An Ode To Jonathan Crombie: The Man Who Stole Our Hearts As Gilbert Blythe

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Call me a sentimental fool, but when my best friend sent me a text saying that Gilbert Blythe had died, I fell into the depths of despair. Jonathan Crombie was the actor who worked his way into millions of women’s hearts by pursuing Megan Follows as Anne Shirley in the Anne of Green Gables movie series. To this day, I still weep when I watch these films. They are timeless treasures that highlight the story of one of the strongest female characters in literature.

I was always so struck by Anne because I admired her gumption and unwavering persistence in chasing her dreams. After I moved away from Long Island and missed it desperately, I would watch the Anne series with a realization that Anne is a woman whose life is spent trying to make her way back to the only home she ever knew and loved, Green Gables.

I actually did not read the series of books written by Lucy Maude Montgomery until I was in my twenties, and by that time the nostalgia wasn’t enough to make me fall in love with the books. They are best read as a young girl. This is one case where I feel very secure in saying that the films are better than the books. There are Anne of Green Gables purists out there who will disagree with me, but those movies stole my heart in many, many ways.

Gil is no prince charming and has his own faults, but he is a kind man, one who makes sacrifices, puts his own desires aside, challenges mediocrity, and encourages the woman he loves to be the very best that she can be.

The amazing thing about Anne (spelled with an “e”) Shirley is her determined perseverance to make her way in the world despite growing up as an orphan. Contrary to the simpering, pathetic female characters that make up some of today’s most popular book series, Anne was a strong woman of integrity, one to be looked up to and admired for her strength in adversity, work ethic, kindness toward others, and goals in life that did not revolve around meeting a man. Yet it was her imperfections that made her relatable. Her temper sometimes gets the better of her (broken slates, anyone?), she speaks before thinking, and at times she deals with pride and a stubborn nature. But I always looked up to Anne Shirley and couldn’t help but fall in love with the man who eventually won her heart.

A love story is woven into the fabric of the Anne series, one that begins when she and Gil are children, evolves into friendship, takes turns and backward steps until finally blossoming into a real, indelible bond between two kindred spirits. Gilbert pursues Anne, rescues her from embarrassing situations, pokes fun at her stubborn nature, and comes to her defense. And yet, this doesn’t qualify as a fairy tale. Gil is no prince charming and has his own faults, but he is a kind man, one who makes sacrifices, puts his own desires aside, challenges mediocrity, and encourages the woman he loves to be the very best that she can be. He is Anne’s biggest cheerleader in life and works hard to achieve his own goals and gain her respect. I honestly am hard pressed to think of a love story I enjoy more. In fact, I walked down the aisle to the theme music from the Anne movies on my wedding day.

So today, I say goodbye to Jonathan Crombie, who taught us girls to hope that we might someday meet someone who would be as kind, supportive, and dashingly wonderful to us as Gilbert was to Anne. In June, a friend and I are making a pilgrimage to Prince Edward Island to walk on the shores where Anne and Gilbert walked, to drive down the lanes and drink in the beauty of the place which made millions of people fall in love with the story of Anne Shirley, and in turn, Gilbert Blythe, who will forever remain in our hearts.

Leah LaRocco, WYSK Lifestyle Contributor About Leah LaRocco, WYSK Lifestyle Contributor

Women You Should Know Lifestyle Contributor Leah LaRocco is a Long Islander who now lives in Franklin, Tennessee and works in the music industry for The Recording Academy. Her greatest pleasures include BBC drama, good British tea, botanical gardens, Betsey Johnson dresses, and playing with her two cats, Maddox and Myrtle. You can read more about Leah’s adventures in life and perspectives on people, places, and things on her personal blog Edges Like Sea Glass.

  • krissy2012

    I disagree. You can read the Anne books at any age. The movies & the books are both awesome good.

  • Formerly Rebecca What heresy! The characters are SO much well developed by the immortal LM Montgomery, all of whose books I know backwards and forwards. Seriously, I smile to myself when I go back and read my own journals because on multiple occasions I accidentally plagiarized. I was given the first book at 14 when I was in the hospital after an appendectomy, and though I made short work of finishing off the rest of the series/the Emily series/other Montgomery books, I wasn’t a little girl by any means when I read them. And LOVED them.

    I can hardly make myself watch the first Anne movie in the trilogy without wincing. There was so much more to the books than just Anne and Gilbert -and no offense to Jonathan Groff, whose recent death is indeed tragic, but I don’t even LIKE the Gilbert of the movies, who not only lacks the depth of the books, but seems so immature. I don’t think it’s too much to say that Montgomery wouldn’t love the movies either.

    I would love for there to actually be accurate movies of the books, wish so much that the third movie, instead of not even vaguely following the book’s plot like The Sequal, would show Anne as a college girl with her uproarious roommates, looked after by Aunt Jimsy. Seriously why did the movie dudes believe they could do better than the author herself?

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  • Melissa

    For those of us that watched the movies before reading the books, the movies are wonderful. My young and wise daughter describes it best. She says, “When you’ve read the books first, you imagine the characters in your mind and then when you watch the movies, they don’t match up. When you watch the movies first, you already have the characters as they were in the films and you can work them into the books.” I would agree. I don’t care how great the books are; the movies captured my heart from the moment I started watching. Gilbert Blythe is my all-time favorite leading nake character. I relate to the story because I lived with my grandparents, felt the loss of the man who was like a father to me long before I was ready, lived in the country, had grand ideas about life and love, and wished for a man like Gilbert to come along. I am so grateful to Kevin Sullivan for making these movies! I cry and laugh each time I watch; and I have seen them hundreds of times; I own several copies of the triology, not just one. I put one in when I need comfort, need to escape from the reality of this modern world, just want to enjoy a good film. Marilla, Matthew, Anne, Gilbert, Diana, and Rachel Lynde all have such special places in my heart.I have tried to make it to PEI for 8 years now; maybe this year. Forever grateful that Jonathan Crombie played Gilbert Blythe; he was without a doubt the absolute perfect choice.

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  • Karen

    I also walked down the aisle to the Anne theme song. I thought I was the only one but it was, to me, such a great expression of how I saw myself and how I saw my relationship with my husband. A great ode and tribute to Jonathan Crombie and to the stories he helped tell.
    I will say, I always fall back on the books. They are beautiful in their own way and the third movie, which I still can’t watch, took liberties a bit too far in trying to make the stories fit within movie constraints. However, each has its own flavour and style and one can appreciate both.

  • Ludovicah

    I slightly worry about the writer of this, as the adaptation she is referring to is, to my mind, less good than the BBC TV adaptations of the 1970s.. and the books are far greater than both, but my interest was caught because Christopher Blake who played Gilbert in the BBC adaptations also died tragically young (55) in 2004.. Weird.
    The reason I didn’t much care for the CBC adaptation was I always felt Anne was miscast, personal taste perhaps, but Megan Follows really didn’t look like how Anne is described in the books.. but I guess if you saw the movies first, such a fine distinction might pass one by.

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