Released in 1987, Kevin Sullivan's "Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel" (also known as "Anne of Avonlea")
is a worthy adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery's novel, Anne of Avonlea, continuing where the first installment,
"Anne of Green Gables" ends. In this sequel, Anne Shirley leaves Avonlea to become a
schoolteacher at a ladies college, after Diana Barry's marriage and Gilbert Blythe's departure for medical school.
While at the school, Anne faces a number of challenges from a weathy family of Pringles, a stern principal determined to
sour Anne's cheerful outlook on life, as well as a proposal from a dashing Morgan Harris! This is a rare sequel that rivals the humor, emotion, and elegance of its predecessor. Megan
Follows returns to her memorable role as Anne, while Colleen Dewhurst (Marilla Cuthbert), Jonathan Crombie (Gilbert Blythe) and
Schuyler Grant (Diana Barry) reprise their familiar characters. Oscar-winning actress Dame Wendy Hiller appears as
the prickly Mrs. Harris, matriarch of the Pringle clan.
This film is made for television and not rated.
From Novel to Screenplay
Surprised by the popularity of the
first "Anne of Green Gables" miniseries, screenwriter/director/producer Kevin Sullivan
immediately decided to produce a second installment. However, this time he opted to depart
somewhat from author Lucy Maud Montgomery's storyline: "Montgomery's works didn't lend
themselves to filmmaking other than the first novel. The Sequel was an original story based on
characters and settings from later L. M. Montgomery books." 1
That jumble of plots and subplots is at least partially explained by the fact that "Anne of Avonlea" is a consolidation of
the final three novels in Montgomery's series: Anne of Avonlea (1909), Anne of the Island (1915) and Anne of Windy
Poplars (1936). As Actress Megan Follows remarks: "Individually, the later books weren't all that good,"
Follows admits. "They all had interesting things in them, but not
enough to sustain an entire mini-series. So they took the best from
each and condensed it into a single year." 2
Follows adds: "The best parts are taken out and put together, you see. The first two hours are still
the younger Anne; then she moves to Avonlea, and then comes love and romance." 3
Actress Megan Follows recalls shooting the scene in which Anne and Diana
chase a jersey cow and end up falling into a heap of mud: "They wanted to have a stunt double actually do the fall and
then I'd have mud painted onto my face for the rest of the scene. But I wanted to do it
myself, so there I go flopping into the mud. When I came up, the mud had formed a perfect oval that
framed my face. It looked more fake than anything any makeup man
could've painted on. They ended up having to touch it up so it
would look real." 4
The filming of this second "Anne of Green Gables"
enterprise turned out to more difficult than the first shoot, since the unexpected success
of "Anne of Green Gables" prompted executives to exert more control over the sequel. Even Director/Producer/Screenwriter
Kevin Sullivan confesses: "It became a chore." 5
Follows also differed with Sullivan
on how to end the second "Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel." Their conflicts
reportedly delayed shooting for an entire day. In particular, Follows thought
the ending, in which Anne finally confesses her love for Gilbert, was rushed:
"By the time these two get together, you feel like saying, 'All right,
already. Do something.' [Sullivan and I] may not have shared the same vision.
['Anne' is] so much a woman's piece... There were certain things that meant
a lot to me that may not have been as important to Kevin. I cared very
much about that show. Maybe I cared too much." 6
Follows found it difficult to divide
her time between the "Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel" set in southern
Ontario and the set of at American film, "A Time of Destiny." Follows remarks:
"It was pretty hectic. I was taking red-eye flights and staying up thirty-six
hours at a time. I got food poisoning on my way back from San Diego once
-- I [vomited] my way across the continent back to the set." 7
One of the worst things about filming
the second "Anne" installment was having to wear a corset everyday. Follows
recalls that she could barely breathe for six hours every day on the set,
and that after the shoot completed, she happily burned her corset!
Because of the professional differences
between Follows and Sullivan that arose during the filming of the second
film, Follows admits that she had not expected to play the beloved Anne
Shirley again. Follows remarks: "I, like probably many other people, have
gone through some interesting journeys with Mr. Sullivan." 8 However, a decade
after the second installment, Follows and Sullivan reconciled. Follows
remarks: "At one point [our differences] were resolved, so we were able
to move forward." 9Follows even starred in "Under the Piano," a Sullivan
Entertainment production between the second and third "Anne" films.
Relationships On and Off the Set
Of her onscreen beau, Jonathan Crombie,
Megan Follows affectionately remarks: "Jonathan is an absolute sweetheart.
He's not afraid to show that he's vulnerable and nervous. I love his enthusiasm.
He made me laugh, which I really needed." 10Follows adds that Crombie is
"extremely funny." 11
After the first two "Anne" installments, Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie
both starred in the lead roles in the highly acclaimed
Stratford Festival's "Romeo and Juliet," except they did not star opposite
each other. Follows played Juliet in 1993, and Crombie took on Romeo in
1997. Follows and Crombie also missed each other in promoting the "Anne"
films on television. Both volunteered to help out on PBS fund drives. However,
an Anne-Gilbert reunion couldn't be scheduled, and they appeared separately.
On the late Colleen Dewhurst, Follows recalls: "I had a wonderful
time working with Colleen and I was also fortunate enough to do
another project with her later, a film called 'Termini Station.'
I've always been incredibly grateful for my time and experience
working with her. She was an extraordinary lady." 12
The Actors on Their Roles
Actress Megan Follows remarks of the continued popularity
of her character: "People are definitely very attached to, and fond of,
that character. There's always been an element of that alive and well in
my life. My kids get a sense of that, I guess. But, of course, you can't
impress them. As long as I'm a hero to them, that's my main goal." 13
Despite her enduring popularity, Follows adds: "I've never felt
weighed down by Anne. What I've found is that she's
opened many doors and allowed me to do things I otherwise wouldn't have
had the opportunity to do. It's a tribute to the type of character she
is. Within her, there's myriad different things that get to be expressed.
She's not really a 'type'; there's a lot of complexity to her, and there
are a lot of different types within her personality." 14
Of the "Anne" films, Jonathan Crombie
fondly remarks: "[The films] explored very real characters and very real
emotions. These characters had the capacity to be cruel, to be loving,
to be confused, to be happy, to be selfish, to be generous. But there's
also another feeling, where it takes you to another land -- partly because
of the scenery, partly because of the different time, and partly because
of the way they handled it -- about a girl who, through her imagination,
brings you into fairy tales. Everybody, whether they like it or not, has
a little bit of that in them. Even the most logical mathematicians have
that part that just makes them want to, you know, dance in the [and] pretend
that they're a chivalrous knight." 15
Crombie also remarks of the second
film: "One of the nice lines in the film is, 'It's not what the world holds
out to you, it's what you bring to it.' I really like that. [Through the
film] you understand where home is, a part where you don't have to go roaming
to mountains, to different worlds, to realize that happiness can be right
here with what you're doing and the people you already know. You don't
have to be swept off your feet by a knight in shining armor to fall in
love. You can fall in love with your best friend... It takes both worlds.
Marilla, for whom everything is black and white, gets to learn that there's
gray in the middle and some beautiful colors. Anne, through different characters,
especially Gilbert, learns that she can keep her imagination." 16
Crombie researched the character of
Gilbert and remarks that he was a combination of a few men in L.M. Montgomery's
life -- a farm boy she once loved and a scholar she respected.
Although Gilbert fights with Anne in
the first film, Crombie remarks that he preferred Gilbert's character in
the second film, when he isn't as headstrong and steps back to patiently
watch Anne through her growing stages.
Applause, Awards and the Aftermath
Kevin Sullivan remarks that the "Avonlea"
miniseries turned out to be a "a huge television event in Canadian history." 17 Both "Anne of Green Gables" and
"Anne of Avonlea" remain the highest rated television broadcasts in Canada, with an audience of
5.7 million viewers tuning in for the second installment. The film series
has since been aired in over two hundred countries! Actress Megan Follows also won the 1988 Gemini Award (equivalent to an American Emmy Award).
The "Anne" films have boosted tourism
in Prince Edward Island to all-time highs and have inspired an entire theme
park in Japan! In addition, Sullivan Entertainment continues to receive
numerous requests from couples that want to get married on the set.