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When cholera takes the parents of Mary Lennox, she is shipped from India to England to live with her Uncle Craven. Archibald Craven's house is dark and drafty, with over 100 rooms built on the edge of the moors. Mary finds that her Uncle does not wish to see her, which is fine with Mary as she herself is rude and spoiled. While walking the gardens the next day, Mary notices that there is a area in the garden surrounded with a high stone wall and no doorway. Dickon, brother of a housemaid, tells her of the garden behind the wall. By the path, the raven unearths the hidden key so that Mary and Dickon are able to enter the walled garden to find it overgrown and neglected. Inside the house, she finds that Archibald has a son named Colin, who is crippled and as spoiled as she. Together these three work to make the secret garden their own world. Written by
Tony Fontana <email@example.com>
Though a noteworthy MGM adaptation of the acclaimed 1909 childhood tale by Frances Hodgson Burnett, this film, complete with three Technicolor sequences, failed to garner a contemporary New York Times review. See more »
Elspeth Dudgeon who played Susan Sowerby was 78 years old, she would therefore have been well into her 60's when she gave birth to Dickon. See more »
My brother Dickon will be coming up to see thee.
Aye, thou'll like Dickon. What a one he is for growing things and the animals. Half lives on it, he does, almost like an animal himself.
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No screen credit is given for the Technicolor sequences. See more »
A strange little girl finds peace for her troubled heart after confronting the mystery of THE SECRET GARDEN.
Based on the classic novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, this family film is a perennial favorite, in no whit dimmed by more recent, flashier versions. The excellent production values by MGM allow the viewer to experience the weird atmosphere of Misselthwaite Manor and the joyous fecundity of the Garden.
The movie can be enjoyed for the plot alone, but there are other, deeper, levels which can be appreciated as well. Most of the main characters are desperately unhappy when the film begins, but the spontaneous love of life exhibited by the Sowerby family - which leads directly to the discovery of the Garden - ultimately brings about the redemption of several (but not all) of the others. This Joy is not altogether of our world. If the viewer senses the unseen Presence of Something Bright & Beautiful in the Garden, so be it.
The film's main drawback - and this is a small quibble - is the intent to increase tension by adding a possible murder mystery to the plot (How did Colin's mother really die? Did Archibald Craven kill her?). This is quite unnecessary, the story has enough conflict already. But the desire to add additional menace to the Dark Old House theme probably proved irresistible - as well as giving the excellent British actor, Herbert Marshall, more dramatic gristle on which to chew.
The plot revolves, as it should, around the experiences of three children, each peculiar in their own way. Margaret O'Brien, Dean Stockwell & Brian Roper flesh out their roles most agreeably. The adult roles are so well cast that one tends to forget that they are mostly caricatures: Dame Gladys Cooper as the wicked, frustrated housekeeper; Elsa Lanchester as the irrepressibly happy maid; dour Reginald Owen as the elemental gardener. Even the small cameo performances sparkle: Billy Bevan as an overheated British soldier in India; Dennis Hoey as Marshall's stern valet; Aubrey Mather & George Zucco as young Stockwell's doctors; and Norma Varden as his wise nurse.
Movie mavens should recognize Elspeth Dudgeon in the tiny role of Dickon's mother & the wonderful Marni Nixon as the dubbed singing voice of Miss O'Brien - both uncredited.
The film makes very judicious use of Technicolor to heighten appreciation of the distinctive nature of the Garden.
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