Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sullivan's Anne of Green Gables

Kevin Sullivan's Anne of Green Gables is a beautiful and charming film that is incredibly faithful to L.M. Montgomery's novel; if not always in letter than certainly in spirit.  He selected all the most wonderful moments from the novel and managed to capture them wonderfully on film.
I remember watching this when it aired in parts on the CBC when I was a child and I have caught bits and pieces of it from time to time as it re-airs.  I watched it this week for the first time on DVD and I was a little worried that it might not hold up to the memories I had of it.  Fortunately, it remains wonderful to watch.  It has a timeless quality that will probably outlive all of us.
The casting of this film is really pure genius!  Megan Follows makes a wonderful Anne.  She does a great job of capturing the spirit of Montgomery's character and is very convincing as Anne at several different ages.
Though I always hear a bit of the voice of the demon from The Exorcist when she speaks, Colleen Dewhurst brings Marilla Cuthbert to life perfectly.  She's so wry and dark yet full of love that she's impossible not to like.  Richard Farnsworth is so sweet and sad as Matthew Cuthbert.  He had a career that spanned sixty years but I think this is his most memorable role.
Sullivan also managed to find a slew of other amazing international actors to populate his film. Marilyn Lightstone is the teacher we all wish we had as Muriel Stacy and Patricia Hamilton as Rachel Lynde is terrific.  She would become a favourite of mine later on Road To Avonlea. This film also features other performers who would soon take on new roles in Avonlea: Jackie Burroughs, Cedric Smith and Mag Ruffman.
Jonathan Crombie is pretty adorable as Gilbert Blythe.  He and Follows did a great job of creating a sense of first love.  Apparently, Schuyler Grant was originally considered for the role of Anne but Sullivan decided that role should be played by a Canadian so Grant became Diana Barry.  She's perfect in the role and goes on to give some memorable performances in the sequels as well.
The production did an amazing job of finding perfect locations to shoot in.  Only a very small percentage of the exteriors were actually shot on PEI.  Most of the film was shot in and around Toronto, ON.  The house used for Green Gables is actually a private residence and the filmmakers put up the picket fence.  The art team was lead by David Cronenberg's production designer, Carol Spier.
I have to mention Hagood Hardy's charming score.  Hardy passed away far too young in 1997 but his music really brings this film to life.  Somehow he's able to capture the spirit of Anne and translate it into musical form.  One of the things that Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story is really lacking is Hardy's touch.
Kevin Sullivan managed to capture some extremely memorable performances and some stunning visuals which make this one of the great contributions to Canadian film and television.  If you haven't seen this and you're a fan of the novel you really should check it out.

All images are the property Sullivan Entertainment.  No copyright infringement is intended.

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