Anne of Green Gables (Television Special)

Country: Canada

Language: English

Runtime: 90 min.

Release date: 18 November 1958 (B&W)

Production Companies: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Producer: Norman Campbell

Technical Producer: Victor Ferry

Adaptation: Donald Harron

Lyrics: Donald Harron, James Costigan, and Elaine Lieterman

Music: Norman Campbell

Source Material: From the novel by L.M. Montgomery

Tag: A CBC-TV Production

Principal Cast: Kathy Willard (Anne Shirley), John Drainie (Matthew Cuthbert), Margot Christie (Marilla Cuthbert), Margaret Griffin (Diana), William Cole (Gilbert), Helene Winston (Mrs. Rachel Lynde), Araby Lockhart (Mrs. Bell), Peg Dixon (Mrs. Morrison), Eric House (Mr. Phillips), Sharon Acker (Miss Stacey), Maude Whitmore (Mrs. Spencer), Aileen Seaton (Mrs. Blewett), Barbara Hamilton (Shop Attendant), Howard Milsom (Stationmaster)

Two-and-a-half years after the 1956 live musical broadcast, Anne of Green Gables was performed again as part of CBC Folio. This time hosted by Clyde Gilmour, the production purports to present “Life in Prince Edward Island at the turn of the century.” During the introduction to the program, Gilmour speaks favourably of Montgomery as an author but reiterates several common errors about her: “I wonder if you know that fifty years ago Lucy Maud Montgomery couldn’t find any Canadian publishers for Anne of Green Gables. She eventually sold it outright to an American firm in Boston for $500” and “L.M. Montgomery lived most of her sixty-eight years in her native Prince Edward Island.” During the intermission, Gilmour continues: “On the subject of women in the twentieth century, by the way, Lucy Maud held pretty emphatic views. But these were usually expressed by her quiet, straight-faced humour. She once was quoted by one of her two sons as saying, ‘I have no desire to be equal to man. I prefer to maintain by superiority.'”

For the most part, this is a repeat performance of the 1956 production, with a few significant changes in cast and plot. Kathy Willard, replacing Toby Tarnow in the role of Anne, looks far too old for the part, making Anne’s wide-eyed innocence lack credibility. Here, too, the ice cream scene takes on new dimensions: forbidden to go to the Sunday-school picnic by Marilla and Matthew, Anne has a horrible nightmare that everyone receives giant plastic ice cream cones at the picnic, but when it is finally her turn, there is no ice cream left and the giant cone becomes a dunce cap. The schoolchildren beg her to forgive them for taunting her; after breaking three giant slates in succession over Gilbert’s head, Anne continues to long for ice cream but is desolate when the schoolchildren taunt her with their giant plastic ice cream cones. Most impressive about this complexly choreographed ballet scene is that, like the rest of the production, it is all live.

Montreal Star columnist Pat Pearce is not impressed with the production: “The kindest thing we can do to Folio’s ‘Anne of Green Gables’, perhaps, is forget it. Not too hard a problem, this, for there was nothing particular about it to remember—either good or bad. It was all pretty and chocolate-boxey and innocuous, and unless you happened to be about 10 years old rather dull” (“Sports” 48).

Further Reading

Campbell, Norman, and Don Harron. “Anne of Green Gables: The Musical.” In The Lucy Maud Montgomery Album, compiled by Kevin McCabe, 336-45. Don Mills, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1999.

Pearce, Pat. “CBC Performance Excels NBC Effort.” Montreal Star, 18 November 1958, 31.

—. “Sports Take Over TV This Saturday.” Montreal Star, 20 November 1958, 48.

Sinclair, Gordon. “10 Sets, 14 Big Numbers Plus Ballet.” Toronto Daily Star, 18 November 1958, 30.