Great Performances – Colleen Dewhurst, Richard Farnsworth, Megan Follows

There are a lot of movies that I would never have seen if I didn’t have a daughter that I’m really glad I had the chance to see.

Matilda, of course, everyone should see that movie — the combined brilliance of Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman and Roald Dahl. My Girl, in which Dan Akroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis show that they are not just serious actors, but brilliant actors.

When I worked for Yankee Candle they had a great guy who did Santa. (The weasels have fired him, of course.) Whenever I saw him, any time of year, I’d say, “Santa I’ve been real good and all I’m asking for is… Jamis Lee Curtis.”

But the movie Sarah and I enjoyed most of all was Anne of Green Gables. Megan Follows — Megan, please email me, it’s urgent — Colleen Dewhurst, Richard Farnsworth, what more could I possibly say?

These are the best actors I’ve ever seen, and the cinematography, and the scholarship — this movie had a Disney budget and they put it to good use.

When Anne and Matthew drive through the cherry orchard, you get these incredible scenic shots of intoxicating beauty, spectacular Prince Edward Island landscapes. And they do it for all four seasons of the year.

On top of that you have the scenes in the kitchen and the laundry and the barn and the general store where you see the implements that turn up in antique stores being used when they were new.

You see the different kinds of conveyances, the buggies and the coaches and the wagons and the sleighs, with all the tack and harness.

But back to those performances. Collen Dewhurst, the voice of Satan in Exorcist Three, and Richard Farnsworth, a Hollywood stuntman for 40 years, play Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert.
Matthew has never been married because he is too shy to speak to a girl and Marilla quarreled with a beau and never made up.

They have lived together for forty years and they’re getting along in years and they ask an orphanage to send them a boy who can help out on the farm.

By accident the orphanage sends a girl, Anne Shirley. When Matthew picks her up in the buggy at the train station, he sees that there’s been a mistake, but as they drive in his buggy through the cherry orchards and she chatters incessantly, he falls in love, but you need to look carefully to see it.

His sister Marilla, when she learns of the mistake, wants to send Anne back to the orphanage, but serendipitous circumstances begin to turn her around and she agrees to a probationary period. Then, when Anne gets mad at a boy at school and breaks her chalkboard over his head, you see this flicker of satisfaction cross Marilla’s face (a particularly beautiful bit of acting without words) and you know Anne is home free.

“Did you hit him hard?” Marilla asks.

“Very hard, I’m afraid,” Anne replies sorrowfully.

Turns out it’s the son of Marilla’s old beau, but never mind about that. The acting in this movie is brilliant from beginning to end and from top to bottom. The character actors are brilliant, too, the nosey neighbor and the shop girl and the school teacher and everyone else.

Matthew works hard to convince Marilla to adopt Anne and they make a deal that she will if he agrees not to interfere in Anne’s upbringing. Marilla says she doesn’t know much about raising children, but she knows a lot more than an old bachelor like him.

Later, Anne saves a neighbor’s baby by the judicious application of ipecac — so the doctor, who comes later, declares.

Matthew is driving her home in that same buggy and Anne falls asleep on his shoulder and you look at his face and it is the picture of sublime satisfaction, such as any person on earth might aspire to, and he says, “Giddap!”

Farnsworth and Dewhurst do many many scenes where they say next to nothing and just exchange these telling looks, as people will when they’ve lived together a long time.

After Anne saves the Barry baby, the Barrys want to give a party in her honor, but Marilla won’t allow Anne to go, theorizing that she might become “overheated.”

Matthew reads his paper and rocks in his chair and finally, at just the right moment, he speaks up loud and clear for the first time in his life. “Marilla,” he says, “you got no cause to raise her as cheerless as we was. You ought to let her go.”

Then he sits back in his rocking chair, puffs his pipe and says, “T’ain’t interferin’ to have an opinion.”