If my performance is only a fraction as good as Stanwyck's, I'll be thrilled.''
The actress wears her blond hair shoulder-length and straight. ``I can look through my scrapbook and tell exactly what play, TV series, or movie it is, by studying my hair style. Burt kids me, `Another role, a new coiffure.'''
The past year Ms. Anderson has been in Jupiter, Fla., with Burt and their 11-month-old son, Quenton. It's Burt's hometown,'' she explains. ``His parents live nearby, as do my daughter and her husband.
``We haven't forsaken Hollywood, even though Burt has sold his bachelor home in Bel-Air. It was built on levels, and there was no room for a youngster to ride a trike. Anyway, the sightseeing buses would come by every 30 minutes, and it was hard to get out of driveway.
``We're looking for another home in Hollywood, a larger one; we'd like to adopt more children. Burt is such a good daddy, you'd think he invented fatherhood. We're really stay-at-homes; he'd rather be shot in the foot than get on a tuxedo,'' she laughed.
Anderson has wanted to be an actress since she was four. ``I thought for a while it was impossible. By the time I was 18, I had been married, had my daughter Deidra, and was divorced. I decided to go to college. I graduated with a teacher's degree, and for three months taught in a high school.
``One evening, I sat down and had a good talk with myself. I realized I'd never be happy unless I tried acting. I reasoned if I fall on my face, I can go back to teaching, but at least I'd know I've tried.''
The next eight years were devoted to the theater. ``I studied, took every part, and began to learn and earn. My naturally dark hair and brown eyes made everyone say I resembled Sophia Loren, who along with Barbara Stanwyck and Doris Day were my favorites.
``It wasn't until I became a blonde that my career started moving. I came to Hollywood, did a string of TV shows, and finally was cast in ``WKRP.''
Friends often suggest it would have been ideal if Loni and Burt had met earlier. She instantly puts down such thoughts: ``Not at all. If we had, we wouldn't have dated at all. There's 10 years difference in our ages, when I came here I taught Sunday School, and he had this swinging bachelor image.
``When we did meet, we had much more in common. He had built his theater in Jupiter, Fla.; his parents were there; and he was more family-oriented. We discovered how much we had in common - we're both close to our families, both share the same religious faith, and both have a sense of humor.
``Someday it would be great to work together, but now he's busy with his ABC-TV series, `B.L. Stryker,' which he films in Jupiter, and I've a commitment to do a project with CBS.''
Loni Anderson Reynolds believes ``Everything comes at the right time, at the right pace and place. When my daugter, Deidra, was small, people would ask, `What does your mother do for a living?' she'd answer, She's in the pretend business.' I guess I still am.''