Ah, Dear Anne. We all have that one TV show or movie that will always hold a special place in our hearts. For me, that series is Anne of Green Gables. Produced and distributed by Sullivan Entertainment, Anne of Green Gables is a miniseries based on the beloved novel by L.M Montgomery. The adaptation tells the story of a red-headed orphan adopted by a brother and sister on Prince Edward Island.
Unlike many fans of this film, I never actually got into it until I reached my early teen years. But since then, it has greatly shaped my life in many different ways. Most importantly my inspiration to become a writer. It’s safe to say this series is incredibly popular and widely known (especially by hardcore Canadians like myself) and for so many different reasons.
While I could go on forever about how wonderful the adaptation is, I’m just going to cover ten reasons why the Anne of Green Gables series is the best adaptation as well as a timeless classic.
1. Perfectly Cast
Of all the adaptations, there has never been a more perfect Anne Shirley than the one portrayed by Megan Follows. Her looks, facial expressions, even the awkward way she runs was exactly how I pictured Anne.
Every time I watch this film, I burst out laughing whenever she gets that faraway look in her eye and starts rambling on about one of her dreamy notions (particularly when she discusses being in the “depths of despair”). Follows is Anne through and through, and I’ve yet to see any actress match her performance.
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However, it’s safe to say that Gilbert, portrayed by the late Jonathan Crombie, had arguably the most memorable performance. He (perhaps unintentionally) created a new standard for the ideal man. Every generation of girls who have seen this adaptation has swooned madly over his natural boyish charm and charismatic spirit that brought the Gilbert of the novels to light.
He isn’t exactly Mr. Darcy, but his typical boy-next-door portrayal has caused many young ladies to fall head over heels in love every time they rewatch the series.
2. Historically Accurate
One of my biggest pet peeves about various historical dramas is that there is a great deal too many that don’t respect the importance of historical accuracy. And when you’re working from an established piece of classic literature, getting the facts right is even more crucial.
So in watching Anne of Green Gables (and really any period drama by Kevin Sullivan), I was pleased to see how well they stuck to the late Victorian-early Edwardian eras. Everything down to the clothing, dishware, furniture and farm equipment was well researched and designed that it immediately transported viewers to the simpler world of the 1890s.
The crew also followed the trends and styles as the years went on. For example, Anne’s sleeves became less full and hair looser as the Edwardian styles began to crossover. Thank you Sullivan Entertainment, your attention to detail is thoroughly appreciated by period drama fans everywhere.
3. Displays True Love in All Forms – AKA Kindred Spirits
One thing I felt this film displayed very openly (as did the novels), was that true love isn’t just romantic but comes in all forms and in all different types of relationships. I felt Matthew and Anne’s relationship was wonderfully reflective of this, as was Anne and Diana’s friendship.
Though one holds a father-daughter dynamic and the other is of a best friend, each contains the qualities that true love requires: affection, respect, understanding, patience, honesty, trust and loving-kindness.
4. Aesthetically Pleasing
The Victorian aesthetic is something very particular and special but isn’t always easy to portray. I’ve watched a plentiful amount of period dramas that simply felt like a modern series with modern issues and simply put people in costumes. It felt more like I was watching actors in dress rehearsal than characters in a bygone era.
There are certain attitudes and spirits about the Victorian/Edwardian era that some films have trouble grasping, but Anne of Green Gables achieved it perfectly. It feels old-fashioned, and it removes you from the modern world through the duration of the entire series. I often feel a slight tinge of regret everytime I watch it because I want to stay in the world of Avonlea for as long as I can. That’s a feeling very hard to find when watching a film or reading a novel.
5. Artistically Unique
Many classic novels have been adapted to film or TV more than once, and even though the basic story is the same, every director has a different style in which they choose to film.
For example, when you compare Pride and Prejudice (1995) with Pride and Prejudice (2005), there is a distinct artistic difference. The 1995 version is very reflective of English culture and is filmed in the more everyday lifestyle. Whereas the 2005 version is much more whimsical and contemporary. Though both are lovely, I have personally always preferred the 1995 version, as it, in my opinion, reflects the story in a more realistic sense.
With Kevin Sullivan’s Anne, the series is filmed in a similar slice of lifestyle, but at the same time contains a very inspirational and whimsical feeling. I find this especially true with the scenes of Anne and Diana walking through the fields. It’s a very simple and everyday activity, but paired with the girls’ laughter and the beautiful musical score reflects the philosophy that everyday life can be wondrous in its own way.
6. Elegant and Memorable Musical Score
Music adds much to a production, especially when it’s a period drama. When composing original music for a period piece, the goal is normally to make it sound time period accurate, but not stiff sounding or unmemorable.
Hagood Hardy, the composer for the Anne films, achieved this perfectly. “Anne’s Theme” is a song you can hear and immediately recognize. And it’s a song that just takes your heart away. I personally cry whenever I hear it (though let’s be honest, most of us cry while watching the entire series). It sounds like the way Anne thinks, full of dreams, romance, and imaginary things.
7. Classically Romantic
Gilbert and Anne are one of the most iconic couples in classic literature, and it’s easy to see why. Gilbert Blythe’s character is the ultimate definition of the word ‘gentleman’. He’s respectful and courteous at all times (except when he pulls Anne’s hair, but we forgive him). And he loved Anne because of who she was, not how she looked.
Not only that, but Gil is a huge supporter of Anne’s writing. He gives her his honest opinion of her work (even though it isn’t always favorable).
Both in watching and reading Anne of Green Gables, I really came to appreciate how Anne and Gil’s relationship blossomed from a very real friendship. It didn’t progress right away. It took many years of growing their friendship and putting up with one another’s tempers for Anne to realize how right they were together. I found it both beautiful and realistic that a romance was formed over years of hard work and patience on Gilbert’s part.
8. Respects The Integrity Of The Novels
Many bookworms who watch a film adaptation of their favorite novel will always tell you that the book was better. This is usually because the filmmakers didn’t stick close enough to the material or ignored major plot points that have a large impact on the storyline. Kevin Sullivan’s Anne is beloved by fans of the novel worldwide but doesn’t actually strictly adhere to the book’s content.
The first film is basically word for word of the first novel. But in Anne Of Green Gables: The Sequel (or Anne of Avonlea in the US), Sullivan combined material from three different Anne books: Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, and Anne of Windy Poplars. Most of the plot is taken from the fourth and fifth novels and is rewritten to show Anne go through all the best parts of those books without having to adapt each novel to its own separate film.
Miraculously they were able to get away with doing this, and it worked because even though they changed a few plot points around, they stuck to the integrity of the story. Moreover, it kept the wholesome everyday life feeling that the books already contain.
9. It Captured The Essence Of Island Life
When doing a period drama, the ethnicity of a culture and location needs to remain intact in order for the entire film to feel genuine. Kevin Sullivan did an amazing job displaying the way Prince Edward Islanders lived during the 1890s, by displaying the provincial attitudes of the Avonlea residents, including the temperance movement, and even contrasting the clothing of wealthier Islanders versus those with less money.
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Perhaps most amazingly, they put a large emphasis on showing the beauty of the Island in as many scenes as possible. The majority of the series was actually filmed in Ontario, Canada, but you wouldn’t know to look at the films. Sullivan went as far as to paint the roads on their set red to capture the unique appearance of PEI soil, in order for the film to feel authentic.
Viewers felt that they were watching a show filmed on PEI (many of the exterior shots were still filmed there), and it was highly acknowledged for its beauty.
10. Remains Beloved and Relevant in Today’s World
It’s safe to say Anne of Green Gables has stood the test of time, and that is partially in thanks to the ’80s miniseries. Recent adaptations have continued to increase the popularity of our beloved red-headed heroine, but I believe Sullivan Entertainment’s Anne of Green Gables is the adaptation most people think of when they hear the name, Anne Shirley.
Even though the book was written 110 years ago, and the films came out over thirty years ago, it’s a story that remains relevant to young girls. Kevin Sullivan created a legend for himself, in making a film full of wholesome values and childlike wonder seldom found in shows for young girls in today’s world of cynicism.
I’m sure most fans of these films will agree that they are unique and very special to all the kindred spirits out there who fell in love with this story.
Where to Watch: You can purchase a DVD of Anne of Green Gables on Shop At Sullivan and Amazon. You can stream Anne of Green Gables on Gazebo TV.
Have you watched Anne of Green Gables? Why do you love it? Let us know in the comments!
Featured image at top: Anne and Marilla. Photo: Sullivan Entertainment
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3 thoughts on “10 Reasons Why the Timeless ‘Anne of Green Gables’ of the ’80s is the Best Adaptation”
Yes! Just a hearty and resounding yes to all of the above! This adaptation is hands down the best — according to this fellow Canuck (-: Great article, keep ’em coming!
Awe thanks so much, I’m glad you enjoyed reading it!
I agree, and one other thing this adaptation helped with was a bit of visual/auditory manifestation in reading the novels later on. Also I understood how they adapted it because there were great word-for-word lines from the novels that weren’t always spoken by the same characters but worked remarkably well with those who did speak them. I continue re-reading the books with this particular sound and imagery (and a little from the BBC Anne of Avonlea in the 1970’s).