Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Anne of Green Gables (TV)

I’ve recently broken out my videocassettes (yes videocassettes – remember them?!) of Disney (or CBC or somebody) produced TV production of Anne of Green Gables and its sequel Anne of Avonlea.  I was wondering how it would hold up after many years of not watching, and it may be sentimental nostalgia but it still puts a goofy smile on my face.  This was my introduction to the books by L.M. Montgomery which I subsequently devoured, and which are wonderful, but I still have a real soft spot in my heart for these TV productions.

Okay so it’s melodramatic and pretty sentimental and the acting can be pretty dodgy but it still hits so many right notes.  It has a heroine who succeeds and is admired because she is smart and imaginative.  Sure she gets in all kinds of scrapes but it builds character and in the end just makes her and her life more interesting and fulfilling.  Anne is a fantastic character – far from perfect, she’s vain, impulsive and judgmental among other things – but at her heart she loves life and sees beauty and romance in every moment.  Megan Follows may not win any Oscars but I can’t imagine anyone else as Anne.  And of course Colleen Dewhurst and Richard Farnsworth (both notable exceptions to the dodgy acting) are note-perfect as Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. 

The relationships that are depicted are also surprisingly complex and wonderful.  The bond between Anne and Matthew is the sweetest father-daughter and breaks my heart every time (“I got old and I didn’t notice”).  The vaguely tragic figure of Diana Berry, always in the shadow of her bosom friend who has “never failed at anything in her life” and who wishes Gilbert Blythe would look at her like he looks at Anne.  And oh, Gilbert Blythe.  I think he ruined me for life in the romance department.  His long-suffering adoration and devotion and occasional insanely romantic gestures still make me sigh.  And his crazy Canadian accent (I’m soarry, Anne - he says this A LOT).  I also need to put out some props for the actor Jonathan Crombie who on this newest re-watching I am realizing is really very good as Gil, especially in expressing how he feels with his face and eyes while delivering a different message with his words. I wonder what he’s up to these days (apparently still acting - thanks IMDB).    

Please say yes 

The scenery is also stunning and I have had a pretty constant yearning to visit Prince Edward’s Island since I first saw the production.  The beach, the woods, the “White Way to Light”, the idyllic farmsteads are all depicted lovingly.  It’s such an interesting time as well – early 20th century - and this seems to be such an authentic (if somewhat rosy) peek into life at that time particularly in rural Canada. 

I'm also including in my LOVE here, the sequel, Anne of Avonlea, though Anne is not nearly as fun and can be irritating in the middle part of the production in Kingsport.  The initial part where everything changes is so well done which is something I appreciate more as I’ve gotten older.  It’s no longer the chummy and insular school days.  Friends are growing up and have different priorities.  It must have been especially lonesome for women like Anne at that time, who followed a career rather than getting married and keeping a home immediately.  I love the inclusion of Katherine Brooke, a woman forced by circumstance and society's limitations to do something she hates.  The actress isn’t great and the character has a treacly sweet ending but I found myself at times sharing in her bitterness in the face of Anne’s indomitable cheeriness and good fortune.  Anne was lucky enough to find loving people to take her in and govern her natural talkativeness and friendliness with a firm courtesy so as Katherine Brooke says she is a mistress of “the Queen act – always knowing the right thing to say.”  Katherine represents the introvert, the less blest soul who was not lucky enough to be taken in by kindred spirits.  It’s a good contrast to Anne.  And she has one of the lines that have alwaysstuck with me “Does life never frighten you with its bleakness Anne Shirley?”  Life and its bleakness do not frighten her -she embraces life in a great big bear hug.  And that for me is at the heart of why Anne is so heroic. 

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