TV… Anne of Green Gables (1985)

#1980s #AllPosts


On my one time teenage kindred spirit, Anne Shirley…


A charming Canadian TV Mini Series about the more underrated red haired orphan, that isn’t Annie.



Before you read on, you should note – if singing and dancing on screen redheaded orphans is your bag – that the Anne of Green Gables mini series franchise has nothing to do with the Annie (1982) film musical. This review is about Anne of Green Gables (1985) the first of four mini series set in Edwardian times which introduced us to a more credible, feisty and over imaginative protagonist orphan named Anne Shirley.

It was based on the first of the always best selling book series, Anne of Green Gables which was published in 1908, and written by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Since 1908 there has been an ongoing stream of creative adaptations about this plucky orphan. There have been silent movies, stage musicals, animated series and recent updated novel reboots. I believe that this 1985 mini series version is the only one to watch, as opposed to the awful most recent (?) remake or reboot, Anne with an E (2017-).

Anne with an E showed at times a darker side to this much loved story as it added a few unwanted stings to the tale that weren’t kid friendly. So my then 9 year old stepdude who had hoped to watch this series and therefore hang out with his stepgranny couldn’t watch it. His stepgranny and I kinda went off this series too as these more adult additions were like putting totally unnecessary sexual references into The Goonies (1985).

Anne of Green Gables (1985) was a Canadian mini series which funnily enough I nearly didn’t watch myself. I was afraid it would be a carbon copy of Pollyanna (1960) but set in Canada. Pollyanna starred an actress in the title, that I watched way too much in my childhood, Hayley Mills. I did love Hayley as a child actress in Whistle Down The Wind (1961) and more recently reenjoyed her double trouble twin roles in The Parent Trap (1961). I did later change my mind after seeing this film much later.

But, back then it was more the thought of the then trope of charming Edwardian orphan beguiles and then winning the hearts of villagers and living happily ever after plotline. Admittedly this first of these mini-series, Anne of Green Gables (1985) has Anne do just that, but somehow to my younger self, Anne seemed much more credible, charming, honest and a more rounded character who I immediately liked and wish I knew in real life.

My mother will cheer at this review, as she introduced me to the first two of these wonderful, heartwarming, feel good mini series. This four part (!) franchise began with Anne of Green Gables and it was followed two years later with Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel (also called Anne of Avonlea) (1987). Both series were based on LB Montgomery’s books.

Megan Follows is arguably the best and most loved of the Anne Shirley actresses over the decades starred in both of these productions. Follows starred with the same actor who played Gilbert, the lovely Jonathan Crombie and a few others from the initial cast in this sequel. More about those final two mini series in this franchise is later in this review.

Anne of Green Gables was one in which we are introduced to 13 year old redheaded, Anne as she is dispatched to Prince Edward Island, after being treated like a slave by her first family. Anne (Megan Follows) is sent to be adopted by an elderly brother and sister, Matthew (Richard Farnsworth) and Marilla Cuthbert (Colleen Dewhurst). It seems the Cuthbert siblings wanted a boy to help them with their chores, and Anne was sent in error. But after a trial stay, Anne wins them over.

It seems Anne, gets more than a wee bit touchy about her hair colour, as one of the villagers and a classmate, Gilbert discovers to their cost. With the former, she calls this woman “fat, ugly, and a sour old gossip!” after this woman is rude to her. Anne is not keen to apologise and dramatically says she would rather return to the orphanage than say sorry. Matthew encourages her to apologise as it is the correct thing to do (but you can tell he and Marilla are secretly proud of her for saying this). In the latter incident, Gilbert Blythe (Crombie) calls her “carrots”. Anne loses her temper and hits him over the head with her writing slate. She vows to never like him… despite his apology, as seen in this conversation HERE with this quote found on IMDb.

Gilbert Blythe: Anne, wait! I’m sorry for teasing you about your hair. Don’t be mad at me for keeps.

Diana Barry: Oh, Anne, how could you? Gilbert always makes fun of the girls. He calls me crow head all the time, but I’ve never heard him apologize before.

Anne Shirley: There’s a world of difference between being called crow-head and being called carrots. I shall never forgive Gilbert Blythe. The iron has entered my soul, Diana. My mind is made up; my red hair is a curse.

At a Sunday School picnic, Anne becomes best friends with Diana Barry (Schuyler Grant). Diana becomes her best friend and is her “kindred spirit.” The two as firm best friends get into some fun scrapes together. These include Diana helping Anne dye her red hair and it turns green instead of the intended black, much to Anne’s horror.

The girls also get drunk after they mistake wine for fruit juice after Anne serves this drink up in error at a tea party. After this incident, Diana’s mother bans her daughter from seeing Anne and believes Anne did this on purpose. In another incident, Anne recreates The Lady of Shallot poem with her unique dramatic interpretation. As she floats down a river reciting this poem on a boat, her boat sinks. Her then arch enemy and nemesis, Gilbert is out rowing and discovers her clutching onto a bridge…

I loved watching the Toronto born Follows as Anne Shirley. In her warm, empathetic and natural performance, she made what sounded like a stereotypical orphan into a more interesting, credible and loveable character. Follows’ performance made me care about what would happen to this garrulous, feisty and creative orphan. Follows easily brought us into Anne’s world where she was not afraid to share her thoughts and emotions. Anne is both hot tempered and dramatic, imaginative and caring and a good friend and “daughter”. Her friendship with Diana was also credited with warm and believable storylines and those that girls could identify with over the years.

This beautifully filmed series also gained 10 Gemini Award nominations and an Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Program. The former awards included awards for Best Dramatic Mini-Series, Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a Single Dramatic Program or Mini-Series for Follows, awards for her on screen “family”, with Dewhurst and Farnsworth also collecting awards and Best Costume Design. It’s a heartwarming series which judging from the praise from IMDB reviewers is the definitive adaptation and best casting. Interestingly I once bonded with a male friend who also fell in love with this particular version of the book, so it’s one that appeals to everyone.

The stunning screenplay and cinematography also deserve praise and you are easily immersed in this story. It was filmed in Canada, and I read that the director, Kevin Sullivan insisted on having a Canadian actress in Anne’s role. Megan Follows was chosen despite a campaign from American Schuyler Grant’s aunt that Schuyler get this role. Her aunt was Katherine Hepburn, who then must have been just as pleased after her niece won the role of Anne’s best buddy Diana instead. Hepburn had been initially offered the role of Marilla but had turned it down.

Anne was a character that I believe every girl – and boy – will identify with, no matter what their age, if they are redheaded or not (and with and without parents) over the years. She’s chatty and imaginative and seen with loveable flaws as she impulsively says what she thinks and echoes our thoughts, she has a sense of the dramatic and a fabulous imagination. However, after when she bonds with Marilla and Matthew, you know like you they love her for just being Anne with an E… This is seen in this scene with Matthew,

Anne Shirley: Please, Matthew. You need help. We’ve got to get a doctor.

Matthew Cuthbert: I’ve worked hard all my life. I’d rather just drop in the harness. I got old; I never noticed.

Anne Shirley: If I’d been the boy you sent for, I could have spared you in so many ways.

Matthew Cuthbert: I never wanted a boy. I only wanted you from the first day. Don’t ever change. I love my little girl. I’m so proud of my little girl.

Follows wins my vote for an award every time for this coveted role, and she won this part after beating 2999 others despite her concerns she was too old for this role. This story about Follows is found on her Wikipedia page HERE. It is one that I’m sure would have been one the impulsive Anne Shirley might have identified with…

Her first acting job came at the age of nine, when she landed a spot in a commercial for Bell Canada. She was directed to make an impudent gesture out of a school bus window – like sticking out her tongue – but ended up making a rather obscene adult gesture instead.

Sadly, the lovely handsome Canadian born, Jonathan Crombie, passed away recently in 2015.  But I was happy to watch him grow up with Follows on screen in three mini series in this franchise. And let’s say he was on my cute actors list when I saw this series sequel. I loved how Follows and Crombie were used as Anne and Gilbert throughout these first three adaptations. But this led to my initial confusion, as I thought Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story (2000) was a then unseen Montgomery book adaptation.

Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel (also called Anne of Avonlea) were followed – to my now shock – by two more series which were not written by L M Montgomery. The first of these was written by Kevin Sullivan and Laurie Pearson and named Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story (2000) and the most recent, Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning (2008).

The latter series was written by Sullivan to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Montgomery’s novel, and it returned with a killer twist and Barbara Hershey as Anne. After reading more about both of these, I’m now closing the book on this beloved series after the Montgomery adaptations. As I don’t want sunbursts and marble halls, I just want a happily ever after for Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie as Anne and Gilbert when the series ends…


Weeper Rating 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦/10

Handsqueeze Rating: :-) :-)  :-) :-) :-) :-)/10

Hulk Rating: ‎0  ‎/10


We ♥ L M Montgomery Week 2023

This review of Anne of Green Gables was added to Hamlette’s Soliloquy’s L M Montgomery Week. Colleen Dewhurst in Moonlighting, The Love Boat and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.  Megan Follows in Murder, She Wrote, The X Files and The Ray Bradbury Theatre. Richard Farnsworth in Misery.



14 thoughts on “TV… Anne of Green Gables (1985)

  1. I love this series (haven’t seen 3 &4) and enjoyed reading the behind the scenes tidbits you’ve included here. The Hepburn connection is unexpectedly awesome! I’m now trying to picture Hepburn as Marilla…I think it would have worked although Dewhurst is perfection.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I completely agree–the Netflix series is awful and Megan Follows is the only Anne. It says something that families keep introducing the Kevin Sullivan films to each other. Fifty, sixty years, whatever, from now people will still be watching the 1985 series.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Anne is loveable because she makes mistakes, learns from them, grows, and changes. And that appeals to a LOT of people — in fact, the 1985 adaptation is one of my dad’s favorite movies. Usually, he gravitates to westerns and war movies, but Anne absolutely captured him 🙂 We watched Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea over and over and over when I was a kid, usually at my dad’s behest!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The ’80s was the Golden Era of miniseries, don’t you think? Shogun, Thorn Birds, Lace, etc. This is one of the best. It’s in fact my wife’s favorite miniseries.

    I thought Anne of Avolena (1987) was good, but didn’t care for Anne of Green Gables The Continuing (2000). Anyhow, I didn’t know about Anne with an E, but I’m not really interested. You see, I think Megan Follows IS Anne Shirley, the same way I think Chris Reeve IS Superman and Johnny Weissmuller IS Tarzan. Follows is so good that I don’t think I can accept another actor in the role. Richard Farnsworth and Colleen Dewhurst are superb as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I totally agree with you, there can only be one Anne and thats Follows! I love revisiting those 80s series especially the Stefanie Powers ones… fabulous casts too. I haven’t seen the later Anne stories, and really I don’t feel tempted now after reading more about them…

      Liked by 1 person

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