Anne of Green Gables (1934)

03 Feb

anne_of_greenThe Anne of Green Gables film that was released in 1934 is definitely not for purists. The author herself, L.M. Montgomery, said it was not her book at all. However, the film has a lot of charm and I thoroughly enjoyed it. And considering that the film is only 78 minutes long, it’s actually a pretty fair adaptation.

Anne of Green Gables is one of those stories that rarely needs an introduction. It’s like Little Women – Anne Shirley has a life of her own, just as Jo March does. L.M. Montgomery wrote the novel in 1908 and the book has had many adaptations – including during the silent era in 1919.

One year after releasing Little Women with Katharine Hepburn, RKO bought the rights to Anne of Green Gables and cast Dawn O’Day, a child actress who subsequently changed her name to Anne Shirley (and who I still associate with Stella Dallas and Murder, My Sweet).

Because the film is so short, the story becomes less about the life of Anne Shirley at Green Gables and more about her adoption, how she becomes part of the family and finds a home at Green Gables. Even Gilbert Blythe kind of ends up adopted at the end of the film.

The film begins fairly faithfully with Matthew Cuthbert (O.P. Heggie) and Marilla Cuthbert (Helen Westley) attempting to adopt a boy. They are sent a girl, however, who instantly captures the heart of the taciturn Matthew. Marilla takes a little longer to warm up, but you can tell she is more charmed than she lets on. Helen Westley does not look like L.M. Montgomery’s description of the angular Marilla, but there are few people who play a formidable curmudgeon with a warm heart better than Westley (I always liked her in Show Boat, too).

The actress Anne Shirley was sixteen years of age when she made the film and is suitably passionate, chatty, and imaginative. Gilbert Blythe (Tom Brown) seems little on the pipsqueak side of things, especially when the characters are supposed to be old enough to marry. It is definitely easier for an adolescent female actor to play an adult than it is an adolescent male actor.


Helen Westley and Anne Shirley

The film is actually a compression of several books and even compresses some characters. Diana’s mother, Mrs. Barry, also becomes the nosy neighbor who says Anne is an unattractive child. The film, then covers Anne’s arrival to Green Gables and how she becomes part of the home and also her feud and romance with Gilbert Blythe and Marilla’s disapproval of Gilbert and Anne’s conflicting love of Marilla and Matthew and of Gilbert.

Spoiler Alert: Matthew even gets to live in the film (though I kept expecting him to die), but once again it actually makes sense in the context of the film. By the end, Anne gets Gilbert and Matthew and Marilla will have both Anne and Gilbert. Adoption and reconciliation.  End Spoiler.

Because the location of Prince Edward Island is so important to the book (and beautifully part of the 1985 series), the film is not as stage bound as many films made in 1934. It’s not Canada, but some scenes are filmed outside on occasion and helps provide that sense of a breath of fresh air which is so a part of both Anne’s character and the story.

As I said, devoted fans of the book (and of the 1985 series) might be a bit irked by this film, but I particularly liked the emphasis placed on adoption, mutual gratitude, and love. It makes for a sweet film. It also makes me want to go back and watch the 1985 film (and 1987 Anne of Avonlea – did you know Wendy Hiller was in that film? I am a huge Wendy Hiller fan, but the last time I saw Anne of Avonlea, I had no idea who she was ).

This was part of the “O Canada Blogathon,” hosted by SpeakeasySilver Screenings. Be sure to check out the recaps for days 1,2, and 3 for most posts.

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Posted by on February 3, 2017 in Movies


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25 responses to “Anne of Green Gables (1934)

  1. Andrea Lundgren

    February 3, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Anne of Avonlea had a great many issues, too, when it came to following the books. And then they added the war into Anne’s life and made her much too involved. Though I’d be curious to see some other adaptations (and I don’t remember Wendy Hiller in it either).

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      February 3, 2017 at 5:52 pm

      I got it on DVD recently (the one with Wendy Hiller) – maybe we should add it to our list! 🙂 I never did get a chance to see the one with WWI. Does that not happen in the books, then?


      • Andrea Lundgren

        February 6, 2017 at 9:35 am

        No, and her getting proposed to by a father of a student doesn’t happen either. And I don’t think she turns Gilbert down when he proposes, but she might. She isn’t always the sort of person who knows her own mind.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Patricia Nolan-Hall (@CaftanWoman)

    February 3, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Lovely review and choice for the blogathon. The Anne books are a huge part of my childhood and although the truncating of the story to fit this film version was upon first viewing a bit tough to swallow, I highly approved of the casting. Upon subsequent viewings I enjoy the effort which I believe was made with the best of intentions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      February 3, 2017 at 6:00 pm

      I can definitely see how it would be hard to take on first viewing. It’s hard when one really loves the books and knows them well.

      That’s a good point about the intentions – it does seem like they were trying to get the feel of the book and do justice to it. The casting is good!


  3. Magaly Guerrero

    February 3, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    I’ve read the book a couple of times, but have never watched the movie. I’m reading the book, again, with my stepdaughter… and I think watching the movie together might be nice. I will keep in mind that it won’t be much like the book. I will also point it out to her, since she was very upset the last time she experienced character compression in a film.

    Thanks a bunch!

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      February 3, 2017 at 6:59 pm

      That sounds lovely – it is so much fun to watch the movie after reading the book!

      I know what you mean about what are expectations are for a movie that is based on a book we really enjoy. I think the film did try to capture some of the spirit of the story, despite the many differences.

      I hope you and your step-daughter have a wonderful time with the book and movie!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Silver Screenings

    February 4, 2017 at 5:33 am

    I confess that I am an Anne of Green Gables purist – it’s a book I re-read regularly because I adore the characters. For that reason, I’ve never seen this film but, after reading your thoughtful review, I think I’ll give it a go and enjoy it for what it is.

    Thanks for joining the blogathon with Anne of Green Gables. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that she made an appearance. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      February 4, 2017 at 9:53 am

      It was a delight to spend time in her company! It has made me want to read the books again. Marilla, I think, was always one of my favorite characters.

      It’s good to be a purist – to have those special books for us that no movie can ever quite do justice to.

      Thanks so much for hosting and bringing me the opportunity to see this!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Silver Screenings

        February 4, 2017 at 10:28 am

        I quite like Marilla, too, and I did even as a kid. She’s someone who knows how to Get The Job Done no matter what, but she has a tender side, too, even though she’d refer to it as “stuff and nonsense”.

        Liked by 1 person

        • christinawehner

          February 4, 2017 at 10:55 am

          True! There is something very touching about how much she cares, despite not wanting to care so much.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Realweegiemidget

    February 4, 2017 at 7:28 am

    Great post Christine! Loved the series with Megan Fellows of this book x Haven’t seen the film yet x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. charsmoviereviews

    February 4, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Great post! I read all of the Anne of Green Gables books in childhood as so many did, and watched the Anne mini-series and Road to Avonlea. I have never seen this film adaptation, but I feel that I must. Thanks for bringing it to my attention! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      February 4, 2017 at 8:41 pm

      Thanks! I really hope you enjoy it! In many ways, it’s hard to get too much Anne of Green Gables. 🙂


  7. Kristina

    February 5, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Such an important character to Canadian culture, love to see the differences in the adaptations. Another one is coming up soon, a new CBC/Netflix joint production called Anne; will be interesting to see! Thanks for being part of the bloagthon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      February 5, 2017 at 8:19 pm

      Thank you for hosting!

      Oh, that is exciting they are doing another one! I didn’t realize that. That will definitely be very interesting to see!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The Flapper Dame

    February 9, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    WHile I think Megan Follows version is THE version, I do want to view this version- it seems very well done and I think the Gilbert looks nice!!! I just love the story of Anne in general- its so timeless!!!


    • christinawehner

      February 9, 2017 at 2:22 pm

      Yes, I so agree – so timeless! It’s hard to get to much Anne of Green Gables, I think. 🙂 Hope you get a chance to see it!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Sharon

    February 9, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    Excellent post! I could never understand why she changed her name; “Dawn O’Day” or her birth name “Dawn Paris” would seem to be suitable for the marquee.

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      February 9, 2017 at 6:12 pm


      Dawn Paris – I didn’t realize that was her birth name. I see what you mean; that does seem like it would work very well as a memorable name. Interesting. I wonder if it was her idea or someone else’s.


  10. Richard W. Swymeler

    March 20, 2017 at 9:44 am

    Christina, thank you for this recent post on “Anne of Green Gables.” I actually never heard of this book growing up but when I met my Canadian Wife, it was a required read While I read Lucy’s books, I always find myself ‘in the wild imaginations of Anne’ which was later brought to the screen by Megan Follows (who is now a whopping 49 years old ) in the early 1980’s series on PBS. I find it a picturesque read that forces one to move themselves towards classic reading – something that expands the vocabulary and exercises the mind.

    I have not heard of this particular production, so it now becomes one of the ‘to-view’ shows. You have a profound way of bringing to the forefront many films that I otherwise would not have known. Thank you for your passion and willingness to share and educate. My wife and are currently viewing the newer adaptation called “Anne” that is being played on the CBC Television Network. I think the photography in this newer version is excellent – yet the story remains true to the heart of our dear, never “in the depths of despair” Anne. Well done!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      March 20, 2017 at 12:42 pm

      Thanks! I really like your description of the book as being one that moves one towards classic reading and expanding the mind!

      I had not heard of the new adaptation Anne, but am so glad to know about it and how lovely it looks. Will definitely have to look for it – thanks!! That is lovely how they capture the spirit of the book. That seems so hard to do when adapting a book to screen.



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