Monday, April 20, 2015

RIP Jonathan Crombie: The Quintessential Boy Next Door

Why am I sad about an actor playing a character? An actor I never met?

Because  ...

He was "my" Gilbert. Even now, I can spend hours comfortably binging on the hours-long series watching him - as Gilbert - tease and taunt and grow up and in love with his "Carrots." And, apparently, unlike some actors who feel "pigeon-holed" or "type-cast" or "resentful" for only being known for one role, he embraced the spirit of the Anne-fandom. And, at 43? 48 is just a blink away. And feels too young. You grew up with him. The boy next door is not supposed to die. EVER. He and Anne grow up, get married, and grow old together.

Here's more, by other more eloquent people.

Per The New York Times: 
Jonathan Crombie, Romantic Lead in ‘Anne of Green Gables,’ Dies at 48

Jonathan Crombie, a Canadian actor who was known to a generation of fans as Gilbert Blythe in the mini-series “Anne of Green Gables,” died on Wednesday in New York City. He was 48.

The cause was a brain hemorrhage, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation said.

Mr. Crombie rose to fame as a teenager when he was cast as the handsome and confident love interest in the 1985 Canadian television adaptation of “Anne of Green Gables,” Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 1908 novel about an orphan (played by Megan Follows) growing up on Prince Edward Island. It was shown in the United States on PBS the next year.

The role made him a household name in Canada, and he reprised it in two sequels: “Anne of Avonlea” in 1987 and “Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story” in 2000.

“I think he was really proud of being Gilbert Blythe and was happy to answer any questions,” Mr. Crombie’s sister, Carrie Crombie, told the CBC. “He really enjoyed that series and was happy, very proud of it. We all were.”
Mr. Crombie appeared on numerous TV shows and in stage productions in both the United States and Canada. He made his Broadway debut in 2007 in the hit musical comedy “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

He was also well known in his home country as the son of David Crombie, who was mayor of Toronto from 1972 to 1978. After leaving the mayor’s office, his father represented the city in the Canadian Parliament and later held several cabinet positions.

“On behalf of the people of Toronto, I extend to the entire Crombie family my deepest sympathies on sudden death of actor Jonathan Crombie,” John Tory, the current mayor of Toronto, wrote in an update posted to Twitter.

Mr. Crombie was born in Toronto on Oct. 12, 1966. Survivors include his sister and his father.

Kevin Sullivan, the producer of “Anne of Green Gables,” told the CBC that Mr. Crombie was chosen as Gilbert at the age of 17 after the casting director saw him perform in a school play.

“I think for legions of young women around the world who fell in love with the ‘Anne of Green Gables’ films, Jonathan literally represented the quintessential boy next door, and there were literally thousands of women who wrote to him over the years who saw him as a perfect mate,” Mr. Sullivan said. [emphasis my own]

Like the author of this article in the New Yorker, I had a girl-friend with whom I bonded over hours of the Sullivan films in the mid-80s. I had fond memories of a sleepover, those innocent teenaged sleepovers, with popcorn, and a copy of the films that some parent had taped (on a VCR) during the PBS pledgefest that inauguarted the films to USA audiences. To this day, we're still friends. We still talk every week. It was she that I immediately turned to for comfort. (She was sad, but not sad, sad like me. We're bosom friends, but like Diana - she had her Fred. I had dreams of a Gilbert.)

Per The New Yorker,

Why We Loved Gilbert Blythe


Many were saddened, this weekend, to learn of the death of Jonathan Crombie, the forty-eight-year-old actor who played Gilbert Blythe in the CBC’s film adaptations of the “Anne of Green Gables” books. People on the Internet were using the phrase “depths of despair,” as Anne Shirley would. Gilbert was many people’s first love.

A kindred spirit of mine—a bosom friend I’ve known since girlhood—once observed that the best kind of romantic movie involves impassioned gazing. (She told me this while recommending the 2004 BBC red-hot starefest “North & South,” which features I-see-into-your-soul staring of the Mr. Darcy variety, the kind that says, I see you—and I am too respectful to do anything but dream from afar until I deserve you.) “Anne of Green Gables” isn’t a romance, exactly; it’s a series about growing up. But it’s no coincidence, I realized yesterday, that this same friend first alerted me to the phenomenon of Crombie as Gilbert Blythe.

It was 1986, and she and I were in seventh grade, in an airport. We were taking a trip to Disney World with my mother during our spring vacation. We were excited, but, my friend told me, we were missing something very important on television: part something-or-other of the PBS broadcast of “Anne of Green Gables,” which had just burst on the scene from Canada, a gorgeous agrarian world allowing for both puff sleeves and female ambition. She told me about Gilbert Blythe in great detail. When we were able to watch, I admired it all for myself.

L. M. Montgomery, the author of the “Anne” series, described Gilbert as “a tall boy, with curly brown hair, roguish hazel eyes, and a mouth twisted into a teasing smile.” Crombie was kinder—lively eyes, nothing twisted about the mouth. His affection was evident all along. Crombie gave Gilbert caring, intelligence, and dreaminess: qualities that enchant seventh-grade girls.

As in “Pride and Prejudice,” things begin badly between our heroes. Gilbert admires Anne (Megan Follows) when she arrives at their one-room schoolhouse; she registers his handsomeness but ignores him, in part because of his cockiness; he calls her Carrots; she smashes a slate over his head. The “Carrots” slate-smash is “Anne” ’s “tolerable, I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me” moment, setting in motion a whole course of standoffs and shenanigans which, after many years, finally end as they should—with mutual understanding and perfect bliss. In between: oh, the staring.

Crombie was an expert gazer. Through meaningful looks and other subtleties, he showed that Gilbert wasn’t threatened when Anne could spell “chrysanthemum” and he couldn’t; he appeared deeply concerned when she fell off the ridgepole, and didn’t mock her for braving it; he was kind during the “The Lady of Shalott” escapade, while executing a dashing rescue. In this video, a young Crombie explains that the moment Anne breaks a slate over Gilbert’s head is the moment he starts growing up.

For girls my age, that was an important moment, too. The “Anne” series let us dream about adolescence while holding on to childhood. The world of Avonlea—Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, the apple blossoms and the knickers and caps, dance cards, hay rides, Gilbert’s patient and steadfast heart—was gentler than what we might have imagined about adolescence. It wasn’t “The Breakfast Club,” and that was, on some secret level, very exciting—a last moment of being able to enjoy gentler childhood ideals. “Anne of Green Gables” appealed to those impulses without condescending to us. It wasn’t exactly cool. It had no edge. You didn’t want to race into school and announce that you were obsessed with “Anne of Green Gables.” But, to your bosom friend, you could discuss its many joys to your heart’s content.

And Gilbert Blythe, because he was the romantic ideal and a feminist, in his way—always respecting Anne’s intellect and ambitions, competing with her and admiring her academically—was an encouraging example of what teenagerdom and a loving gaze might have in store. Here he is calling her “Carrots” and getting his just desserts.

Bless this BuzzFeed contributor. Here are all the best gifs from the films. I was FINE until Gil walks away into the mist.

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