While The Secret Garden has been filmed before, this is the loveliest adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel about a young girl in the 1900s, raised in India, who is sent to England when her parents die. Mary (Maberly) goes to live with her brooding uncle, Lord Craven (John Lynch), at his depressing manor house, and once there she befriends his crippled son Colin (Prowse) and Dickon (Andrew Knott), the young brother of one of the housemaids, who helps her restore a garden she has discovered while exploring the grounds – the first step in her dream of creating a happy family.
Fans of the novel may be disappointed that the text has not been followed too closely, but, taken simply as a serious drama for girls, this is very charming, with unaffected performances from the children, a deliciously scolding one from Maggie Smith as the housekeeper and, even in the gloomy bits, lovely English scenery (scenes were filmed at both Eton and Harrow schools, and also at Fountains Abbey and Allerton Park in North Yorkshire).
Is The Secret Garden suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
The movie has dark moments – Lord Craven and his house are quite creepy, too – but any child old enough to have tried the book will love it.