I’ve been posting a great deal more lately on the TV/movies side of the blog than here; I haven’t had a lot to say about what I’ve been reading: Anne McCaffrey and Jill Churchill. I’m letting a couple of ideas marinate, but that’s not where I want to go right now. Tonight Mom and I watched the rest of the CBC production of Anne of Green Gables, and the post goes here because I wrote about rereading – and needing to watch – Anne a little while ago.
Megan Follows is Anne. She was 16 at the time of filming, playing Anne from 12 to 16, and she was brilliant. For me the casting of Anne is an even more perilous decision than the casting of Frodo and Sam; they mean the world to me, but Anne … Anne is one of the most important people in my life. So if they had failed here, it would have been colossal – and the success the casting directors and Megan Follows made of it is proportionately huge.
The rest of the cast does a truly beautiful job as well; in particular, Colleen Dewhurst and Richard Farnsworth are pitch-perfect as Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. I sobbed at Matthew’s death; he is a quietly essential character, and his death is one thing that sets Anne apart from other “children’s” books – his death, and the choices and difficulties it brings, as well as the deep grief in and out of the book. The portrayal of all of this on film was perfect. It hurt. It’s supposed to.
Schuyler Grant hit exactly the right not-quite-dumb-brunette notes as Diana; Josie Pye was adequately hateful (though too much with Gilbert); Gilbert as played by Jonathan Crombie was lovely. And I was content with everyone else, from Ruby Gillis to Miss Stacey (with an “e”). (Though I’m puzzled as to Mrs. Allen being German…)
It’s remarkable how faithful the mini-series is to the book. This was the other main criterion: casting Anne and staying true. With everything else there was wiggle room, but there I would be completely unforgiving. And they did a remarkable, beautiful job. They got nearly everything in, if not quite in the book’s sequence, to the point that the only tiny complaint that I had was that Gilbert didn’t pick up a rose lost from Anne’s hair at the recitation. (Oh, and Anne didn’t say “Oh, Mr. Cuthbert! Oh, Mr. Cuthbert! Oh, Mr. Cuthbert!” I missed it.) I’ve read the book many, many times, and (obviously) recently, and I was happy about the whole production: it’s one of the most perfect adaptations of a book I’ve ever seen.
Which makes it all the harder to accept the garbage that followed. “Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel” is, as far as I remember and as far as I can tell from the descriptions, faithful to parts of Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, and I think Anne of Windy Poplars, and a worthy second adaptation … But it is followed by “The Continuing Story”, during the making of which Kevin Sullivan apparently lost his mind and about which I can only say something of which Marilla would deeply disapprove: WTF?? This is “a television miniseries whose script was very loosely based upon the novels”. Um. Beg pardon, but for something to be even loosely based upon something else, it has to bear some glancing resemblance to the original source material. This, apparently, doesn’t. I believe we watched it – which may be one reason we haven’t watched any of this again for about ten years; we were too scarred.
It borrowed characters from the Anne of Green Gables novels by Lucy Maud Montgomery but not actual plot lines. Instead it served as a sequel to two mini-series produced by CBC Television in the 1980s. It was the most controversial and heavily criticized of the three film adaptations written and produced by Kevin Sullivan.
The miniseries was criticized principally because unlike the 1985 Anne of Green Gables and its 1987 sequel Anne of Avonlea, the screenplay was not based upon Montgomery’s works, but instead used Montgomery’s much-loved characters in a wholly original World War I story by Sullivan and Laurie Pearson. Montgomery had written an Anne novel set in that same period, Rilla of Ingleside, a story focusing on Anne’s youngest daughter, and in which Anne was a mother whose three sons were fighting in Europe. The new storyline places a childless Anne in the role of a woman on a quest to find her husband, Gilbert Blythe, who becomes a doctor and disappears behind enemy lines.
The film was also criticised for introducing a continuity problem. Following Colleen Dewhurst’s death in 1991, Marilla Cuthbert’s death was written into the series Road to Avonlea. At Marilla’s funeral, Hetty King refers to Gilbert and Anne Blythe; some viewers assumed they were married. Anne does not appear in the Avonlea episode because she is sick with scarlet fever. In ANNE: the Continuing Story, which takes place five years later, it is revealed that Anne had scarlet fever while she was teaching at an orphanage in Nova Scotia.
I … don’t even know where to start. She – – dead – – scarlet fever – – enemy lines?? Nova Scotia?? Childless??? What?
And – if they’re referred to as “Gilbert and Anne Blythe”, isn’t it somewhere beyond the level of “assumption” that they’re married??
In director Kevin Sullivan’s third movie based on the books by Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne Shirley (Megan Follows) leaves her beloved Prince Edward Island behind and heads to New York with her true love, Gilbert Blythe (Jonathan Crombie). But soon World War I interferes with their new life and sends Anne on an adventure she never anticipated.
Holy crap. New flipping York?? Did anyone get the plate number of the truck that apparently hit Kevin Sullivan and left him with severe head trauma? It’s the only explanation I can think of for such a drastic change in attitude.
And it gets worse. I hadn’t seen this until now, and I wish I hadn’t. The flack that came from that nonsense apparently taught them nothing, and last year they proceeded to make a fourth … thing: “A New Beginning”. Uh oh.
Anne, now a middle-aged woman, is troubled by recent events in her life. Her husband, Gilbert, has been killed overseas as a medical doctor during World War II. Her two daughters are preoccupied with their own young families and her adopted son Dominic has yet to return from the war. When a long-hidden secret is discovered under the floorboards at Green Gables, Anne retreats into her memories to relive her troubled early years prior to arriving as an orphan at Green Gables and being adopted by the Cuthberts.
The impact of this difficult period has a far-reaching effect on this older woman, once she discovers the truth about her real parents. She begins a delicate search for her birth father. It is a journey through a past fraught with danger, uncertainty, heartache and joy. In the parade of humanity Anne encounters she also faces the root of her desire to find true “kindred spirits”, an inspired imagination and the impetus to use her talents as a writer to inspire others.
He – killed? What?? WWII?? Two daughters and who the hell is Dominic? Search for who now? Danger? WHAT???
And, not that this even compares to the rest of it, but in the cast list I find:
Josie Pye marry Moody Spurgeon? As if!!
A poor adaptation is one thing – this … I can’t even think. Words like “travesty” and “abomination” and “tar and feathers” come to mind.
I feel sick.