Stage and Screen

L.M. Montgomery’s novels have been adapted for stage and screen numerous times since their publication a century ago. Her most popular character, Anne Shirley, has had numerous screen incarnations, from a 1919 silent film that is believed to be lost to the recent telefilm L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and the television series Anne, and her later novels formed the basis for two highly popular long-form television series.

Although different in tone and approach, these adaptations tend to recentre the story on Anne’s romantic relationship with Gilbert Blythe. In her novels, Montgomery chooses to focus on the emotional and artistic development of her female characters and to satirize conventions of romance; as a result, many of her tacked-on romantic dénouements appear underdeveloped and contrived. In adapting these complex texts to the screen, the various writers, producers, and directors tend to eliminate this satire by emphasizing romance in ways Montgomery’s work avoids, and do so at the expensive of her subversive messages. For audiences who have not necessarily read Montgomery, these adaptations reinscribe Montgomery as a writer of conventional romance, minimizing her work as a social satirist.

These productions cover a variety of media, genres, and styles of visual narrative: the 1919 silent film version of Anne of Green Gables was soon remade as a 1934 “talkie” that starred an actress who changed her stage name to Anne Shirley for the occasion; a sequel, Anne of Windy Poplars, followed in 1940. Fifteen years later, Anne of Green Gables was adapted again for live television, two of which acted as precursors for the 1965 stage musical that remains popular today, first in 1956 and again in 1958; as well, in 1957, a French-language non-musical version, Anne de Green Gables, appeared on Société Radio-Canada. Fifteen years after that, Anne of Green Gables was adapted into a 1972 BBC miniseries; although it is believed to be lost, its 1975 sequel, Anne of Avonlea, has been released on DVD. A Japanese animated series, Akage no An, appeared in 1979 and has been dubbed into several languages. Finally, in 1984, the short film I Know a Secret aired on CBC’s anthology series Sons and Daughters.

Coinciding with the release of the first volume of The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery in late 1985, Sullivan Entertainment’s television miniseries Anne of Green Gables became a critically acclaimed and popular hit all around the world. Its success prompted a 1987 sequel; the telefilm Lantern Hill; and the long-running spin-off series Road to Avonlea, which aired from 1990 to 1996. When Road to Avonlea ended, Sullivan Entertainment announced their intention to move on to new projects, but the initial success of the Salter Street Films/CINAR Productions television series Emily of New Moon (1998–1999; 2002–2003) appeared to coincide with their subsequent reconsideration: Happy Christmas, Miss King (1998), a follow-up to Road to Avonlea (and later rereleased as An Avonlea Christmas), was followed by Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story (2000) as well as Anne of Green Gables: The Animated Series (2000-2001) and its prequel, Anne: Journey to Green Gables (2005). Sullivan Entertainment later revisited its Anne of Green Gables franchise with Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning (2008), which alternated between the fifty-something Anne writing a play in 1945 and the child Anne prior to her arrival at Green Gables. Most recently, Toronto’s Breakthrough Entertainment has teamed up with the heirs of L.M. Montgomery on a new telefilm, L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, which aired on YTV in Canada in February 2016 and which was followed by two sequels, beginning with L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables: The Good Stars in February 2017. Unrelated to this new telefilm is the ongoing series Anne, which premiered on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in March 2017 and which will air worldwide on Netflix starting in May 2017.

This section of the website is limited to dramatic and musical adaptations of Montgomery’s work for film and television. It does not include the innumerable documentaries of Montgomery’s life, such as Terence Macartney-Filgate’s Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Road to Green Gables (CBC, 1975) and Barbara Doran’s Life and Times: The Many Mauds (Morag Productions/CBC, 1996), even though both documentaries include dramatic re-enactments. Throughout this section of the website, an asterisk (*) indicates that I have either viewed the film or television series or that I have personally examined the merchandise in question. Because most videocassettes and DVDs do not include a release date, I offer my own date in brackets [1996] only if I am sure of it; otherwise, I use the abbreviation n.d.