Wednesday, 4 February 2015

82 Anne of Green Gables / Anne of Avonlea

First  watched  : 1972/ 1975

These  two  series  were  my  sister's  favourites,   five  and  six  part  adaptations  respectively  of  the  first  two  books  in  a  series   of  eight  written  by  the  Canadian  author  L.M. Montgomery between  1908  and  1939. The  books  were  set  on  Prince  Edward  Island  so  the  cast -  nearly  all  British - had  to  try  on  Transatlantic  accents.

In  the  first  book / series   Anne  is  an  orphan  sent  to  work  on  a   farm   run  by  the  Cuthberts  - brother  and  sister  which  might  raise  an  eyebrow  today - who  are  expecting  a  boy  rather  than  a  quirky,  unpractical  girl. Anne  has  to  win  over  the  rather  grumpy  sister  Marilla  just  to  remain  at  Green  Gables  before  making  friends  in  the  village.

The  only  thing  I  remembered  before  a  cheating  look  at  wikipedia  was  that  I  rather  liked  one  of  Anne's  friends  Ruby  Gillis   ( on  the  right  above )  and  that  she  died  of  tuberculosis  in  the  second  series. That  was  the  trouble  with  these  classic  adaptations; with  their  high  mortality  rate  you  never  knew  if  your  favourite  character was  going  to  pop  their  clogs  or  not.

Anne  of  Avonlea    made  three  years  later  , took  the  story  on  a  few  years  with  Anne  having  fulfilled  her  dream  of  becoming  a  teacher  and  looking  for  romance. Fortunately  the  production  team  were  able  to  round  up  the  same  cast  despite  the  gap  so  it  makes  sense  to  consider  the  two  series  together.

The  series  gave  early  acting  breaks  to  a number  of  young  actors.  Anne  was  played  by  22  year  old ( i.e twice  as  old  as  Anne  was  supposed  to  be  at  the  start  of  the  story )  Kim  Braden ,  daughter  of  the  Canadian  presenter  Bernard  Braden   who  would  be  sacked  by  the  BBC  later  in  the  year  for  the  heinous  crime  of  advertising  margarine.  She  worked  steadily  until  having  kids  in  the  late  eighties  and  hasn't  been  heard  of  since  the  mid  nineties.  She  was  rather  eclipsed  by  her  onscreen  best  pal  Jan  Francis  ( on  the  left  above ) who  we'll  be  meeting  again  a  few  times. In  the  second  series , one  of  Anne's  pupils  was  a  young  Nicholas  Lyndhurst  cunningly  disguised  as  Brian  Jones. Ruby  was  played  by  an  obscure  actress  called  Kim  Hardy  who  disappears  after  a  small  role  in  Confessions  of  A  Summer  Camp  Councillor  in  1977 ;  I   hope  it  was  small - the  thought  of  Robin  Askwith  getting  his  mucky  paws  on  her  is  horrible.

The  Beeb  never  took  up  an  option  on  the  third  novel. Perhaps  they  were  hoping  the  series  could  be  sold  across  the  pond  and  it  didn't  happen.  My  sister  wanted  to  follow  what  happened  to  Anne  but  only  the  first  two  books  were  available  in  paperback. She  managed  to  cut  a  deal  with  Cleggs'  bookshop  in  Rochdale  who'd  bring  in  the  others  and  she'd  pay  in  instalments. She  told  me  recently  that  our  mum  used  the  fourth*  book   Anne's  House  of  Dreams  to  ward  off  depression.

* Montgomery  wrote   two  of  the  books  in  the  thirties  after  a  long  hiatus  and  their  events  took  place  in  gaps  she'd  left  in  the  chronology  so  the  fourth  published  is  actually  the  fifth  in  terms  of  Anne's  life  if  that  makes  sense.

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