The Boy Next Door: Jonathan Crombie (1966-2015)


You may be wondering why we hadn’t yet mentioned Jonathan Crombie‘s untimely death last week. Truth be told, none of us here at Frock Flicks were huge Anne of Green Gables fans, either in the book form or the television series from the ’80s that aired when 2/3rds of us were in high school (the 1/3rd of us in college was too cool for that shit). However, as the one Frock Flicker on the team who was least “meh” about the books/show, it falls to me to say something about Crombie’s most well-known role, the literal boy next door, Gilbert Blythe.

Gilbert grows from yanking Anne’s pigtails in school to yanking her chain as her suitor and later, down the road, her husband. Gilbert, who was a pest as a kid, but who realized after a few years that he had a good thing going in the little red-headed girl with an overdeveloped sense of righteousness and liked her for her brains. Didn’t hurt that Crombie was hella cute in the TV show, did it?

Anne of Green Gables 1985

Totally into it.

Reflecting on the series that brought Crombie to my attention, I can’t deny that I related to Anne’s frustration with Gilbert. Having been the target of my own Gilbert for a few years, I was pleased that Anne took matters into her own hands and cracked him over the head with her slate after the pigtail incident. I wished we had slates so I could whack the boy who tormented me every day in class upside the head. Alas. Also, something told me that my tormentor was not going to transform into a handsome, sophisticated feminist who loved me for my mind.

1985 Anne of Green Gables

Hey, baby, how about I pull your pigtails?

And that’s always what annoyed me about Anne of Green Gables and the character of Gilbert, in particular. It was too pat, too clean, too fairy tale. I’m not saying that as a 13-year-old girl I wanted gritty realism, but I think I wanted Gilbert to be less perfect. I also kind of secretly suspected that Anne and Diana were totes in love and making out behind the woodshed when no-one was looking. There was way more chemistry between them than there was between Anne and Gilbert.

1985 Anne of Green Gables


But hey, this is the heteronormative 1890s, so obvs they’re just BFFs, rite? Diana goes off and gets married, and then Anne follows suit and marries Gilbert, and everyone lives happily ever after, has babies, fights some wars, gets college degrees … Not necessarily in that order, of course. Still, come on, you know the real romance here was the love that dare not speak its name.

Anyway, back to Gilbert.

2000 Anne of Green Gables- The Continuing Story

Mmm. Pinstripes. So … straight.

Crombie certainly fit the Gilbert mold. He was tall, dark, handsome, yet sincere. Kind of the quintessential all-Canadian boy who, unlike those pesky American boys I grew up with, was unaffected and sweet, even when being a dick. There was no real edge to him, no dark, brooding, mysterious soul, and in a way, I think this confused me a lot as a kid, because I knew exactly no-one like this at the time. Boys were jerks. If they were nice to you, it was surely a trap to lure you in and then embarrass you in front of your peers. Not Gilbert … He realized that Anne was the girl for him as soon as she smacked him with the slate.


Oh, if only it was that easy!


Did you watch Anne of Green Gables? Share your memories of  Jonathan Crombie!


About the author

Sarah Lorraine

Sarah has an undergraduate degree in Clothing & Textile Design and a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture, with an emphasis on fashion history. When she’s not caught in paralyzing existential dread, she's drinking craft cocktails and writing about historical costume in film and television. She's been pissing people off on the internet since 1995.

5 Responses

  1. Sarah F

    I adored Anne Of Green Gables as a girl. As a child with a profoundly over-active imagination and sense of theatricality, I identified with her in many ways. Some parts feel a little rose-tinted watching it now as an adult, but it still brings back so many memories that I can’t help but love it.
    When I first saw the film, I had no interest in the romance aspect. I just wanted Anne to win at everything and maybe slap Josie Pye right in her prissy face. But when I hit my teens, suddenly Gilbert transformed. I think what made him so dreamy in my eyes was that he was a guy who saw an odd, opinionated, and accident prone girl, and thought ‘That’s the one for me!’ Gilbert was a cute boy who preferred smart, unique girls- a mythical creature during my youth.
    The later films I think I saw once each during my early 20s, but I have almost no memory of them. Didn’t she steal an orphan from some nuns or something?
    Occasionally when I’m depressed I gather some comfort food and a cute teacup, and watch the original film. It always makes me feel content with the world.
    Except for when Mathew dies. I fast-forward through that part.

  2. Al

    I didn’t read the books until I was 30+, so I just found them depressing. The Gilbert thing bugged me, too. I was SO bullied in school but my bullies grew up to be jerk adults with drug problems, not handsome fellas who would bend over backwards for a girl…

    • Al

      But maybe it’s so rosy and sweet because the author had a HORRIBLE life? Can’t blame her for wanting to pretend fairy tale romances happened.

  3. misat0

    I loooved Anne of Green Gables, that played here as a TV series in the 90’s and Megan Follows will always be Anne for me. After that I bought the books and loved them even more. Honestly I don’t care if Gilbert was too dreamy to be true, although maybe the boys in Europe weren’t so much jerks as across the pond, but it’s a shame to hear about Crombie’s death… he surely was cute!

  4. Stephani

    Anne of Green Gables was my first childhood love (well, next to Black Beauty and The Black Stallion), and Gilbert was so dreamy… Handsome, kind–except for the teasing, but he changed his tune pretty quickly; funny what kids will do to get attention–prefers the smart, imaginative outsider to anyone else. Why wouldn’t you love Gilbert?! He was the ideal boy friend and boyfriend. A unicorn of sorts, it’s true, but what’s wrong with a little rosy-colored dreaming?
    It’s so sad that Jonathan Crombie has died. No matter what other films he did in his career, he’ll always be Gilbert Blythe to me.


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