Secret Orchards (1979)

A film based on the life of Roger Ackerley, the Fyffes' banana king.


Richard Loncraine


William Trevor


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Credited cast:
Freddie Jones ... Roger Ackerley / Uncle Bodger
Judy Parfitt ... Muriel Perry
Joseph Blatchley Joseph Blatchley ... Joe Ackerley
Sophie Thompson ... Diana / Shrimpy
Phoebe Nicholls ... Stella
Suzanne Burden Suzanne Burden ... Helen
Noel Dyson ... Netta Ackerley
Garry Cooper ... Waiter on train
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Barbara Atkinson Barbara Atkinson ... Miss Buss
Antony Carrick ... Fowler (as Anthony Carrick)
Ellis Dale Ellis Dale ... Doctor Wadd
Yvonne Edgell Yvonne Edgell ... Ellen
Jean Faulds Jean Faulds ... Mrs. Woods
Faith Kent Faith Kent ... Stella
John Kidd ... Avery


The true story of successful and respectable Edwardian businessman Roger Ackerley, who managed to conceal the existence of a secret love and the three daughters she bore, from his society wife and remaining children. Known to the daughters only as 'Uncle Bodger', they remained unaware he was their father until after his death. The film also covers the impact on them of their improvised upbringing - their mother was frequently absent - and the social irony of his closet homosexual son, Joe struggling to unburden his truth onto his reluctant, outwardly respectable father. Joe became the eminent author J R Ackerley on whose book, My Father And Myself, the film is partially based, along with The Secret Orchard Of Roger Ackerley by Diana Petre, one of Roger's 'illegitimate' daughters. Written by Paul Ackerley

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Company Credits

Production Co:

Granada Television See more »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Complex material intelligently realised through fine ensemble acting, writing and direction. An under-appreciated period drama gem.
28 August 2004 | by paul-ackerleySee all my reviews

This Edwardian-set period piece has been intelligently realised through fine ensemble acting, writing and direction. Written for the screen by the acclaimed William Trevor, he has shown good judgement in selection of material from its two source books, constructing a single powerful narrative that respects both author's dislike of sentimentality and valuing Joe's fondness for historical accuracy and economy of language. Richard Loncraine directs with restraint and subtlety while every member of the ensemble cast delivers beautifully understated performances. Freddy Francis and Judy Parfitt in particular.

It therefore remains a surprise that this has lain unappreciated for many years. It is the companion to 'We Think The World Of You', with Alan Bates and Gary Oldman, the other J.R.Ackerley piece to be filmed and is reminiscent of the excellent TV adaptation of Jeanette Winterson's 'Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit'. Both of these still enjoy distribution, while Secret Orchards does not. On the strength of the evidence, it can only be because, sadly, Secret Orchards is no longer considered a commercial proposition. If however you do find a copy, see it!

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