In 1984 the Canadian Broadcasting Company opened to the wide world the far too unknown world of novelist Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne Shirley. In America the two sets of VHS tapes Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea earned permanent places in family collections.
One viewing of Megan Follows’s unforgettable portrait of the irascible orphan, Anne, and her unique adoptive family, brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, her “bosom friend,” Diana Barry, and Anne’s spurned-almost-one-time-too-many suitor, Gilbert “Gil” Blythe, and all but the most unfeeling heart or unengaged mind was drawn in.
And that’s just in Anne of Green Gables. Avonlea (which premiered in Canada in 1987) introduced additional characters just as quirky and lovable.But, for the ladies and girls, it was and is the tempestuous relationship between Anne and Gil (which eventually did lead to marriage) that became the defining center of the story. Gilbert who picked on Anne (calling her “carrots” owing to her read hair, ignoring her at a dance while stealing her dance card preventing anyone else from dancing with her, challenging her ability to walk a ridge pole), yet not always able to hide his feelings (leading the applause after Anne quoted “The Highwayman”). This relationship was not dependent on sexual tension relied on today by so many lesser productions. Anne and Gil’s relationship went through the ups and downs of a smitten teenaged boy not suave enough to catch the headstrong Anne, but quite clearly not knowing what would happen if he did. In a third installment created years later (The Continuing Story), Anne and Gil do marry, though the strain of World War I puts their relationship through a difficult test.
Jonathan Crombie died April 18 of a brain hemorrhage. He was 48 years old.
So, Dad, Crombie’s Gilbert Blythe is why your wife and daughters are crying. And, a belated “thank you,” Mr. Crombie, for bringing such joy so many times to my own wife and daughters.
And for helping create an enduring series I’ve watched many times unashamedly putting my “man card” in the drawer.
You can purchase these wonderful movies or books through the links below. Anne of Green Gables The Sequel is the original Canadian production name of Anne of Avonlea.