As I reported yesterday, news broke this week that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had ordered an eight-episode limited series based on L.M. Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables from producer Moira Walley-Beckett, whose past writing credits include the television series Breaking Bad. The news received rather mixed comments, judging by the comments left on various news sites and even on the Facebook page for L.M. Montgomery Online: for some commentators, Sullivan Entertainment’s 1985 miniseries is of such high quality that any attempt to remake it is pointless (for several fans, no one but Megan Follows can ever play Anne), whereas others voiced concern about the decision to hire Walley-Beckett to helm the project, given not only her past writing credits but also the statement that the series would “chart new territory” by depicting “new adventures reflecting timeless issues, including themes of identity, sexism, bullying, prejudice, and trusting one’s self.”
In the midst of this mixed reaction, several additional articles were released in the last few days, emphasizing why a new take on L.M. Montgomery’s 108-year-old novel is not only understandable but absolutely necessary:
As for me, I’m thrilled that a talented writer/producer wants to interpret Montgomery’s best-known novel and ever-appealing protagonist for the twenty-first century, just as I am always fascinated by adaptations of Anne of Green Gables and its sequels for stage and screen, from a 1934 Hollywood “talkie” and Kevin Sullivan’s work to the recent hit play Anne and Gilbert and Breakthrough Entertainment’s upcoming telefilm. Given how meaningful the character Anne Shirley is to so many readers worldwide, surely there is room for a new take on this ever-popular character.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation announced yesterday that it had greenlit a new, eight-episode television series based on Anne of Green Gables. Entitled Anne, the project is expected to go into production this spring for release sometime in 2017. The project will be created and written by Moira Walley-Beckett, who received an Emmy Award for her work as a writer on the television series Breaking Bad and who will serve as executive producer alongside Miranda de Pencier, Alison Owen, and Debra Hayward.
At its heart, ANNE is a coming-of-age story about an outsider who, against all odds and numerous challenges, fights for acceptance, for her place in the world and for love. The drama series centres on a young orphaned girl who, after an abusive childhood spent in orphanages and the homes of strangers, is mistakenly sent to live with an elderly spinster and her aging brother. Over time, 13-year-old Anne will transform their lives and eventually the small town in which they live, with her unique spirit, fierce intellect and brilliant imagination. While the new series will follow a similar storyline to the book that millions of readers around the world know and love, it will also chart new territory. Anne and the rest of the characters in and around Green Gables will experience new adventures reflecting timeless issues, including themes of identity, sexism, bullying, prejudice, and trusting one’s self.
“Kids these days are done with stories where things happen,” said CBC consultant and world’s oldest child psychologist Obadiah Sugarman. “We’ll finally be giving them the stiff Victorian morality that I assume is in vogue. Not to mention, doing a period piece is a great way to make sure white people are adequately represented on television.”
“I can’t wait for yet more Anne,” enthused 22 year-old Alexandra Lewis, who has only been alive for 7 of Anne’s over two dozen adaptations. “Honestly there’s no better use of public funds than promoting the work of a long-dead, already immensely popular author.”
Today, on what would have been L.M. Montgomery’s 141st birthday (she was born on 30 November 1874), I would like to share with you an extract from a journal entry dated exactly 101 years ago, on the occasion of Montgomery’s fortieth birthday:
Once I thought forty must be the end of everything. But it isn’t! I don’t feel any older today than yesterday—when I was only 39! Or the day before yesterday when I was—19! Thank God we don’t feel old. Life is much richer, fuller, happier, more comfortable for me now than it was when I was twenty. I have won the success I resolved to win twenty years ago. It is worth the struggle—but I would not wish to be twenty again with the struggle still before me.
I’m glad, because all this media attention reflects the continued relevance and the persistent quality of Montgomery’s writing, not only as works of literature but also as the basis for an enduring popular culture icon and a set of new Anne texts for stage and screen. I’m looking forward to delving back into the novel Anne of Green Gables next term, when I teach the book in an undergraduate children’s literature course at Wilfrid Laurier University, as an example of a crossover text that continues to appeal to both adults and children.
The website for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation posted earlier today a link to a CBC Radio segment that aired twenty-seven years ago today, on 14 August 1988, on the growing tension between Montgomery’s heirs and the makers of Anne-related commodities on Prince Edward Island—a tension that would lead to the creation of the Anne of Green Gables Licensing Authority (operated jointly by Montgomery’s heirs and by the Province of Prince Edward Island) in 1992.
The article claims that 14 August 1988 marked the eightieth anniversary of the publication of Anne of Green Gables, but this is incorrect: the book was published on 13 June 1908.
Major news has been released concerning Breakthrough Entertainment’s upcoming movie Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. According to a press release dated today, the production will air on Corus Entertainment–owned YTV early in 2016 and will star thirteen-year-old Ella Ballentine as Anne Shirley. More news will be posted here as it becomes available.
This early ad for Anne of Green Gables appeared in the New York Sun in November 1908, five months after the publication of the book. It includes major endorsements by celebrity authors of the period, two of whom remain widely known today: American author and humorist Samuel Clemens (1835–1910), who, as Mark Twain, was the author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), among many other titles; Bliss Carman (1861–1929), a Canadian poet who achieved international fame while living in the U.S. and one of the Confederation Poets; and Temple Scott, biographer and bibliographer whose works include The Friendship of Books (1911).
The endorsement by Twain is frequently misquoted, and even this version is not entirely accurate. Montgomery had received a letter from Clemens’s secretary in which “Mr. Clemens directs me to thank you for your charming book + says I may quote to you from his letter to Francis Wilson about it: ‘In “Anne of Green Gables” you will find the dearest + most moving + delightful child since the immortal Alice.’” This ad appears in The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: A Life in Print, as does the full letter by Bliss Carman from which his endorsement is excerpted.
Recently, while searching through online databases for L.M. Montgomery’s periodical pieces, I was able to add several more reviews of Anne of Green Gables to my collection. One of them, from The Journal of Education (Boston), actually predates a rather infamous review that appeared in The New York Times Saturday Review and that I claimed in the introduction to The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3: A Legacy in Review to be “the first known review of Anne of Green Gables.” Of course, it mistakenly calls the book Anne of Gray Gables and gets some plot details wrong, but it is nevertheless of interest as now being the first known review of Montgomery’s first novel—at least until something earlier turns up!
Young and old will be interested in Anne and in her charming, livable manners. In spite of her uncongenial surroundings, the harshness of her unsympathetic sister, the heroism stands forth in marked contrast and forms a central figure about which the thread of the story is spun. The author evidently understands girls, and her appreciation of their nature has fitted her to write of the conditions and qualities which surround them. The story is beautifully illustrated.
In addition, two reviews that I came across only yesterday emphasize the book as appealing particularly to girls, as opposed to most of the early reviews, which saw the book as being targeted to adults or else to young and old alike.
The Times–Dispatch of Richmond, Virginia recommends it on the basis of the qualities it offers readers:
A charming story told in a charming way, full to the brim of imagination and the poetical outlook which transforms all living with beauty and grace. A story in which a little waif is rescued from dependence and being made the recipient of kindness and love, repays it “with good measure, pressed down and running over.”
A book which all girls ought to read and enjoy for the sake of its wholesome spirit and its bright, sparkling humor.
The phrase “with good measure, pressed down and running over” alludes to Luke 6.38 in the Christian Bible: “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap” (New International Version).
The Philadelphia Inquirer does likewise, but it tends to have a rather narrow-minded view of female readers:
In these days it is difficult to get stories that are just what every mother wants for a girl of from fourteen to seventeen years old. There never has been a successor to Louise M. Alcott, but it is to be hoped that she will appear soon. It is with full knowledge of conditions as they exist both from the point of view of the publishers and the parents, that we recommend “Anne of Green Gables,” by L.M. Montgomery to all young girls who want some inspiration in life, and who do not find exactly what they want on the bookshelves because of their own ignorance.
Mothers are not very astute in the matter of literature or they would not complain that they are afraid to let their daughters read any of the current literature. There is plenty of the best.
Anne was a young orphan who was adopted by a Canadian family and lived the simple life for a while under conditions which were a little disturbing, but which in the end made a woman of her. It is a wholesome and stimulating book that will help all and hurt none. Published by L.C. Page & Co.
Based on the globally beloved classic children’s novel that was first published in 1908 by Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables is the story of a fiercely imaginative little girl who, with her irrepressible spirit, touches the lives of everyone that she meets. In particular, it is the story of Anne’s stormy relationship with the strait-laced Marilla Cuthbert who discovers through Anne a capacity for love that she never knew she had.
Details about casting, filming locations, and possible release dates are not yet available but will be posted here once they are confirmed.