Well, having seen the movie with Megan Follows prior to reading the books, and then later seeing the other, older versions of the movies (the one that perplexes me most is the one starring Anne Shirley from 1934. Now, it's been a long time since I've read the book, so I can't remember when it was written, but I am curious, does anyone know if this was the real Anne Shirley, or just a coincidence that she shared the same name?) and in some of them I think that Megan Follows was definitely better, but in the 1934 version, I really liked Anne Shirley as Anne Shirley. God I wish I could get some clarification on that confusion! It's driving me up a wall!
Anyway, I have to disagree with you Marybl. I just adored Megan Follows as Anne Shirley, and she remains embedded as Anne to me, and always will. When I read and re-read the books, it's her face and voice that I see and hear, just as I see and hear Colleen Dewhurst (PERFECTLY cast as Marilla), and Richard (sorry, don't know his last name) as Matthew.
That's the version I grew up with, so that's who I always think of when I think of Anne of Green Gables.
I believe Anne Shirley changed her name to Anne Shirley because of her love for the character of Anne Shirley.
I suppose we should just be glad she didn't change her name to Marilla Cuthbert. That would be somewhat confusing.
Anne Shirley is a made up character, Avonlea is a made up town. The book was published in 1908, but it is set much earlier. Annes children are old enough to go to war in the First World War, so it's set around mid-1870s? The movie in question sets it closer to the turn of the century though.
LM Montgomery loved PEI, and she grew up in Cavendish with her Grandparents. The farm house there is said to be the basis for Green Gables, and the town for Avonlea. Nearly all of her stories are set on PEI, and she had a love for portraying the relationship between children and elderly people.
Anyway, there is no Anne, or any other character in real life, especially of the right age in the thirties :)