Friday, March 16, 2012

Anne of Avonlea (1975) Review

First of all, I should say right up front that this is not my favorite Anne of Avonlea adaptation.  Um, obviously.  However, despite its numerous bad points (the first and foremost of which being that it isn't one of the Sullivan films starring Megan Follows) it does have some good points.  And, frankly, I enjoyed it.  It's based on the second and third books in the Anne series, Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island.  With some completely unnecessary bits added in... but we'll get to that later.

(By the way, most of my screencaps came from this page.)

To begin with, this miniseries (six hour-long episodes that you can watch on YouTube--a link is at the end of the post) is actually the sequel to a previous BBC miniseries (Anne of Green Gables), made in 1972.  However, the first one is considered "lost" according to IMDB and you can't watch it anywhere.  Sad, that.  (Absolutely. Very sad.  Tragic. Also horrid.  Horrid. And with our mother-of-pearl-- okay, I'll stop.) 

Kim Braden plays Anne Shirley, and though she doesn't own the role the way Megan Follows does, I was quite pleased with her performance.  Somehow I think she did a better job of portraying the Anne of the later books than Megan did.  (I don't like to refer to actors by their first names so familiarly, but I also don't like typing out the whole name every single time.)  Megan does a spot-on job of portraying the Anne-of-the-first-book, but I honestly think Kim Braden's portrayal is a little closer to the book-Anne of Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island.  She seems a little more dreamy and romantic and less... modern.  More old-fashioned.  Come on, people, don't hate me for this.  I'm allowed to like more than one interpretation of a character, aren't I? Aren't I? (Please say yes.)

Christopher Blake as Gilbert Blythe, however, was another story.  Er, wait, let me rephrase that.  Christopher Blake masquerading as my beloved Gilbert Blythe was another story.  Seriously, this ridiculous phenomenon was almost as bad as Nick Jonas impersonating Marius Pontmercy, and that's saying a lot.  It was ridiculously difficult for me to find a picture of him (which is probably a good thing, in a way) but here you go.

See? Told ya so.  That's not Gilbert.  And it wasn't just his looks that bothered me.  His whole attitude was frustrating.  The entire theme of the miniseries, so it seemed, was that Anne had her head in the clouds too often and needed to be brought thumping back to earth so that she could marry Gil and keep house and shoo the chickens out of the cow pen.  (Somebody stop me before I start ranting about the last scene...)  While Anne is, admittedly, a little too melodramatic, that's the way she's supposed to be.  We love Anne's romantic ideals.  And when Anne finally realizes that her romantic ideals have been right under her nose the whole time... that's when everything comes together in a gloriously happy ending.  But not in this movie.  In this movie, Gilbert spends most of his time trying to convince Anne that Being Romantic is not a good idea.  And not in a hilarious pitching-and-mooning way, either.

Seriously. This picture is creepy.
Speaking of characters I didn't like (I'll get to the positive parts eventually, I promise), Eulalie Bugle Barbara Hamilton was an atrocious Marilla.  Boring, coarse and possessing a voice resembling that of a foghorn, she quite literally bulldozed poor Marilla's wonderful character.  Bah, humbug.

Madge Ryan as Mrs. Lynde wasn't horrible, but she certainly wasn't great, either.  Frankly, after seeing Patricia Hamilton's performance in the Sullivan films, I've become quite prejudiced against any other Rachel Lynde.  No one else can hold a candle to her amazing interpretation.  This Mrs. Lynde was just kind of annoying.

Jan Francis as Diana Barry was boring, plain and simple.  She was rather sweet and there wasn't really anything about her that I actually disliked, but she didn't have any of the real flavor of Diana's character.  You didn't get the same sense of kindred-spirit-ness between her and Anne as you do in the other movies (all right, all right, I really need to stop comparing).

Nicholas Lyndhurst amused me greatly as Davy Keith, but he was NOT the Davy of the book. Davy-of-the-book is supposed to be six, for one thing, not thirteen, and he's also supposed to be much more mischievous and dirty and prank-playing.  He is also not supposed to have an atrocious 1970's haircut, but that's the fault of the costume department, not the actor.  Oh well, at least he was IN this movie... 

Oh, and those of you who have seen David Copperfield (1999) might just recognize Davy in another role he's played... heeheehee.  (Dora was included in this film as well, but she was so boring she isn't even worth mentioning.  Cute, but boring.)

Kathleen Byron certainly looked the part of Miss Lavender Lewis, but she didn't quite seem genuine to me.  Her imaginative "pretendings" seemed silly and contrived, not sweet and beautiful as they are in the book.  it was nice that Charlotta the Fourth was included, but she was so goofy and silly-looking and her name wasn't even right! Charlotte, indeed.  That was one case where spelling it with an E was completely inaccurate.  Ugh, I felt the whole time as if Echo Lodge in its entirety were being mocked.  Don't get me started on the whole Stephen Irving thing, either.

Speaking of Stephen Irving, Paul Irving was... laughable.  Utterly laughable.  One of my favorite characters in the book was again made ridiculous.  Now, I was at first quite pleased that all these people had been included in the movie (people who weren't included in the Sullivan films, I might add, bah humbug) but when their characters were so badly portrayed and twisted and convoluted &c. &c., I found myself feeling Quite Disgruntled.  Mr. Harrison WAS included, but though his character followed the book pretty closely, it didn't seem quite right somehow.  I was left with a sort of "blah" feeling.

Let us move on to a happier subject.  I was delighted that the storyline followed Anne to Redmond and then (for a little while at least) accurately portrayed what happened there.  The exterior of Patty's Place wasn't cute and sweet like I had imagined, but the interior left little to be desired (despite the poor lighting of a low-budget 1970's TV movie).   Oh, and by the way, Jane Andrews' character was exceedingly likable.  The screenwriters took some liberties with her character, because in the books it's Priscilla Grant and Stella McSomethingorother who board with Anne at Redmond, but I guess they wanted to have a familiar Avonlea character to keep Anne from being too homesick.  It's not an unforgivable story change, and Jane was portrayed as a real sweetie.  I liked her.  (There.  I said something nice at last.)

And now I'm going to say something nice again, because I absolutely loved Sabina Franklyn's portrayal of Philippa Gordon.  (You may have seen her as Jane Bennet in the 1981 Pride and Prejudice, by the way.) She didn't quite look like the Phil I'd pictured when I read the books, but she was extremely pretty (as she's supposed to be) and her voice was so pretty.  I just loved listening to her talk-- she captured the whole sweet-and-silly thing quite nicely, and you still got the feeling that she was quite genuine and real under all her frivolous exterior.

So why under the sun, then, did someone as lovely as Phil marry someone as idiotic as Jonas Blake?  I really, really liked Jonas' character in the book, but Jonas-of-the-miniseries came across as a sniveling moron who couldn't make up his own mind.  And not in the adorable way that Phil can't make up her own mind, I might add.

Speaking of sniveling idiots, I was quite disgusted by Roy Gardner. At first, I was thrilled that he was included because I never liked Morgan Harris anyway, but I was quickly put off again by his... blah-ness, for lack of a better word.  Now maybe this was done on purpose to make Gilbert look better, but that's not the way Roy is supposed to be. Roy is supposed to be melancholy and inscrutable and murmur romantic compliments about violets in Anne's ear as he helps her on with her coat.  He is not supposed to be a pouting five-year-old with a domineering mom who scorns Anne for being an orphan.

Speaking.  Of. Which.

Roy did indeed have an overbearing mamma in the book, but there was no subplot with her regarding Anne's background and Mrs. Gardner most certainly did not drop in unannounced at Green Gables.  The idea!  It would have been much better if they had had, y'know, the original book scene with Mrs. Gardner and Dorothy's call at Patty's Place with the Squashed Chocolate Cake.  (Love that part.  Love it, love it.)  And moreover, there was never any question about Anne's family and whether they were horse thieves or baronets.  In Anne of the Island, she did go and visit her birthplace (and obtain a packet of letters belonging to her mother) but it wasn't in order to prove anything-- and she definitely wasn't accompanied by Gilbert.  The nerve.

Now, there were indeed some scenes I enjoyed, particularly the one in which the girls attempt to chloroform the cat.  "Him was a nice old pussins, him was..." hehehe.

The part with Mrs.  Morgan's unexpected visit and Anne's red nose was done exceptionally well, I thought.   It was quite funny when everyone was trying to entertain Mrs. Morgan.  Anne fell through the roof nicely, too (with no bedsheets or where's-the-fires involved).  

And then Gilbert got typhoid and Anne realized she loved him, and she also realized that the grass didn't look like a green velvet carpet but instead looked only like grass, and boom, it was over.  And I was left feeling quite... let down.  

There were nice parts, I'll grant you, and the story did stick pretty close to the book (more so than Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel did) but "the pinch of salt was left out".  I can't remember which Anne book that quote comes from, but I do know it's an Anne quote.  The spice and flavor and happy-all-over feeling that I associate with Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel wasn't there.  I know I've said this before (and I will continue to say it until the end of my days) but the real test of a movie's greatness is not how closely it sticks to the book, but rather how well it captures the spirit of the book.  And Anne of Avonlea... didn't.  

Would I recommend it?  Truth be told, yes I would.  If only so that you can have something with which to compare The Sequel.  I'd give this five stars out of ten.  Not awful, but certainly not great.  Not without its merits, but not on my favorites list.  So go watch it on YouTube if you have six hours to spare, and then do please come back and tell me what you thought.  Because I want to know. 


Alexandra said...

"I'm allowed to like more than one interpretation of a character, aren't I? Aren't I? (Please say yes.)"

Me: (in broken Anne whisper) I can't.


I will have to see this...just to compare...AND because I did love the Patty's Place scenes in Anne of the Island and it was disappointing that it wasn't in the Sullivan Films.

Davy was Uriah-creepy. Poor child.

And Gilbert. Was. Horrid.


Hayden said...

I haven't seen this movie, but I kind of got the same "vibe" (for lack of better word) that you did just by looking into it. I do think the actress who plays Anne really does LOOK like the Anne Shirley I pictured while reading the books, though.

May I just say I would watch this movie JUST to see one of my all time favorite characters, Phillipa Gordon? I adore Phil.

And to watch the chloroforming the cat scene. :)

But the guys in this movie are not impressing me. Maybe that's its real problem? Oh, and I'm dreading watching Marilla, by your description of her.

I'm a pretty die-hard Anne Fan, so I probably will be watching this movie in the future.

Alexandra said...

Oh, and point #2 - there's NOTHING wrong with Anne (as in personality. Not saying you said so...making a point against the movie and Gil's reforming efforts. :-)). Nothing wrong with her personality...just that she didn't realize that what she wanted was right in front of her nose, not far and away. The awesomeness of Anne is the way she is (and if her personality's not a good thing...I'll just jump off a bridge now because I like the way I am. :-D). Baaaaad Gilbert. Baaadly done. :-D

Marcia said...

I agree with everything you said.. I was so disappointed with Gil, Ruby Gillis was too annoying and flirtatious, Diana was boring, yet sweet, Marilla took everything away from the Marilla in the books, and the only character I really did like was Phillipa Gordon. she is so gorgeous.

Melody said...

Heeheeheee you quoted him was a nice old pussins. =D That's like one of my favorite Anne quotes.

It was ages ago that I saw this but I pretty much think that I agree wtih you on all or most accounts.

Ugh, I hated that Gilbert. And the ending.... well, at least I was warned ahead of time by a most beloved sister. ;-)

Haha, Eulalie Bugle crossed out... that amused me. Tootuz that's what I always think too. =D

The best thing is when a book sticks closely to the book AND captures the feeling.

Well, duh. :P

I might watch this again, someday. If only to see Uriah 'eep when he was an 'umble and curious child.

Rachel Olivia said...

I will grant you that the salt was either Philipa Gordon about Roy or Miss Cornelia about a pastor. I have got to go look this up. There is another lost Anne film- a black and white one with an actress that I believe changed her name to Anne Shirley.

Jessica said...

I must say a delightful review overall and reading this made me suddenly wish I had a large budget, and a ton of people who felt like acting and a script writer who STUCK TO THE BOOK! And then we could all smile and sit back and enjoy a REAL story.

Thank you for delightful review!!!

Katie Edwards said...

The main thing going for this is that it fills in the gaps left out of "The Sequel" but not brilliantly. They say the right things, but don't quite capture the feel of it, and I felt that it was rather overacted (and some of the accents were pretty atrocious!) Patty's place is supposed to be adorable, Anne "loves" it - I'm not quite sure how she could possibly "love" that plain white board house!

But Philippa is adorable, isn't she?

Katie Edwards said...

Also... when Marilla kept looking ceilingwards and saying things like "Oh, Matthew, what do you think?" I couldn't help but think of the angel Clarence in It's A Wonderful Life. "Joseph! Joseph!"

Anonymous said...

It's quite funny. Barbara Hamilton is Patricia Hamilton's elder sister, yet you like Patricia better.

Anonymous said...

Barbara Hamilton died.

Lynna.sarnie said...

I absolutely do NOT agree with anything that's been said - except that Phil Gordon was lovely and Sabrina Franklyn WAS that character.No one else would have done for me but...I FEEL THE SAME ABOUT ANNE,GILBERT,DIANA AND MARILLA! I really do, these characters are how I picture them entirely-I hated them in the Sullivan version.
I must admit however that I did see the 70's mini series'BEFORE I read the books but I loved Anne of Avonlea and was so pleased that the book Anne of the Island was like this.
I really wish that I could get hold of the 1972 mini series Anne of Green Gables, which I saw in the 70s, because for me there is no other Anne than Kim Braden.

Morgan Huneke said...

I remember watching this one awhile back. I pretty much agree. The characterization and acting is SOOO much better in the Sullivan Films ones, but I hate how they left out half the characters and story. This one is much more faithful, which I liked, but there was something badly missing. And I hated that Marilla. The Sullivan films Marilla is the one I always envision. Someone just needs to make a new Anne series where they have the perfect actors, follow the books well, and keep the same spirit of them. And then do Emily of New Moon and its sequels the same way.

Annefan said...

Oh no! I was so sad to read that you didn't like this adaption..because i LOVED it (and hoped you would have too). In fact, Kim Braden and Barbara Hamilton are my favorite Anne-Marilla pair.

I agree with you that Braden's Anne "seems a little more dreamy and romantic and less... modern. More old-fashioned." She seems much more natural to me and plays Anne softer, which I love. I can imagine it is tempting to play the character a bit OTT, but especially because she can be OTT as a character, I love Braden's lower-key performance. This Anne, I could watch for hours.

And Hamilton's cut-and-dry Marilla--love her. I love the nuanced performance and this Marilla, too, is so much easier to watch. No melodrama, just a beautiful sort of quiet kindness cased in pragmatism.

Actually, to me, both these female characters play better to a modern sensibility in my view.

Loved Nicholas Lyndhurst as Davy-my eyes nearly popped when I first saw a young Rodney Trotter (and maybe my affection for that character carries over). Loved Rachel.

Christopher Blake, I agree was not the Gilbert I imagined. I liked his work on That's My Boy much more--that role seemed a better fit. I didn't like the romance. I also agree with you that the other characters (esp the whole Lavender situation) did not play well. In fact, I found the first 3 episodes much more fun to watch than the rest.

All in all, I am so sad that the earlier series was lost. I would have loved to see more of Anne-Marilla-Rachel-Diana and can only wonder how Matthew added to the whole! I feel that though this is not your favorite adaptation, you will probably feel my pain about this best :)

Anonymous said...

I tried to watch this - I really tried; I got to when Gilbert first appeared on the screen, then... I turned it off. I took out the disc. I just couldn't take any more misinterpreted characters! So, maybe someday I'll be able to finish it - maybe. But what I saw was bad... very bad, and quite painful to watch, I might add. But I do love me some Sullivan Entertainment 'Anne of Green Gables, etc'! Lol.

- Sarah with an H

Anonymous said...

P. S.

Stella's last name is Maynard.

- Sarah with an H