“It’s so much more romantic to end a story up with a funeral than a wedding.”
– LM MONTGOMERY
Yesterday I was working at our packed Record Store Day….a day we had been anticipating for some time and that was meeting most, if not all, of our expectations.
During a slight lull in checking people out I decided to peruse Facebook. I follow several “Anne of Green Gables” fan pages on Facebook (because nerd.) and something quickly caught my eye on the newsfeed.
Jonathan Crombie, known for Anne of Green Gables, is dead.
It didn’t really register with me right away, but I did let out an audible gasp that led several record store shoppers to turn around to see if I had seen a ghost or burned myself or something.
Gilbert Blythe had died. I didn’t really know what to do at that point, but my brain thought now was a time to start tearing up. Lovely.
Crying over an actor I didn’t know and a fictional character. That’s Maturity 101.
I felt silly….especially since then wasn’t really the time to get all sappy and sentimental over someone I had never even met. I sucked it up and got on with the day, but man…..it sucked.
Once I got home I put on Anne of Avonlea and allowed myself to process what had happened.
Gilbert Blythe had died.
Now, I know Jonathan Crombie was not his character. Gilbert Blythe didn’t really exist outside of literature and it’s horrifically sad that a man who seemed by all accounts to be a lovely person had died too young.
But, from what I read, he was very proud of his role in the Anne series….and to most, Jonathan Crombie WAS Gilbert.
If you ask me, there are few movies out there that are absolutely, perfectly cast. Especially movies made from beloved books that are 80-100 years old. You don’t have the author around to tell you what she had in mind for the characters, really. You have a bevvy of fans that are going to pick apart your every casting move.
But, Anne of Green Gables was perfectly cast. Every role. Megan Follows WAS Anne Shirley. No one else can play her, even though some have tried (Barbara Hershey. Ick.)
And Jonathan Crombie was the absolute PERFECT choice for the dashingly handsome Gilbert Blythe.
It was the first time in my young life I ever looked at a boy on screen and said “Wow. He’s something special” rather than “Yuck. Cootieville”.
Gilbert was my first crush, my first introduction into how boys and girls coexist as pre-teens….how love grows and how women should be treated. He was the perfect guy. He apologized profusely when he realized his teasing had hurt Anne’s feelings, he stuck up for her….being smart is better than being pretty…..he gave up his school posting for her so she could stay at Green Gables, he waited for her….almost until death parted them….so she could go looking for her ideals elsewhere…only to find they were right there in Avonlea.
Now, I am not a sappy, sentimental sucker for flowery language and fairy tales. In fact, the series of Anne books is pretty much the only fiction I’ve read outside of school assignments. I’m a realist. A non-fiction gal.
But the stories of Anne and Gilbert? That was my childhood. In a nutshell. I lived for those stories.
It’s no secret that I’ve always felt I was born far too late. Yes, modern conveniences are wonderful…and damn if I don’t love my car and my music and my computer. But, I have a strong affinity for the Victorian to Edwardian era. The simplicity of it all is really appealing to me. A time when it took, obviously, years to grow a love like Anne and Gilbert’s. When flowery language and mooning over someone was romantic….to an 9 or 10 year old “me” this was perfection. The way things should be.
When I found out yesterday that Gilbert/Jonathan had passed away, I felt like every bit of innocence that was left from my childhood was officially done. Now I was old, and my childhood idols are gone….the story is over. For good.
I had visions of an older Anne somewhere….without her Gilbert. Silly, yes, but heartbreaking all the same. A great love like that, fiction or not, should never end.
But it has ended. There will never be another perfect Gilbert. Jonathan Crombie was that role. There will never be another meeting on the footbridge or walk down the lane. Another meeting of eyes across a battlefield (in arguably the WORST movie of the Anne series, but damn if I don’t still cry my eyes out at that scene).
There will never be another Gilbert Blythe.
Rest in Peace, Jonathan. You shaped many of my childhood ideals about love, marriage, chivalry, and contentment. Thank You for bringing such perfection to one of the greatest love stories ever crafted.
(Pictures courtesy of Sullivan Entertainment & Tumblr)