There are a couple of things I always wonder about when a famous person dies. One is whether his or her family or close friends feel resentful of the viewing public horning in on their grief, or if it is, in fact, sort of comforting to have what feels like the whole world mourning with you, rather than having it move on blithely unaware of your loss, as often happens with us common folk. The other thing is, if the actor has been inextricably bound up with the persona of one particular role, is it grating to have people mourning that character instead of your actual friend or family member?
I guess Jonathan Crombie‘s family would be able to answer both of those questions right now.
There was a lot of “he was totally my first crush” — “wasn’t he everyone’s first crush?” on Facebook this week. I scanned my bookshelves and came away aghast that I didn’t have a copy of Anne of Green Gables OR Anne of Avonlea, and I’m sure my memory is not only spotty, but also confused between the books and the movies, but there are SO MANY reasons he was the perfect man:
He says being smart is better than being good-looking (“Diana Barry: ‘She’s jealous of you. Gilbert told Charlie Sloan that you’re the smartest girl in school right in front of Josie.’ Anne Shirley: ‘He did?’ Diana Barry: ‘He told Charlie that being smart was better than being good-looking.’)
After he calls her Carrots and she breaks a slate over his head, he takes responsibility for provoking her. Then he apologizes and says “Don’t be mad at me for keeps”. Don’t be mad at me for keeps! So sweet!
When she’s stuck in the river HE ROWS UP IN A BOAT AND RESCUES HER.
He’s genuinely concerned for her safety when she’s walking the ridgepole of the roof at Moody Spurgeon’s farm.
He lets her get the last word in.
He’s held back in school because his father was ill and he was helping out at home.
He could really rock a vest and tie with a beret – AND a pair of overalls.
He’s smart but he doesn’t mind when she’s smarter.
He gives up his position at the Avonlea School so Anne can stay with Marilla after Matthew dies (that’s a whole other heartbroken post).
He’s that sweet, smart, dependable boy that so many girls overlook because they want a brooding bad boy, until they grow up and realize that brooding bad boys are only good for a motorcycle ride or two (stolen horse ride?) and they never get a good job and you can’t pay the milk man with brooding good looks and Romantic poetry, so you give your head a shake and marry Gilbert Blythe if you’re lucky enough to find out that he’s waited for you.
I love that Jonathan Crombie was discovered in a high school play and when he played Gilbert Blythe for the first time he actually WAS seventeen. I love that he only took the bus back and forth from New York to Toronto, and that’s how his family is bringing him home. I love that even though he went on to act on Broadway he would still answer to the name Gil on the streets, and that he wasn’t like those musicians who start to hate the song who made them famous. By all accounts, Crombie was as sweet, intelligent and funny in real life as Gilbert Blythe himself. I hate that he died so young – when the books end, it is 1919 and Gilbert is fifty-five and still happily married to his childhood sweetheart. How is it possible that Jonathan Crombie didn’t get at least that many years?
This is the comment I found on one of the Gilbert Blythe fan message boards: “Hey I found Gilbert on Facebook, but his real name in real life is Jonathan Crombie, I found him on Facebook and his network is Toronto, ON. But you can’t add him, it says on the side you can only send him messages only, no looking at his friends, or poking him, or adding him, Just send him a message only, look for him, I found him.”
There are worse things for a man to be than synonymous with someone like Gilbert Blythe. I’m sad for all of us, but sadder for the people who lost Jonathan Crombie in real life.