It's one of those passings that hits you particularly hard. Actor Jonathan Crombie, best known as the embodiment of Gilbert Blythe in the Anne of Green Gables miniseries from the 1980s, passed away April 15 at age 48 from a brain hemorrhage. As always, the saddest part of grief is realizing just how how much you loved someone who departed.
To those of us who are a certain age (and probably a generation forward and back of that) who grew up on Anne in the beloved Kevin Sullivan TV miniseries, this man was Gilbert Blythe.
Anne of Green Gables and its sequels are pieces of work that stand as classics, and are a world-class telling of a completely Canadian story (all that snow when Diana’s sister has croup!) and at the heart of the productions is the evolving relationship between Anne and Gilbert.
Oh, Gilbert. (Apologies to the Gilberts of the world, but has a “Gilbert” or even a “Gil” ever been handsome and mischievous in anything else? Ever?) Millions of Canadian tweens (and their mothers) giggled and sighed at how blind Anne was to your somewhat obvious affections, and would have very happily allowed Gilbert, in the form of Crombie, to tug our braids and call us “Carrots."
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Crombie lent his talents to other fare such as Comedy Now! and The Secret World of Benjamin Bear (voice of Benjamin Bear), and I would always watch for his name in the credits as I watched that bear with my children - a bit like watching for the name of an old friend.
Many a Canadian girl in 1985 went to sleep dreaming of that particular Gilbert Blythe. He was a first “boyfriend” for an entire country. By many accounts, Crombie embraced his iconic role and was still kind enough, well into his forties, to smile and wave when fans yelled “Gilbert!” to him on the street 30 years after that production wrapped. This is the type of fellow we will all surely miss. If he didn’t know it the day he put on the newsboy cap and stepped on set, he surely knew nearly every day after just how very much we loved him.