Jonathan Crombie, Anne of Green Gables actor, dead at 48

Jonathan Crombie, the actor known for his role as Gilbert Blythe in Anne of Green Gables and the son of former Toronto mayor David Crombie, has died.

Actor best known for playing Gilbert Blythe in TV movies, also played lead in The Drowsy Chaperone

A 20-year-old Jonathan Crombie talks about his big break

8 years ago
Duration 2:04
1986 CBC show What's New takes a look at Anne of Green Gables acting sensation

Jonathan Crombie, who played Gilbert Blythe in the Anne of Green Gables movies, has died at the age of 48.

He was also the son of David Crombie, who was mayor of Toronto from 1972 to 1978 and served as a federal Progressive Conservative cabinet minister in the 1980s.

The actor's sister, Carrie Crombie, told CBC News on Saturday that her brother suffered a brain hemorrhage and died in New York City on April 15.

"He was funny, he was sweet, he loved acting, he loved comedy and singing and dancing," she said. "As a little kid, he just loved Broadway shows and all of that kind of stuff and would sing and dance in the living room."

Answered to the name Gil

Jonathan Crombie will be best remembered for his role in the CBC TV movie Anne of Green Gables in 1984 and its two sequels in 1987 and 2000.

Carrie Crombie said her brother never shied away from the fame that came along with playing the role of Gilbert Blythe, and happily answered to the name Gil when recognized by fans on the street.

I think he was really proud of being Gilbert Blythe ... he really enjoyed that series and was happy, very proud of it.- Carrie Crombie

"I think he was really proud of being Gilbert Blythe and was happy to answer any questions ... he really enjoyed that series and was happy, very proud of it — we all were," she said.

"[But] I think his proudest part was when he played the lead in Drowsy Chaperone on Broadway. That was just an amazing thing for him to be able to do."

Crombie's co-star and onscreen love interest Megan Follows, who played Anne Shirley in the movies, said his unexpected loss was "a big shock."
Jonathan Crombie is best known for playing heartthrob Gilbert Blythe in the Anne of Green Gables TV movies. In this photo from Sullivan Entertainment, Blythe tugs on Anne Shirley's braids. (Sullivan Entertainment)

"He was incredibly funny, Jonathan just had an amazing sense of humour," she said.

"Truly I just remember at times just laughing so hard that you'd just be crying. He was so playful and silly and as I said really bright, so his humour was always informed with that, which made him even funnier."

Follows called Crombie a "sweetheart" and said a lot of the chemistry onscreen was natural during the filming of the movies.

"He had that beautiful face. He was a lot of fun he was very open so you just felt he was someone who really wanted to play and it really was a new experience for him," she said, adding that the project was one of Crombie's first.

"We were all just in it to do the best that we could and we had a lot of fun."

'A devastating tragedy'

Anne of Green Gables producer Kevin Sullivan said Crombie and the on-screen character he came to embody were actually pretty similar.

Jonathan was as generous, as kind, as sensitive and as ambitious, in some ways, as the character he came to be identified with.— Kevin Sullivan, producer

"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," Sullivan said.

"I think there will be hundreds of people who will be floored that this has happened. It's such a devastating tragedy. In reality, Jonathan was as generous, as kind, as sensitive and as ambitious, in some ways, as the character he came to be identified with."

'Kinda quirky'

Jonathan Crombie also performed with a sketch comedy troupe featured in the Canadian TV series Comedy Now! in 1998. Carrie Crombie said her brother was incredibly passionate about improv and sketch comedy.
Jonathan Crombie, seen in this photo from imbd.com, was born on Oct. 12, 1966, in Toronto. He was also known as a sketch and improv actor. (imdb.com)

"John was funny. He was kinda quirky in some ways," she said.

"Like he would only take the bus back and forth from Toronto to New York. And, to be honest, that's how we are going to be bringing him back. We felt that it was an ode to Jonathan. He would never go on a plane, so we're going to make the trek from New York to Toronto on a bus with his ashes."

Crombie said her brother just didn't feel it necessary to spend the money required to make the journey by plane.

"He always seemed to attract interesting people on buses. He always had great stories about characters on buses, so we always had fun listening to his impersonations."

Carrie Crombie said she didn't think her brother had any major health issues, and was committed to staying healthy. She said his organs have been donated, which is something he would have been proud of. 

She said a "huge, wonderful celebration of life" will be held in his honour some time in the coming weeks.


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