User Reviews (42)

  • Ron Oliver17 March 2002
    Come Play In This Garden
    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.
  • Eric Chapman9 April 2001
    A Forgotten Classic
    Going in I was not familiar with the enormously popular children's book upon which it was based, but I have to believe the folks behind this version did a wonderful job condensing the material and preserving all the elements which helped make the book such a success. It's even a little hard to believe it was derived from a book targeted at children as the film deals with some fairly mature subject matter and has rather an adult, realistic edge. It's very impressive, certainly a meticulously crafted, heartfelt production that builds nicely to a moving conclusion. (Plus, the scenes shot in color are breathtaking.) The very visual director, Fred Wilcox, is remarkably adept at establishing mood and atmosphere through the ominous use of sets and lighting. Margaret O'Brien (repeatedly and inaccurately told in the movie how unattractive she is) who was soon to kiss childhood and stardom goodbye, is given a great part to play and is extremely appealing. (As is a very young Dean Stockwell, playing a difficult character who all too easily could've been unsympathetic.)

    Also, I have to quarrel with the other post, where someone asserts that the movie is badly dated. Quite the contrary, the story zips along at a refreshingly swift pace and never lags. The movie should hardly be faulted (and in fact should be commended) for not having flashy MTV style edits every five seconds or a bombastic score. It's a very rewarding experience for both children and adults alike.
  • Ripshin28 November 2004
    MGM at its classic best
    Wonderful performances, and beautiful set design, make this film a definite must-see. No studio could match MGM's lush approach, and the stylized sets seen in "The Secret Garden" bring the script alive, in a fashion no "location" filming could have accomplished.

    Utilizing a "partial" Technicolor application seen in "The Wizard of Oz" and "The Women," MGM manages to provide an emotional punch when it is most needed.

    O'Brien is perfect in the lead, and minor supporting roles are cast to perfection.

    A few of the scenes are surprisingly creepy.

    Although, today, the film is labeled as "family," it can be surprisingly harsh, with none of the treacle that sinks many a movie intended for a general audience.
  • Randy Rodman10 April 2001
    If only I had a secret garden...
    This film's sweet imagery and quiet pace made me long for my own secret garden. It's hard to imagine there ever was a time when people could live in this sort of peaceful solitude, with no telephones, radios or any of modern life's other annoying distractions. I strongly recommend this movie for anyone who needs a brief respite from their hectic life. It will serve as a much needed reminder of the joys of a simpler time, whether that time ever really existed or not. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to check on available cottage rentals on the moors.

    P.S. While this film was originally intended for children, I doubt that any but the brightest and most thoughtful of today's kids will enjoy it, due to it's slow, deliberate pacing and complete lack of comic-book action, though the tantrum scene between Margaret O'Brien and Dean Stockwell will probably grab their attention.
  • garnetdragonsue25 December 2006
    Wonderful story
    The Secret Garden was a wonderful story with really great characters. I just saw this one yesterday morning for the first time. Was interested as it listed Dean Stockwell in it and I have enjoyed many things he has done as an adult actor. Especially the character he played in Quantum Leap. I did not realize he played one of the children until the end of the movie and was just blown away. I loved him as Colin Craven. I just did not have a clue that was him. It's amazing how evident his talent shows through at such a young age. And all the others in the film portrayed their characters just as wonderfully as he. This is definitely a movie people of all ages can enjoy.
  • 9/10
    A classic!
    This is a movie I never tire of seeing. Margaret O'Brien is just about perfect in the part of Mary Lennox, an orphan who finds herself in a house full of strange people.

    Along the way she finds love in friendship, a love that was never shown to her by her parents.

    The book on which this film is based by Frances Hodgson Burnett, was my favourite book as a child and I've given many copies to children over the years. This movie is quite a perfect replica of the book, apart from the injection of a totally unnecessary "crime" element. The characters are multi-dimensional, a wounded father flailing against the world and projecting illness on to his son. The son, Colin, played by a very young and handsome Dean Stockwell, in turn reacting with tantrums and hate to the world around him.

    Mary has her own issues, feeling ugly and unloved due to her past in India.

    Unhappiness reigns in the Manor House headed up by Herbert Marshall playing Colin's father - a brilliant performance.

    There is a teeming cast of well known names to add to the flavour of the film: Dame Gladys Cooper as the housekeeper; Elsa Lanchester as the maid; Reginald Owen as the mysterious gardener.

    The black and white filming adds a morbid darkness with the colour sequences in the garden contrasting beautifully.

    The only flaw was the settish nature of the scenes, even the gardens are "back lot".

    But these quibbles aside, some movies one can get immersed in afresh with each viewing. This is one that takes you in and doesn't let up till the final very satisfying frame.

    9 out of 10.
  • waia20008 April 2001
    Remarkably lovely
    This is an excellent adaptation of the famous children's book by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Margaret O'Brien shines as Mary Lennox, a British girl orphaned in India and sent to live with her nearest relative, a gruff reclusive uncle (Herbert Marshall). A very young Dean Stockwell is quite good as Mary's cousin Colin. The interaction between these children and a third, a local boy named Dickon (Brian Roper) is handled well. The story, told in a straightforward manner is warm and touching, with a number of humorous moments. Highly recommended.
  • jpostove23 July 2005
    Rent This Film!
    If you're into life metaphors, or you would just like to see a wonderfully life affirming film, rent "The Secret Garden" with Margaret O'Brien, Herbert Marshall, Dean Stockwell, and a marvelous supporting cast.

    The book (which I understood was a "girls" book when growing up) and the film have escaped me all these years, until today when I watched it via television off of the Turner Classic Movies screen.

    It is fable, metaphor and dark tale all wrapped up into a story that promises tears and heart thumping wonderment that truth can be told. This film fulfills a contract with the viewer that while life may seem to be all falsehood, lies and deceit, that is not so. It is verity that courses through the veins and sometimes it is only a secret undone, or a truth revealed that can redeem life and restore happiness.
  • jvwas5 March 2002
    A movie unequaled in excellence
    I saw this movie as a little girl almost Margaret's age. The impact of this delightful and moving performance forever remains in my memory. It has been unequaled by other Secret Garden performances...not even coming close! Margaret O'Brien needs to be invited to appear on talk shows, Larry King Live, to give us a chance to see her again.
  • bkoganbing14 May 2009
    How Does Your Garden Grow?
    It looks like there have been a gazillion version of Frances Hodgson Burnett's popular novel for children made. This one apparently is the most popular, the one most people will remember.

    It's a wonderful allegorical tale about how one has to give in life in order to receive. It also is about the maturing of a couple of really bratty kids.

    Margaret O'Brien is a child of the British Raj in India, quite used to having things her own way as her parents are a big-shot and his lady. But when both are taken away by an epidemic, she has to go back to Great Britain to live with an uncle, Herbert Marshall for whom the mildest thing that can be said is eccentric.

    She's given rather restrictive use of the vast house, though the grounds are her's to roam with the exception of a garden that is locked up. Many years ago Marshall's wife has died there and it's her death and the circumstances thereof that have driven him to the brink of dissolution and insanity.

    O'Brien also finds she has a cousin roughly her age who is bedridden with paralysis in Dean Stockwell. Stockwell has not born his affliction well and in fact is a bigger brat than she is. Dealing with him has forced her to confront her own misbehavior.

    A large part of Stockwell's problems are his doctor and caregiver in the persons of doctor Aubrey Mather and housekeeper Gladys Cooper. They like having him dependent on them, it increases their position in the house, as for Mather, he's making a whole living off Marshall treating his child.

    The younger brother of maid Elsa Lanchester, Brian Roper, also becomes a friend to both as they discover the locked up and neglected garden and use it as a playground. With the special love that children bring to something, interesting things start happening there.

    Most of the cast are familiar names to the American cinema, all the adults are card carrying members of the British colony in Hollywood. But Brian Roper was imported from across the pond because of the fact that he spoke with a Yorkshire brogue, he was native to that part of England. It does lend an air of authenticity to the film. Roper had a fair career for about a decade, mostly in his native country. I believe this is his one and only American film appearance.

    The Secret Garden is a fine adaption of the children's novel, maybe the best one ever done. The adults are hard pressed in this one to even get their innings in as the kids totally steal this film.
  • darth_sidious20 January 2001
    Great stuff!
    A terrific picture which features some excellent direction! The film is about a girl from India who moves to England and discovers that her new home habours many secrets.

    The thespians are stunning! The acting by O'Brien is amazing, it blew me away, it was that good!!!

    The screenplay is excellent, well written!

    The direction features a mix of fun and creepy moments, both blending to give an interesting take on a wonderful story!

    Overall, a great film for the family!
  • soccrstr626 July 2000
    The Best Version of this Movie!!!!
    This movie is one of the best movies of all time. As the older version of The Secret Garden, you know that it must be the best! Margaret O'Brien is great as Mary- a girl that is spoiled but kind. I especially how they used the color only for the Garden, Just like in The Wizard Of Oz, but this movie is better. I found it a lot better than the 70's, 80's, and 90's versions. This movie is great!
  • MartinHafer6 January 2007
    One of a bazillion versions of this film, this one is excellent and very watchable
    I've only seen two versions of this film--this 1949 version and a made for TV version from 1987. Both films seemed very different from each other and I have no idea which is closer to the original story having never read it. Considering what often happens to books, perhaps neither is very close! Regardless of the case, this is a fine old family film--one that is very watchable for adults as well despite being a "kids' film".

    The movie stars an older Margaret O'Brien. Oddly, throughout the film, people tell her she is ugly, but if that was supposed to be the case, Ms. O'Brien just wasn't ugly--maybe she needed some "uglying up". While this DIDN'T seriously impact the film, it was inconsistent and seemed awfully cruel--I would have probably just dropped these lines from the film. In addition, Dean Stockwell starred as the "crippled boy" and Brian Roper played "Dickon". Now at this time, O'Brian and Stockwell were stars so they got higher billing, but Roper did a wonderful job as well--too bad his part and billing got a bit overshadowed.

    The story seems, at first, to be about Ms. O'Brian and the death of her parents. While she IS very important to the film and the central character, you soon see that the film is far more than a film about a poor orphan girl. Instead, the focus shifts when she is taken to live with her seriously disturbed uncle. Then, slowly, the story of how he became so mentally imbalanced and how his boy (Stockwell) became an invalid unfolded. This was brilliantly handled and I loved how both O'Brian and Stockwell's characters grew emotionally though the film. I also liked how black and white cinematography was used but when the secret garden came to life, these portions of the film were in vibrant color (much like in the WIZARD OF OZ).

    It's a good film that is relatively low on the "sappiness scale"--good story-telling without being too heavy-handed or overly sentimental. Excellent writing, direction and acting--no complaints from this old curmudgeon!
  • abcj-212 April 2011
    A Wonderful Immersion into a Classic
    I love this classic Margaret O'Brien version. Margaret embodies the spoiled and orphaned Mary Lennox. Herbert Marshall plays her brooding uncle and a young Dean Stockwell plays her crippled cousin and rival in the pitching a fit department.

    These child stars were powerful actors whose performances rival most any adult. Gladys Cooper plays the strict and prim housekeeper, and the delightful Elsa Lanchester plays the maid who cares for Mary and introduces Mary to her brother, Dicken.

    Mary and Dicken explore the grounds and discover the secret. Along the way, Mary and Dicken coax her cousin outside. Of course, Mary's uncle isn't thrilled with the changes upon his return from an extended absence.

    This film's amazing cast, beautiful Technicolor scenes in the garden, bittersweet story, and that good old happy ending that I love make this a classic keeper for the family or any individual who enjoys being visually immersed into great literature. I highly recommend this film.
  • robert-temple-122 April 2010
    Utterly Magical
    This is the Margaret O'Brien version of this timeless story, which is based upon the famous children's' novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It is not only for children, however, but also for young at heart adults. Its underlying themes are surprisingly adult, namely grief, loss, and despair, and the possibility of redemption through the power of the imagination. First filmed in 1919, this is the second cinema version of the story, which has been filmed a total of five times as a feature film and three times as a TV series. Agnieszka Holland directed a superb version in 1993, two years before TOTAL ECLIPSE (1995, see my review) and four years before WASHINGTON SQUARE (1997, see my review). But although I like to 'go Dutch' by watching Holland, her version does not surpass this one. The uncle threatened by madness through grief is here played absolutely perfectly by Herbert Marshall, whose raving despair is pathetically convincing. And in the lead we have the incomparable Margaret O'Brien, who could easily 'carry' any film she was ever in. Although the initial scenes in India are a bit stilted in this version, as soon as we get to England and the gigantic Yorkshire mansion surrounded by its 'wuthering winds', as Gladys Cooper, the terrifying housekeeper, calls them, and lashed by unremitting rain and storms, we have settled in for a traditional tale which is going to be well told. This is all aided by a magnificent performance as the country boy Dickon by the child actor Brian Roper, who retired from acting eleven years later, in 1960, and died in 1994. But this performance of his lives on in the memory. Young Dean Stockwell also does very well indeed as the crippled boy Colin Craven, though he overdoes his tantrum scenes, and that was a serious failing of the director's, in allowing all the tantrum scenes to be unconvincing. Among the stars of this film are a brilliant tame raven and a tame lamb and fox cub. I have been unable to discover the name of the raven, but he deserved a Bird Oscar, because he is in so many scenes and did such a superb job. Elsa Lanchester plays an eccentric maid named Martha who has the curious characteristic of never stopping laughing. That is not an easy role to play, but she pulls it off. Try never stopping laughing and see what I mean. This film employs the device used ten years earlier in THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939), of turning from black and white into colour at significant moments. Here, the colour occurs when they enter the Secret Garden. There is a profound psychological significance to this Secret Garden, which the grieving Herbert Marshall has kept locked for ten years so that no one dare enter it, because it represents his living heart, to which he has barred all access, as he has attempted to seal himself off from feeling after the death of his wife. Naturally, it is the spontaneous innocence of the children which achieves the access to this locked and forbidden area, both of the grounds and of the psyche, and achieves a renaissance of joy in a withered remnant of what had once before been joyful. That is why I call this story timeless, because it has all the elements of a successful myth, told simply but full of meaning. And that is why it has resonated so deeply with the public for more than a century. However, as innocence is no longer fashionable or even respectable, and as all children are meant to be forced to have sex education at the age of five, eight year-olds are on crack cocaine, and ten year-old girls are getting pregnant, all without even a blush to the public, and all wholly taken for granted, I suppose that the days when THE SECRET GARDEN could speak to anyone are soon due to expire. This is called, in case you had not noticed, the terminal decadence of civilisation. Sometimes our powerlessness to do anything to stop this accelerating decline of the world in which we live leads one to watch a lot of old movies, just in order to recapture the time before things got so bad. Even the worst days of the world wars, and the most sinister of the old films noir, were not as menacing of the blunt and inescapable reality of today's world, as it hurtles towards its inevitable doom, because it has lost its heart, or should I say, its Secret Garden. There is one more thing I should say about this film, which is a remarkable irony, namely the fact that its screenplay is by Robert Ardrey (1908-1980). Younger people of today may never have heard of Ardrey, but in 1961 he published an international best-selling book, African GENESIS, which had an incredible impact upon modern culture and transformed the public's view of humanity's origins. It was followed by another book, THE TERRITORIAL IMPERATIVE, in 1966, and others after that. Ardrey was an anthropologist, and he propounded the 'killer ape theory' of mankind's origins, whereby deep-seated violent aggression was built into our makeup and at the basis of much or most of human behaviour. The entire 1960s saw a ferment of feverish discussion and debate about Ardrey's views, and they were discussed continuously in the press and in other people's books for years on end, well into the 1970s. Much of what Ardrey propounded in 1961, which shocked the world, is now accepted without question by society in general. How strange that the screenplay to this film THE SECRET GARDEN was written by the later author of African GENESIS! There would seem to be no two works so far apart as those. Ardrey was one of two 1940s Hollywood screenwriters who would later have a mammoth intellectual impact upon Western society, the other being Ayn Rand, who scripted LOVE LETTERS (1945) and her own brilliant THE FOUNTAINHEAD (1949).
  • PudgyPandaMan5 February 2009
    Great movie for the whole family
    I was mesmerized the first time I saw this film as a child. I was quite happy to stumble upon it recently and experience it again as an adult.

    It is quite an atmospheric film - capable at producing quite differing moods. There is the scary, creepy mansion; the beautiful grounds and terraces; the spoiled and crippled boy that throws tantrums; and finally the beautiful restored garden presented in Technicolor (the rest of the movie was in black and white).

    I like how the movie leaves you guessing as to what is going on. Who is the boy heard screaming and why? It creates a certain tension and suspense. Also, what happened to make the master lock-up the secret garden - what is the horrible secret? I appreciate that they don't spoon-feed us the history of this strange place, but allow us to discover the facts slowly.

    Margaret O'Brien is in the last years of her child stardom and unfortunately doesn't transition well in later roles. She does fine in this film, although many may find her whiny, spoiled character a tad annoying. I actually think she acted more naturally as a young child - it seems the very young take to fantasy and imagination almost like second nature. Here, her acting begins to look more "stagey".

    This film plays very much likes a children's mystery. But I think adults will find much to enjoy. There are great performances by big stars such as Herbert Marshall and Gladys Cooper. On occasion, there is some overacting - like the "extremely" happy maid, Martha. But the exaggerations will play well to children.

    I consider this film to be a great escape - so let yourself be transported to "The Secret Garden"!
  • theowinthrop12 June 2005
    A Good Example of MGM Ensemble Acting
    This is a wonderful movie about how children can occasionally see things more clearly than adults. Herbert Marshall is Mr. Craven (great name) the owner of a country estate. His son (Dean Stockwell) is bedridden. Marshall is aware that his son is paralyzed, and knows the reason for it. It is the secret that has blighted his once happy and secure family life. A young girl (Margaret O'Brien, in possibly her best role) gets a position at the estate, and despite warnings from the landlady (Dame Gladys Cooper) gets involved with Stockwell. Stockwell is initially a spoiled brat, but he is so lonely he and O'Brien become friendly. With O'Brien's assistance (and that of Brian Roper, a boy whose father works on the estate) Stockwell starts improving. They take him out, and find a large garden that has been locked for years. Nobody is allowed in it by Marshall's orders. But the three children find a way to get in. They go there (against the order of Marshall and Cooper) and play in it. Meanwhile Marshall is toying with selling the estate and going abroad. He first has a doctor (George Zucco, in a rare good person part) examine Stockwell. Marshall is furious at Zucco's sensible observations that if the boy happens to get air and exercise he will recover. Marshall prefers an incompetent doctor (Aubrey Mather) who affirms that Stockwell is beyond hope. The climax is when Marshall is taught a valuable lesson in getting past the past to save the future - I will leave that for the readers of this review to see for themselves.

    Most of the film was done in black and white, except for one powerful moment at the conclusion. The performances, especially Marshall, Stockwell, and O'Brien, are all perfect in this film as we see how sometimes grown-ups are not as smart as their children.
  • classicsoncall27 March 2011
    "My garden, my very own garden".
    Warning: Spoilers
    This was a surprising little gem to catch on Turner Classics this morning; I had only been aware of the 1993 version and did not know of an earlier one. This is only the third film I've come across utilizing the black and white transformation into color technique, probably best known for it's use in "The Wizard of Oz". The other one I'm thinking about is Abbott and Costello's "Jack and the Beanstalk".

    Ostensibly a children's movie, I kept considering why so many scenes were played out in darkness with that horrible crying sound of the young Colin Craven (Dean Stockwell). The old, dark Craven mansion was, in the words of the film, an excellent house for bitterness and not for children, but fortunately, Mary's (Margaret O'Brien) alliance with Dickon (Brian Roper) helped their new friend to find joy in life along with the ability to walk. It still bothers me, even after the picture is over, that the sour Uncle Craven (Herbert Marshall) was willing to subject his own son to a debilitating condition instead of insisting on a cure that could make him a happy young boy again.

    That all had to do with the death of his wife of course, ten years earlier due to an unfortunate accident. It's somewhat mysterious that the picture would take the viewer in the direction of a crime implicit in Mrs. Craven's death when there was already enough tension to go around. The virtually abandoned son would have been privy to those whispered conversations as well, adding even more to his imposed misery.

    Fortunately it's the youngsters who carry this picture. O'Brien, Roper, and Stockwell form a unique trio, blooming as it were, along with the newly tended garden after the abandonment of a decade. Though the feel good ending seems somewhat forced, it's appropriate that the old Uncle is cured of his own personal demons to redeem himself as a father to the young Colin.
  • TheLittleSongbird13 June 2010
    Lavish and well done adaptation of an enchanting book
    The book by Frances Hodgson Burnett is an enchanting piece of literature. This adaptation is very good, and very good as a film, but can I be honest? I prefer the 1993 film, as I grew up with it, and it never fails to move me. The film could have been longer by three minutes, and Herbert Marshall I found rather dull as the grieving, melancholic uncle. However, this version of The Secret Garden is beautifully mounted, the cinematography, scenery, sets and costumes are very wondrous. Plus the music score, story and script still maintain the charm, and the direction is focused. In terms of performances Margaret O'Brien is very spirited as Mary, while Elsa Lanchester is typically splendid as Martha, Reginald Owen is charming as Ben Weatherstaff the gardener and Gladys Cooper is suitably beastly and tyrannical as Mrs Medlock. Overall, very well done and I liked it very much, it's just that I have a preference to the 1993 film. 8/10 Bethany Cox
  • Chris Gaskin26 January 2005
    Excellent family adventure
    Warning: Spoilers
    I've just watched The Secret Garden for the first time and found very enjoyable.

    An orphan girl is sent from India to live with her Uncle in Yorkshire, where he owns a rather creepy mansion. When there, she makes friends with a local lad and discovers a door to a garden that has not been opened for 10 years. Another resident of the mansion is a boy, who is the girl's Uncle's son and cannot walk and is locked in his room all the time and this upsets him very much. Eventually, the girl makes friends with him and they open the door to the garden and restore it to make it look very picturesque. This is also where you see Dean Stockwell manage to take his first steps. A happy ending.

    The scenes of the large mansion with the wind and rain are rather creepy, especially as it is not lit very well. The movie is shot in glorious colour for the garden scenes after it has been restored.

    Now to the cast, starting with the children who play their roles very well: Margaret O'Brien as orphan girl Mary, Dean Stockwell and Brian Roper. The adult cast includes Herbert Marshall as the girl's uncle and Elsa Lanchester (The Bride Of Frankenstein) as a maid, Gladys Cooper and George Zucco (House Of Frankenstein, The Flying Serpent), who i'm more use to seeing play mad scientists.

    The only low point of the movie is that some of the Yorkshire accents are rather dodgy, although Brian Roper is Yorkshire born in real life. This certainly didn't spoil my enjoyment. A treat.

    Rating: 4 and a half stars out of 5.
  • mmackinn19403 April 2008
    Minor, but major
    The predictability of the ending could not overcome the impact of contrasting the outside world in black and white and the garden in color.Though this has been done in "The Wizard of Oz" in 1936, the use of this technique has lost none of its appeal. In fact, the revelation of the father at the end could not be as significant if the contrast had not been incorporated into the film. The role of the raven as an almost human sentinel who significantly reveals the location of the key to Mary is underestimated by most reviewers. Also overlooked is the gardener, who as an adult is aware of the garden, but keeps its secret, adding to the specialness of the keepers of the secret. The garden may be for the young, but also for those who see hope for the future.
  • rbrb20 December 2007
    A Magic Garden!
    A mesmerizing enchanting magical movie.

    An orphaned child is sent to live with an embittered uncle in the bleak north of England. He lives in a spooky old mansion that includes many secrets, like about his deceased wife and bedridden son......but then there is the garden.....

    What a movie: dark and cerebral on the one hand, yet hilariously funny in parts with super acting by all including a raven, a fox and a lamb.

    This is a great universal story of love, grief, despair, hope and redemption.

    I remember having the book read to me when a child at school.

    A classic film which deserves at least an 8/10, and well done to TCM!
  • jvwas5 March 2002
    A movie unequaled in excellence
    I saw this movie as a little girl almost Margaret's age. The impact of this delightful and moving performance forever remains in my memory. It has been unequaled by other Secret Garden performances...not even coming close! Margaret OBrien needs to be invited to appear on talk shows, Larry King Live, to give us a chance to see her again.
  • clanciai31 May 2015
    Three children find each other in a world of darkness and bring light into it.
    This is a marvel of a film in many ways, for its extreme contrasts and almost paradox nature of joining utter horror tragedy with the idylls of paradise. It's a story of children written for children, but the film actually turns it almost into a horror feature, as the screaming child in the nights would give anyone compulsory nightmares, especially since no explanation is provided. Adding to the gloomy horror nature of a Dickens nightmare at its worst is Gladys Cooper as the totally cold-blooded aunt who is worse than a death skull in her insensitivity, and of course Herbert Marshall as the uncle, who for once has the opportunity for a different character than a gentleman. The tantrums are not those of his forcibly crippled son but of his own, which he projects on the world around him and especially on his only son, in a morbid effort to turn him into the same guilt complex martyr as himself. The scenes with the children are terrific, but the great trick is the use of the black-and-white somberness that dominates the film as a base for the effect achieved when the film bursts into color. This had already been used effectively, especially in "The Portrait of Jennie" with Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten, another masterpiece of cinematic artwork, but here it is more demonstrative, as if the contrasts between the dark gloom of hell and the paradise of the secret garden needed accentuating. It was remade in 1994 by Agnieszka Holland all in color, which definitely transcends this earlier version, abstaining from the horror ingredients and sticking more convincingly to the story with emphasis on making the psychology work. Nevertheless, both versions are well worth seeing and returning to, in some ways complementing each other, this one as the more dramatic and Holland's as the more beautiful. Of course, on such a great and enchantingly constructive story about lovable children bringing life into a world of decay around them, no film could fail.
  • atlasmb16 August 2014
    A Wonderful Story For Children And Adults
    "The Secret Garden" is a wonderful adaptation of a classic novel. it starts out as a B&W thriller worthy of Hitchcock. As the layers of the story unfold, and the mysteries are solved, it resolves into a mixture of drama and comedy.

    Mary Lennox (Margaret O'Brien) is an orphaned child who finds refuge in the household of a distant uncle. As in "Heidi" and countless other films, the child must cope with strange environs and a clash of personalities. Eventually, she befriends two young boys. Together, they solve the mysteries of the dark mansion and--through their friendship--break through the air of oppression that shrouds the house and its secret garden.

    The production values are great. The music drives the moods of the story. The cast is excellent in every role, but Margaret O'Brien must be singled out for her ability, at such a young age, to contribute whatever emotions are required. The lighting also makes a significant contribution to the story, giving the mansion very different moods in daylight or nighttime. Color is used sparingly, where it is most dramatic.

    So much of this film captures the imagination; especially the imagination of a child: The very concept of a secret garden. The various animals. The idea of a foreboding mansion with many undiscovered rooms.

    At one point, Mary says, "I don't want to grow up." This is a story about the importance of childhood and the wonderful mysteries that capture the imagination of a child. It is also a story about love and its ability to cure the human psyche.
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