Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Anne of Green Gables (1934) Film Review

Plot Summary - The story of the young orphan girl, Anne with an E (played by Anne Shirley), who comes to live on Prince Edward Island with no-nonsense spinster Marilla Cuthbert and kindly, quiet Matthew Cuthbert, middle-aged sister and brother who run a farm. Anne is a talkative dreamer who wears her hated red hair in long braids, loves places where there's "scope for the imagination", prays to be "beautiful when she grows-up", and longs for a dress with puffed sleeves. Always on the lookout for a kindred spirit - Anne soon has a new "bosom friend" in neighbor girl Diana Barry, and starts school where she gets off on the wrong foot the very first day by breaking her slate over the head of cocky, handsome student Gilbert Blythe who calls her "carrots", her red hair forever her torment. Anne holds a grudge towards Gilbert, but he gives her the snub too when he won't speak to her on an evening community hayride. Turns out Marilla's been in a feud with the Blythes for years over a broken romance for her brother Matthew (altered from the book, in which she had a romance with Gilbert's father years before), so even as Anne and Gilbert start a little romance as several years go by, Marilla tries to keep them apart.

Review - This film is based on the classic novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery, a story I know quite well from both the book and the 1980s Canadian miniseries. The first part of the film actually follows the original book fairly closely (with a lot of dialogue taken straight from the book) and is quite good. The second half of the film tends to stray away from the book, with some scenes out of order from the original, other scenes completely altered or added in, characters changed around. Still, the film does seem to follow the original feeling and intent of the story, for the most part. Pretty young actress Anne Shirley, who was originally actress Dawn O'Day but changed her name permanently to Anne Shirley, the character's name in this film - brings a whole lot of charm to this role which really adds to the enjoyment of the film. I'm not completely keen on the choice of actor (Tom Brown) for Gilbert Blythe - he doesn't seem right to me, he comes across as a sort of shallow goofball. The characters from the novel of Rachel Lynde and Mrs. Barry are combined into one character in this film, named Rachel Barry (hehe). Diana is a blonde here - no "jet-black tresses". Anne is supposed to be fourteen when she arrives to live with the Cuthberts, in the novel she is eleven. Some of the well known scenes that take place in the novel are completely eliminated - no tea party on current-wine, no Anne walks the roof, no Miss Stacy, no Anne dyes her hair green - but things must be taken out, I suppose, to fit into a less than ninety minute film (couldn't they have made it longer?!). And never a mention of Avonlea! This film is a decent early version of this story, but doesn't begin to match the absolutely terrific, lovely 1985 TV miniseries version, and it's sequel "Anne of Avonlea" starring Megan Follows. Rating - 8/10 stars

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