Anne Shirley, a young orphan, is mistakenly sent to live with Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, who had originally wanted to adopt a boy to help on their farm at Green Gables.
Annoyed by the mistake, Marilla says Anne must return to the orphanage as a girl is no use to them. However, Mathew soon falls under the spell of the imaginative and talkative girl and persuades Marilla to let her stay.
Soon Anne is getting into all sort of scrapes and getting on the wrong side of the people of Avonlea.
As an undisputed children’s classic, the novel was ripe for adaption with the advent of the silver screen and there have been quite a few adaptations.
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES (1919)
The very first screen adaptation was a silent comedy starring Mary Miles Minter and directed by William Desmond Taylor.
The film earned the wrath of Montgomery for turning her beloved character into an American and showing her brandishing a shotgun. The film was well received by the public, however Montgomery complained Minter had portrayed Anne as being too sugary sweet and had failed to capture her “gingery” nature.
Anne of Green Gables was released on 23 November 1919 but the film has since been lost.
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES (1934)
Anne’s second film adaptation was released on 23 November 1934, starring Dawn O’Day as Anne and was directed by George Nicholls, Jr.
While Montgomery was at least happier with this version of her book, she still felt the portrayal of Anne was too sweet but at least she was Canadian again. The film was somewhat faithful to the book and the performances from the cast saved it from becoming too saccharine.
The film was a surprising hit for RKO and the actress adopted Anne Shirley as her stage name thereafter.
ANNE OF WINDY POPLARS (1940)
After the success of the first film, Anne Shirley reprised her role for the sequel which follows Anne’s adventures as a schoolmistress in the town of Pringleton where she comes up against the difficult Pringle family.
The script differs widely from the novel, including Anne and Gilbert’s adoption of little Elizabeth Grayson after their marriage. The film was not as well received as its predecessor and was mostly panned by critics for being too sentimental.
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES (1972)
This BBC adaptation was a 5-part television mini-series starring Kim Braden in the title role and was directed by Joan Craft.
Braden, a British actress born to Canadian parents, was twenty-four at the time the series was filmed and it was well received by fans of the book.
The series premiered on 20 February 1972 but the master tapes were accidentally erased and it no longer survives in any format.
ANNE OF AVONLEA (1975)
Kim Braden returned for the sequel Anne of Avonlea which was a six-part series shown on the BBC on 26 January 1975.
Joan Craft returned to direct the series and Braden was joined by Christopher Blake as Gilbert.
The series combines the plots of Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island, and while it remains faithful to both, there have been a few changes to fit the series.
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES (1985)
For many this four-hour Canadian television series will always be the definitive version of the story and it has a special place in the hearts of many fans of the book. The series was made by Kevin Sullivan for CBC and it first aired in Canada on 1 December 1985. It is still the highest-rated drama in Canadian television history.
While the film remains fairly close to the book, changes were made so it would appeal to a modern audience. The film would spawn three sequels which would borrow from Montgomery but would be based on Sullivan’s own work: Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel (1987); Anne of Green Gables:: The Continuing Story (2000) and Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning (2008).
Anne of Green Gables: The Animated Series (2001)
In 2001, Sullivan Entertainment created their own animated series based on the book, however many of the supporting characters were taken from the Road to Avonlea.
The series was created for PBS Kids and came with “Ready-to-Learn” guides for teachers. It lasted for one season, however it was followed by Anne: Journey to Green Gables, an animated prequel in 2005.
L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables (2016)
After a decade of being absent from our screens, Anne Shirley finally returned in the Canadian television film produced by Breakthrough Entertainment in 2016, starring Ella Ballentine, Martin Sheen and Sara Botsford.
While the film has a lot of the familiar storylines, it makes significant changes and is drawn out over the three movies.
The film aired on 15 February 2016 and was followed by Anne of Green Gables: The Good Stars (2017) and Anne of Green Gables: Fire & Dew (2017).
ANNE WITH AN E (2011)
On 19 March 2017, Anne Shirley made her most recent debut in the Canadian television series Anne with an E which was shown on CBC and distributed internationally by Netflix.
The series, starring Amybeth McNulty, was divisive from the start as it had a darker tone than any of the previous productions. The show was also made more diverse with the introduction of ethnic characters, particularly Bash, who is befriended by Gilbert Blythe when he leaves Avonlea on an adventure. Gilbert Blythe’s background is changed considerably and is almost unrecognisable from the book.
The series aired for three seasons and became increasingly separate from the books as it explored themes of homosexuality, gender and racism.
Anne of Green Gables: The Musical (1965)
Anne of Green Gables: The Musical premiered at the Charlottetown Festival in 1965 after which it became an annual event until the pandemic forced it to close its doors in 2019. In March 2014, it was officially recognised as the longest running annual musical theatre production in the world by Guinness World Records.
The show returned for the 2022 season but it was announced it would only be staged every two years henceforth.
A televised version of the musical was shown on CBS in 1956, and then a stage version was created for the festival. The musical has also toured throughout Canada and has appeared in New York, London and Japan.