Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Warner Archive Wednesday - Anne of Green Gables (1934)


Anne of Green Gables (1934)
Anne Shirley and O.P. Heggie in a publicity shot for Anne of Green Gables (1934)

"I cannot imagine my red hair away. I do my best but it's no use. It will be my lifelong sorrow." - Annie Shirley

It's the film that gave actress Anne Shirley her name.


Anne of Green Gables (1934) stars Anne Shirley as Anne (with an "e") Shirley, the protagonist of L.M. Montgomery's beloved series of books. It was a surprise hit for RKO who had secured the rights to the story but severely underestimated its potential. Directed by George Nicholls Jr. and with musical direction by Max Steiner, this is a charming adaptation that gives us a brief taste of the world of Anne of Green Gables. I say that because this 78 minute film can only capture so much of the idyllic fictional town of Avonlea and its residents. Reading the book and devouring the TV mini-series will give you much more. (And if you're a weirdo like me you also watch the Anne of Green Gables animated series for kicks.) It's not a faithful adaptation but Anne Shirley does a marvelous job with her role and you can't help but want to reach through the screen and hug O.P. Heggie who plays Matthew Cuthbert.

O.P. Heggie in Anne of Green Gables (1934)
O.P. Heggie in Anne of Green Gables (1934)

Brother and sister Matthew (O.P. Heggie) and Marila Cuthbert (Helen Westley) live at Green Gables. They are getting on in years and could use some help around the house and on the farm. They send for a boy from an orphanage. Not only do they get a girl instead of a boy, they also get a lot more than they bargained for with the energetic Anne Shirley. She's got a crazy imagination, a mouth that keeps yapping away and bright red hair. And she's also got the biggest heart. We follow her adventures as she adjusts to life in Avonlea, has a less than stellar start with future beau Gilbert Blythe (Tom Brown) and befriends her bosom buddy Diana Barry (Gertrude Messinger).

Anne of Green Gables (1934)
Helen Westley, Anne Shirley and O.P. Heggie in Anne of Green Gables (1934)


Anne Shirley is one of the most beloved and complex characters of fiction for a reason. She is the embodiment of individuality and gives us all license to our weird quirky selves. We love Anne for her wild ideas, her flowery language, her love of people, her rambunctiousness, her red locks and even her fragile ego. Anne energizes everyone around her. She breathes life into Matthew and Marila who up until that point were just going through the motions. We see her breathe new life into them and into others too.

Readers of the novel and the audiences of the many adaptations of the story can’t help but see Anne as their own bosom friend. But it goes beyond that. Anne is a character many young women admire. Not only do we want to be Anne, we want to fall in love with Gilbert, be friends with Diana, hug Matthew and please Marila. And we want to frolic around Prince Edward Island too.

Anne Shirley is full of spirit even though she comes from rather dire circumstances. Everything seems to be going against her. She’s an orphan who doesn’t seem to be wanted by anybody. Her red hair doesn't help matters either. Even the Cuthberts aren’t quite sure what to do with her, although they are quickly won over. The system tries to break her down but her personality withstands it all.


Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables (1934)


I’ve always had a deep love for Anne of Green Gables. The novel by L.M. Montgomery is one of my favorites and the character of Anne Shirley is one I keep close to my heart. Matthew Cuthbert is also very special to me. I consider him the sweetest character in all of fiction. For those of you who were affected by his storyline in the novel, you’ll be happy to know that it’s altered in this film to save you some heartache.

Anne of Green Gables (1934) gives you a glimpse into the world of Anne and Avonlea. It’s really an appetizer more than a full course. Because it’s such a short film much is missing but the essence is still there. Tom Brown adeptly plays Gilbert Blythe, a romantic character who rivals Austen’s Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice for devotees. There are lots of great performances in this film most notably the leads Anne Shirley, who embodies the spirit of the character, O.P. Heggie, whose facial expressions as Matthew are spot on, Helen Westley as the tough Marila and Sara Haden as busybody Mrs. Barry.


Tom Brown in Anne of Green Gables
Tom Brown as Gilbert Blythe in Anne of Green Gables (1934)


Anne of Green Gables (1934) captures all the charm of the original story. What it lacks in plot it makes up for in ambiance. This film s is available on DVD-MOD from Warner Archive.

Anne Of Green Gables (Mod) from Warner Bros.

 Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I received Anne of Green Gables (1934) from Warner Archive for review.

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