Breakthrough’s Anne to Air on 15 February 2016

Poster for L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, produced by Breakthrough Entertainment
Poster for L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, produced by Breakthrough Entertainment

An article in the Charlottetown Guardian announced today that Breakthrough Entertainment’s telefilm L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables will premiere on the YTV network in Canada on 15 February 2015, to coincide with Islander Day in Prince Edward Island. No news yet on broadcast details outside Canada or plans for a DVD release.

This news coincides with the announcement that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has ordered an eight-episode series based on Anne of Green Gables from writer/producer Moira Walley-Beckett—an announcement that has prompted a wide range of responses from commentators. Also published today is an interview with Miranda de Pencier, who is one of Walley-Beckett’s collaborators on the project and who played Josie Pye in three Anne of Green Gables television miniseries from Sullivan Entertainment: in her view, given how highly popular remakes are in Britain, there is definitely room for an ongoing Anne of Green Gables series alongside existing adaptations of the book for stage and screen: “They can all exist alongside one another.”

To see the trailer for Breakthrough’s highly anticipated telefilm, visit the website for Breakthrough Entertainment.

Responses to New Anne Television Series

Anne of Green Gables Meets Breaking Bad?
Anne of Green Gables Meets Breaking Bad? Source: Unknown.

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.

New Anne Television Series Greenlit by CBC

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.

This story has been reported widely, in venues including The Hollywood Reporter, The Toronto StarVariety, Entertainment Weekly, Entertainment Tonight Canada, The Guardian, the National PostQuill and Quire, and Jezebel. The satiric website The Beaverton has also commented on this development, in a news story entitled “CBC Courts Younger Viewers with Another Reboot of 100 Year Old Novel”:

“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.”

Jokes aside, what few if any of these reports has mentioned is that a new telefilm version of Anne of Green Gables by Toronto company Breakthrough Productions is already in post-production and is expected to air on YTV in the months to come, or that a film version of Anne of Green Gables: The Musical was announced as in development in September 2013. And what none of the sites reporting on this story has noted, as far as I know, is that producer Miranda de Pencier portrayed Josie Pye in three Anne of Green Gables miniseries by Sullivan Entertainment.

Anne of Gif Gables on CBC Website

In light of the thirtieth anniversary of Sullivan Entertainment’s first Anne of Green Gables miniseries (its world premiere on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was on 1–2 December 1985), the CBC website has published a segment entitled “Anne of Gif Gables.” It contains links to rare interviews on CBC Digital Archives.

The L.M. Montgomery Reader: Three-Volume Set

The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volumes 1–3, edited by Benjamin Lefebvre
The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volumes 1–3, edited by Benjamin Lefebvre

I’m pleased to announce that all three volumes of my critical anthology The L.M. Montgomery Reader are now available as a hardcover set from University of Toronto Press!

A tremendous resource for fans and scholars alike, the three-volume The L.M. Montgomery Reader gathers together a captivating selection of material, much of it recently rediscovered, on the life, work, and critical reception of one of Canada’s most enduringly popular authors.

Collecting material on Montgomery’s life (Volume One), her critical reputation (Volume Two), and reviews of her books (Volume Three), leading Montgomery scholar Benjamin Lefebvre traces the interplay between the author and the critic, as well as between the private and the public Montgomery. Each volume includes an extensive introduction and detailed commentary on the documents that provides the context for these primary sources, many of them freshly unearthed from archives and digital collections and never before published in book form.

These volumes have received tremendous praise from reviewers:

“While Lefebvre’s The L.M. Montgomery Reader is a vital resource of primary sources from and secondary assessments of one of Canada’s most popular twentieth-century authors, it is his insightful and knowledgeable analysis that shapes and gives meaning to the collection. . . . The depth of his knowledge results in a work that is as comprehensible as it is comprehensive.” –André Narbonne, American Review of Canadian Studies

“Lefebvre’s archival research is thorough and often brilliant, making the Reader an invaluable trove not only for Montgomery scholars but also for those working with the reception history of Canadian writers, especially women before Laurence, Munro, and Atwood. For Montgomery completists, the Reader is irresistible. For those engaged in Montgomery studies or Canadian literature more generally, it is invaluable.” –Anne Furlong, University of Toronto Quarterly

“With this volume, Lefebvre broadens our understanding of Montgomery’s reception and reputation both within Canada and internationally, unearthing previously obscure content and commentary and making it accessible to a far wider audience. This reader will thus prove a valuable resource to both existing and future scholars of Montgomery’s work and life, as well as those fans keen for a little more insight into the ever-elusive figure of L.M. Montgomery.” –Sarah Galletly, British Journal of Canadian Studies

“Lefebvre has uncovered a cache of new, important material in an already impressive and crowded field of Montgomery scholarship. . . . His sensitive editing of the material brings the public side of Montgomery into better focus as she fields endless questions about how she became a writer, how Anne came to be and whether or not she was a real girl and what the author thought of young women in her day. [This book will] deepen our knowledge and understanding of this beloved Canadian icon.” –Laurie Glenn Norris,Telegraph–Journal (Saint John, NB)

“Lefebvre has thoroughly mined earlier scholars’ bibliographies and online newspaper archives to find reviews in periodicals from eight different countries, including the Bookman (London), the Globe (Toronto) and Vogue (New York). . . . Collectively, these reviews . . . represent a superb barometer of [Montgomery’s] fluctuating cultural value as a writer.” –Irene Gammel, The Times Literary Supplement

The three-volume set as well as individual volumes can be obtained directly from University of Toronto Press or from your local bookseller.

L.M. Montgomery’s Birthplace

Following up on my earlier blog post on L.M. Montgomery’s 141st birthday, here are several photographs of L.M. Montgomery’s birthplace in New London, PEI, from my personal collection.

The front door to L.M. Montgomery's birthplace in New London, Prince Edward Island.
The front door to L.M. Montgomery’s birthplace in New London, Prince Edward Island.
This sign appears in the parking lot behind L.M. Montgomery's birthplace in New London, Prince Edward Island.
This sign appears in the parking lot behind L.M. Montgomery’s birthplace in New London, Prince Edward Island.

Lucy Maud Montgomery Birthplace: Lucy Maud Montgomery, daughter of Hugh John Montgomery and Clara Woolner Macneill, was born in this house on November 30, 1874.

This is the bedroom where L.M. Montgomery was born in New London, PEI, on 30 November 1874.
This is the bedroom where L.M. Montgomery was born in New London, PEI, on 30 November 1874.

This sign reads: "Lucy Maud Montgomery was born in this room Nov 30 1874."

30 November 1874

L.M. Montgomery in her early forties, 1917
L.M. Montgomery in her early forties, 1917

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.

Poster for L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, produced by Breakthrough Entertainment
Poster for L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, produced by Breakthrough Entertainment

Montgomery is trending on the Internet as I write this, due in large part to several Google Doodles paying tribute to Anne of Green Gables. And as Melanie J. Fishbane has pointed out in a blog post published earlier this afternoon, this is an exciting time for Montgomery and especially for Anne, thanks to the upcoming new telefilm version of Anne of Green Gables, a shout-out about the novel in a recent episode of The Simpsons, and numerous celebrity mentions. A list of “Five Fast Facts You Need to Know” about Montgomery was also published today, on the website Heavy, and mentions her rediscovered final book, The Blythes Are Quoted.

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.

Rilla of Ingleside on Remembrance Day

Cover art for Rilla of Ingleside, published by McClelland and Stewart (Canada) and Frederick A. Stokes Company (USA) in 1921.
Cover art for Rilla of Ingleside, published by McClelland and Stewart (Canada) and Frederick A. Stokes Company (USA) in 1921.

“And you will tell your children of the Idea we fought and died for—teach them it must be lived for as well as died for, else the price paid for it will have been given for naught. This will be part of your work, Rilla. And if you—all you girls back in the homeland—do it, then we who don’t come back will know that you have not ‘broken faith’ with us.”

Movie Poster for L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables

L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green GablesThis movie poster for Breakthrough Entertainment’s upcoming telefilm L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables was released this week via Twitter by “Anne” herself, Ella Ballentine! No news yet on a broadcast date on YTV (or outside Canada), but the fact that it appears with the subtitle “Holiday Special” indicates that it may be released by the end of 2015.

First Trailer for L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables

A first trailer for Breakthrough Entertainment’s upcoming telefilm L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables has been added to its corporate website. The ninety-minute telefilm stars Ella Ballentine as Anne, Sara Botsford as Marilla, and Martin Sheen as Matthew. Stay tuned for information about its release in Canada and around the world!