Runtime: 79 min.
Release date: 21 December 1934
Production Companies: RKO Radio Pictures
Director: George Nicholls, Jr.
Screenplay: Sam Mintz
Producer: Kenneth MacGowan
Cinematography: Lucien Andriot
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase, Al Herman
Costume Design: Walter Plunkitt
Editor: Arthur Schmidt
Music: Max Steiner
Source Material: From the Book Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, published by L.C. Page & Co. Inc.
Principal Cast: Anne Shirley (Anne), Tom Brown (Gilbert), O.P. Heggie (Matthew), Helen Westley (Marilla), Sara Haden (Mrs. Barry), Murray Kinnell (Mr. Phillips), Gertrude Messinger (Diana), Charley Grapewin (Dr. Tatum), Hilda Vaughn (Mrs. Bluett), June Preston (The Bluett Little Girl)
Fifteen years after Realart’s silent film based on Anne of Green Gables was released, the RKO company of Hollywood purchased the “talkie” rights to the book from L.C. Page & Co. Again, Montgomery received no royalty for the film and had no input in it, although she was sent a copy of the script (“Is This My Anne” 22). Anne is fourteen at the beginning of the film, and it is she who gives Green Gables its name (Matthew explaining that they call it “just a house”). The first two-thirds are a satisfying adaptation of several key plot points of the original novel, although some crucial elements of the novel are abandoned: as Theodore F. Sheckels remarks, Montgomery’s novel “places the story of an orphan girl in a female-gendered context,” whereas the film “virtually eliminates this context” (183). Anne brags to Diana that she can wrap Gilbert around her little finger and is motivated to confess to losing Marilla’s brooch so that she can go on the hayride and “make Gilbert Blythe eat right out of my hand.”
During the last third of the film, however, the book’s plot is abandoned completely in order to recentre the story entirely on Anne and Gilbert, to the point that Sheckels calls the film “Romeo and Juliet superimposed upon Anne of Green Gables” (185). In order to make Gilbert jealous, Anne tells him that she has been corresponding with one of Mr. Phillips’s former pupils, who has just been awarded a prize for a groundbreaking essay on Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott.” Humiliated as a result, she is in the depths of despair until she plunges down rapids in Matthew’s fishing boat during her fantasy of being Tennyson’s famous character. Gilbert saves her and asks her to “be my girl.” Because Gilbert’s father ran away with the woman Matthew was to marry and because Marilla still holds a grudge over this all these years later, the pair meet in secret for three years until they are found out and separated. They become reunited at the film’s end when Gilbert’s influence saves Matthew’s life. Although she found the resolution “a silly sentimental commonplace end tacked on forthe sake of rounding it up as a love story,” Montgomery was mostly satisfied with the film: “On the whole, it was not a bad picture” (Journal entry dated 29 November 1934, in Selected Journals, 4:325).
Popular actress Dawn O’Day (born Dawn Paris in 1919), who was cast in the role of Anne Shirley, apparently became so enamored with the part that she changed her stage name to Anne Shirley and kept it for the rest of her acting career. Nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress for the 1937 film Stella Dallas, Shirley retired from acting after filming Farewell My Lovely in 1944. She died of lung cancer in 1993 (“Actress took Green Gables name”).
Anne of Green Gables. Allied Artists Classic Library, n.d.
Anne of Green Gables. Allied Artists Classic Library, n.d.
“Actress Took Green Gables Name.” Globe and Mail, 8 July 1993, C1.
Dickinson, Peter. “Introduction: Reading Movies.” Essays on Canadian Writing 76 (Spring 2002): 1-45.
Karr, Clarence. Authors and Audiences: Popular Canadian Fiction in the Early Twentieth Century. Montreal: 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.
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. 222-23]
—. “Business and Lawsuit Correspondence Including Much on Movie Contracts, 1928-.” XZ1 MS A098011. University of Guelph archives.
—. “Is This My Anne.” Chatelaine, January 1935, 18, 22. Reprinted (abridged) in The Lucy Maud Montgomery Album, compiled by Kevin McCabe, edited by Alexandra Heilbron, 333-35. Toronto: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1999.
—. The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Volume II: 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 IV: 1929-1935. Edited by Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1998. [See pp. 260, 291, 295, 323, 325-26]
—. The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Volume V: 1935-1942. Edited by Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2004. [See pp. 41-42, 60, 314]
Nickel, Eleanor Hersey. “’The World Hasn’t Changed Very Much’: Romantic Love in Film and Television Versions of Anne of Green Gables.” In 100 Years of Anne with an “e”: The Centennial Study of “Anne of Green Gables,” edited by Holly Blackford, 105-21. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2009.
Sennwald, Andre. “Anne Shirley and ‘Anne of Green Gables,’ at the Roxy — ‘Here Is My Heart,’ at the Paramount.” New York Times, 22 December 1934, 21.
Sheckels, Theodore F. “Anne in Hollywood: The Americanization of a Canadian Icon.” In L.M. Montgomery and Canadian Culture, edited by Irene Gammel and Elizabeth Epperly, 183-91. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999.
“Vintage Anne of Green Gables movies.” Avonlea Traditions Chronicle 1, no. 4 (1992): 1-4.