Anne of Green Gables was a silent Hollywood film that was released on 23 November 1919. Directed by William Desmond Taylor and with a screenplay by Frances Marion, the film featured Mary Miles Minter as Anne Shirley, Paul Kelly as Gilbert Blythe, Marcia Harris as Marilla Cuthbert, Frederick Burton as Matthew Cuthbert, F.T. Chailee as Abednego Pie, Leila Romer as Mrs. Pie, Lincoln Stedman as Jumbo Pie, Hazel Sexton as Josie Pie, Russell Hewitt as Anthony Pie, Albert Hackett as Robert, Laurie Lovelle as Diana Barry, Carolyn Lee as Mrs. Barry, and Jack B. Hollis as Reverend Figtree.
Six months after Montgomery sold all rights to her first seven books to publisher L.C. Page & Co. for $18,000, Page turned around and sold the silent film rights to Anne of Green Gables and its first three sequels to the Realart Pictures Corporation of Hollywood for $40,000; consequently, Montgomery had no creative input in the film and received no royalty. No copies of the film are known to exist today, but the plot appears to centre wholly on Anne’s relationship with Gilbert Blythe. In her 1935 article “Is This My Anne,” Montgomery makes reference to a scene in the silent film with “Anne at the door of her school, a shotgun in hand, standing off a crowd of infuriated villagers who were bent on mobbing her because she had whipped one of her pupils!” (18). In addition, the film’s inclusion of skunks and an American flag on the schoolhouse irritated her to no end: “I could have shrieked with rage over the latter. Such crass, blatant Yankeeism!” (Montgomery, 22 February 1920, in Selected Journals, 2: 373). To her correspondent Ephraim Weber, she concluded: “So much of my story was left out and so much stuff put in that I really didn’t feel that it was mine at all” (Montgomery to Weber, 29 September 1920, in After Green Gables, 82–83).
In 1929, Montgomery came across a book titled Twelve Unsolved Murders and discovered the scandal that caused the silent film to fade out of existence. In 1922, director Taylor was shot to death, and although Minter was never a suspect in the crime, the discovery of a packet of love letters from her to Taylor damned her in the eyes of the American public (Montgomery, 13 October 1929, in Selected Journals, 4: 20; see also Montgomery to Weber, 30 June 1930, in After Green Gables, 175). Despite a long list of suspects and a tremendous amount of publicity, no one was ever charged with the crime. In 2000, the Taylor murder ranked ninth in E! Online’s list of the twentieth century’s greatest scandals.
Hammill, Faye. “‘A New and Exceedingly Brilliant Star’: L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, and Mary Miles Minter.” Modern Language Review 101, no. 3 (July 2006): 652–70.
Karr, Clarence. Authors and Audiences: Popular Canadian Fiction in the Early Twentieth Century. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000. [See pp. 173–74]
Lefebvre, Benjamin. “Stand by Your Man: Adapting L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables.” Essays on Canadian Writing 76 (Spring 2002): 149–69. Special issue: “Literatures, Cinemas, Cultures,” edited by Peter Dickinson.
—. “What’s in a Name? Towards a Theory of the Anne Brand.” In Anne’s World: A New Century of Anne of Green Gables, edited by Irene Gammel and Benjamin Lefebvre, 192–211. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010.
Montgomery, L.M. After Green Gables: L.M. Montgomery’s Letters to Ephraim Weber, 1916–1941. Edited by Hildi Froese Tiessen and Paul Gerard Tiessen. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006. [See pp. 82–83, 175]
—. The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Volume 2: 1910–1921. Edited by Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1987. [See pp. 286, 358, 373]
—. The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Volume 4: 1929–1935. Edited by Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1998. [See p. 20]
New York Times. Review of Anne of Green Gables, directed by William Desmond Taylor. 22 December 1919, 18.
“Vintage Anne of Green Gables Movies.” The Avonlea Traditions Chronicle 1, no. 4 (Summer 1992): 1–5.
Runtime: Six reels
Release date: 23 November 1919
Production Companies: Realart Pictures Corporation
Director: William Desmond Taylor
Screenplay: Frances Marion
Principal Cast: Mary Miles Minter (Anne Shirley), Paul Kelly (Gilbert Blythe), Marcia Harris (Marilla Cuthbert), Frederick Burton (Matthew Cuthbert), F.T. Chailee (Abednego Pie), Leila Romer (Mrs. Pie), Lincoln Stedman (Jumbo Pie), Hazel Sexton (Josie Pie), Russell Hewitt (Anthony Pie), Albert Hackett (Robert), Laurie Lovelle (Diana Barry), Carolyn Lee (Mrs. Barry), Jack B. Hollis (Reverend Figtree)