Salenger began her career as a young girl in stage productions of "South Pacific" and "Camelot" which led to her screen debut as an orphan in John Huston's screen adaptation of the Broadway musical "Annie" (1982). She won her first leading role as the title character in "The Journey of Natty Gann" (1984) based on the children's classic. The feature was the first American film to win the top prize at the Moscow Film Festival. She also appeared as Lisa, the young woman who scorns River Phoenix in "A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon" and as Amy, the girl struggling to escape sinister forces in Pen Desham's "The Kiss" (both 1988). After receiving her degree from Harvard, the round-cheeked, bright-eyed, attractive Salenger resumed her acting career in young adult roles. In 1995, she was Melanie in John Carpenter's remake of the horror classic "Village of the Damned". Salenger's work on TV has included such efforts as "The Last Frontier" (CBS, 1986), a miniseries shot in Australia about an American family pioneering the outback, and "April Morning" (CBS, 1988) in which she was a colonial lass in love with Chad Lowe on the day the American Revolution begins.