This 1975 BBC television adaptation of L.M. Montgomery's beloved novel follows a maturing Anne Shirley (Kim Braden) on her journey from freckle-faced girl to beautiful woman. While working as a schoolteacher, Anne continues to pursue her dream of becoming a published writer by winning a baking soda company's essay contest; fends off several suitors; and returns to Avonlea whenever she can to visit her adoptive mother, Marilla (Barbara Hamilton).
The first four episodes adapt the "Anne of Avonlea" novel itself, which follows Anne from age 16 to 18 during the two years that she teaches at the Avonlea School, where she has problems with Anthony Pye. Fortunately she has at least one sharp student with young Paul Irving (Keith Steven) from the United States. Beyond that Anne is involved with Diana, Gilbert, Charlie Sloan (Peter Settelen), Fred Wright (Martin Neil), and their other former schoolmates with the newly formed Avonlea Village Improvement Society. Meanwhile, Marilla has adopted the twins Davy (Nicholas Lyndhurst) and Dora Keith (Annabelle Lanyon) when their mother dies. Then there is the trouble with Daisy and Anne's neighbor Mr. Harrison (David Garfield) and the eccentric Miss Lavender Lewis (Kathleen Byron) and her maid Charlotte IV (Claire Lewis). Needless to say, Rachel Lynde (Madge Ryan) is hovering around giving her advice at each and every opportunity.
The final two episodes condense "Anne of the Island" and find Anne attending Redmond College when Rachel moves in with Marilla after Thomas Lynde dies. Anne and her roommates Philippa Gordon (Sabina Franklyn) and Priscilla (Sandy Dickinson), move out of a strict boarding house and into Patty's Place. Anne turns down a pair of proposals, one from Gilbert and the next from a somewhat surprising source, before she starts seeing Roy Gardiner (Anthony Forrest), who seems to be everything Anne has dreamt of in a beau. But then his mother (Betty McDowall) visits Green Gables and tries to find out about Anne's parents, which is where the adaptation written by Elaine Morgan wrongly starts tinkering with the resolution of the story, where "Love Takes Up the Glass of Time."
When Anne goes to visit the place where she is born, she asks Gilbert to accompany her, and later when she opens her mouth to say her fateful "yes" to the marriage proposal she has been dreaming of, it is the flowers sent her by Gilbert that take her out of the moment. Then when she arrives back at Green Gables and learns that Gilbert is dying, Marilla talks her into going over in the middle of the night to see Gilbert and the happy ending comes about pretty quickly. This is something of a disappointment because I always loved the way Montgomery had Anne respond to Gilbert's final proposal: "Still Anne could not speak. But she lifted her eyes, shining with all the love-rapture of countless generations, and looked into his for a moment. He wanted no other answer." That is pretty romantic, and the final line that Morgan comes up with for Anne totally pales compared to when Anne tells Gilbert, "I don't want sunbursts and marble halls. I just want YOU."
Both the old black & white movie with Anne Shirley (nee Dawn O'Day) and the Kevin Sullivan mini-series version of "Anne of Avonlea" with Megan Follows focused more on what ended up being the fourth novel in the series, "Anne of Windy Poplars," where she goes off to teach at a private school for young ladies. So the relative fidelity to the two books is certainly appreciated. I especially liked the inclusion of what happened with Ruby Gillis (Kim Hardy), but the irony of the love between Phil Gordon and Jonas Blake (David Troughton) is sketched out rather than developed. This is not to say that Morgan does not come up with some decent new moments; she uses the character of Mrs. Blythe (Hazel Bainbridge) to nice advantage. As for the performances, I am in the Megan Follows IS Anne camp, and Braden keeps striking me as focusing on Anne's flightiness at the expense of her intelligence and kindness. Hamilton and Ryan as Marilla and Rachel take turns stealing scenes from the young folks, but there is pretty much a generational gap on acting talent here. Anne's fans will want to check this out, but relatively few will find this production to be their favorite L.M. Montgomery adaptation.
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