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Morgan Chapman: Minnie May Barry

Adriana Pacheco

The scene in the second half of Anne of Green Gables where Anne valiantly runs to the rescue and skillfully administers the ipecac to an ailing Minnie May Barry is truly memorable. Perhaps most of all for the performance of the young girl playing Minnie May. Watching the scene, you would truly believe that she is in the throws of a deathly fever.

The young Minnie May was played by Kevin Sullivan’s then five-year-old niece, Morgan Chapman in both Anne of Green Gables and its sequel Anne of Green Gables The Sequel (Anne of Avonlea) and as Kevin Sullivan recalls, the shooting of the Ipecac scene in Anne of Green Gables was not without challenges.

“It was a sweltering day in June. We were shooting on location at an 1850’s building in Scarborough ON called Cornell House. Because it was a very small kitchen and a crew of over 60, little Morgan had to be 'given up' by her parents (who hovered on the periphery of the crowd) to the organized unit shooting in this very small, hotly lit kitchen. She began to cry and her Mom had to come in to console her every once in awhile. But because I was her uncle her Mom felt comfortable having me take over. In fact, it actually made things much worse when her mother or father actually appeared.”

For almost three hours, while the scene was being filmed, the little girl was comforted and assured everything would be fine, but being five years old, would have none of it.

“She cried as if in anguish and choked back tears through numerous takes until she finally settled down for the end of the scene (and got kind of sleepy); which helped make the notion of the ipecac taking effect quite believable,” Sullivan further recalled.
“Morgan has been celebrated her entire life for a brilliant performance. When it was all done, she was happy to enjoy popsicles and wasn’t phased by any of it. In fact, we shot the scene with Mrs. Barry asking Anne to forgive her in the Barry parlor immediately afterwards. The storm was all over, and she was sunny and delightful for that scene. With a sweet smile.”

In 1987, Morgan reprised the role of Minnie May in Anne of Green Gables The Sequel (Anne of Avonlea). This time, her brother Fraser also made an appearance, as Tommy Bell, one of the children in Anne’s class, who along with the character of Anthony Pye locks Minnie May in the outhouse. The scene called for Minnie May to cry in her desperation to get out of the outhouse. Kevin Sullivan recalls that it was hard to convince Morgan that she needed to cry, as she was having a good time filming the scene and was laughing. To get her to cry and convey the anguish Minnie May was feeling, her brother Fraser pinched her hard causing her to begin to cry and making the anger and frustration Minnie May feels in that moment genuine for the scene.

Sullivan also recalls that when it came to filming the scene toward the end of the film, when Anne comes to see Diana’s baby, and Minnie May lets slip that Gilbert is severely ill, Morgan had some objections about how her hair was to be done.

“She didn’t like how her hair had to be put in ringlets for the last scene, but Martha Mann convinced her to do it, as it was part of her vision for the costumes in the scene.”

There may have been some challenges along the way, but its safe to say that Morgan Chapman delivered a believable and memorable performance in both Anne of Green Gables films!

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