The Secret Garden Reviews
A young child is sent from a far country to live with a relative in a gloomy old aristocratic pile. But there are dark mysteries concerning both the estate and the relative. In the course of solving them, the child brings a new understanding to both herself and her relative.
From this outline of the story of The Secret Garden, it should be clear how similar it is to the better known book and film Little Lord Fauntleroy. Both are based on the immensely popular 19th century young people's books by British-American author Frances Hodgson Burnett, and both have been the subject of numerous theatrical, film, and television versions. Of the half dozen or so film/tv treatments, many feel that this 1949 version with Margaret O'Brien, Herbert Marshall, Dean Stockwell, and Elsa Lanchester is the best. The acting is very good to excellent, and the atmosphere of the old house with its ruined garden effectively conveyed. The screenplay is co-authored by Robert Ardrey, who later became well known as a popular science author for such works as African Genesis. An interesting feature of the film from a cinematic viewpoint is the sudden switch from black and white to color (as was done famously in The Wizard of Oz) to highlight the happier scenes.
Though the film, like the book, is ostensibly for young people, it's one that can equally be enjoyed by adults. Of course it's sentimental, but this is the type of film where the sentimentality is the whole point: viewers who dislike sentimentality shouldn't be watching it.
The Warner Archive standard DVD is of good quality.
The story of a girl who is sent to live with her uncle on his estate when her parents die. There she discovers much intrigue, family history and secrets and personal baggage. In particular, a screaming child and...a secret garden.
Incredibly engaging and enchanting story. The three kids who form the main characters are quite sweet and the interaction between the three is fantastic.
Add in an air of mystery and some cute and/or funny moments (look out for the goat, fox and raven...) and you have a movie where every moment is a joy to watch.
The whole thing feels like a Rudyard Kipling novel (and I was surprised this wasn't based on a novel of his - India even features in the background story), with a smidgen of Edgar Allan Poe thrown in.
Excellent performance by Margaret O'Brien as Mary. 12-year Dean Stockwell (whom I did not recognise for a moment) and Brian Roper are also great as the two other kids.
The presence of Elsa Lanchaster tells you this is a great movie - she has the golden touch in terms of acting in classics (especially in supporting roles). She puts in a good performance here too.
Great work by a raven in an uncredited role.
That one is the best in my opinionated opinion.