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.