AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Secret Garden
Director: Fred M. Wilcox (Dir)
Release Date:   Sep 1949
Premiere Information:   World premiere in Boston: 30 Apr 1949
Production Date:   4 Oct--late Nov 1948
Duration (in mins):   92-93
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Cast:   Margaret O'Brien (Mary Lennox)  
    Herbert Marshall (Archibald Craven)  
    Dean Stockwell (Colin Craven)  
    Gladys Cooper (Mrs. Medlock)  
    Elsa Lanchester (Martha)  
    Brian Roper (Dickon)  
    Reginald Owen (Ben Weatherstaff)  
    Aubrey Mather (Dr. Griddlestone)  
    George Zucco (Dr. Fortescue)  
    Lowell Gilmore (British officer)  
    Billy Bevan (Barney)  
    Dennis Hoey (Mr. Pitcher)  
    Matthew Boulton (Mr. Bromley)  
    Isobel Elsom (Governess)  
    Norma Varden (Nurse)  
    Leonard Carey (Charles, a footman)  
    Paul Collins (Peter)  
    Phyllis Morris (Grandmother)  
    Kathryn Beaumont (Muriel)  
    Susan Fletcher (Jane, a scullery maid)  
    Harry Allen (Coachman)  
    John Power (Friend)  
    Elspeth Dudgeon (Mrs. Sowerby)  
    Vanessa Field (Refugee child)  
    Sherlee Collier (Refugee child)  
    Mora McGivney (Refugee child)  
    Michael McGivney (Refugee child)  
    Jack Deery (Upstairs servant)  
    William Eddritt (Kitchen servant)  
    Dick Baron (Kitchen boy)  
    Barbara Morrison (Cook)  

Summary: Mary Lennox, a spoiled young English girl living in India at the turn of the century, is orphaned when her parents die of cholera, and is sent to Yorkshire to live with her wealthy uncle, Archibald Craven. Mrs. Medlock, Craven's cruel and ill-tempered housekeeper, meets Mary at the port and escorts her to her uncle's eerie mansion. Craven refuses to meet Mary, and Mrs. Medlock warns her against snooping around the darkened house. When Mary asks about the screams she hears from another part of the house, Mrs. Medlock locks in her room for the rest of the night. The next morning, Mary meets Martha, a maid who laughs incessantly and who refuses to obey her commands. Mary later befriends Martha's young brother Dickon, who tells her that there is a secret, locked garden on the estate, and that Craven buried the key to it. Mary finally meets Craven just before he sets out on a trip to London, and during her brief meeting with him, she learns that his wife was crushed to death by a tree limb ten years earlier. Soon after Craven leaves, Mary sees a raven digging for worms outside the house and notices that the bird has unearthed the buried key to the secret garden. Late that night, while investigating the source of the mysterious screams in the house, Mary discovers Craven's young son Colin. Colin, who is bedridden and is being treated by a doctor for paralysis, admits to the tantrums and demands that Mary obey his orders. Mary, however, refuses to indulge Colin and eventually wins his respect and friendship. The following day, Mary and Dickon discover the entrance to the garden behind some bushes, and use the key to open the gate. Once inside, Mary and Dickon find a neglected garden containing a variety of pretty flowers. They also find a fallen tree limb on a chair next to a table that was once set for tea, and realize that they have discovered the place where Craven's wife was accidentally killed. Later, Mary introduces Colin to Dickon, and tells him stories about their visits to the secret garden. One day, a new doctor, Dr. Fortescue, examines Colin and determines that he is suffering from nothing more than fear, and suggests that the irons placed on his legs by the previous doctor be removed. Dickon and Mary later take Colin in a wheelchair to the secret garden and show him all the flowers they have been growing. Excited, Colin attempts to stand up on his own but falls. Later, when Craven returns from London, Fortescue accuses him of wallowing in his grief and transferring his longing to die to his son, thus causing Colin's physical deterioration. Craven angrily rejects Fortescue's accusation, and announces that he will be selling the estate and moving to Italy with Colin. Craven later has a change of heart, however, when he enters the garden and sees Colin rise from his wheelchair to walk toward him. Astounded at Colin's sudden ability to walk, Craven embraces his son and decides to remain at the house. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Fred M. Wilcox (Dir)
  Jack Gertsman (Asst dir)
  Sid Sidman (Asst dir)
Producer: Clarence Brown (Prod)
Writer: Robert Ardrey (Scr)
Photography: Ray June (Dir of photog)
  Dale Deverman (Cam op)
  Otto Dyar (Stills)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Urie McCleary (Art dir)
Film Editor: Robert J. Kern (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
  Richard Pefferle (Assoc)
Costumes: Walter Plunkett (Cost)
Music: Bronislau Kaper (Mus score)
  AndrĂ© Previn (Mus cond)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
  Standish J. Lambert (Sd)
Special Effects: Warren Newcombe (Spec eff)
  A. Arnold Gillespie (Spec eff)
Make Up: Sydney Guilaroff (Hair styles des by)
  Jack Dawn (Makeup created by)
Production Misc: Jay Marchant (Prod mgr)
  Jack Aldworth (Scr supv)
  Mervyn Price (Grip)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (New York, 1909).
Authors: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 10/3/1949 dd/mm/yyyy LP2237 Yes

PCA NO: 13576
Physical Properties: b&w with col seq: Technicolor
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Drama
  Drama
Sub-Genre: Historical
  Youth
 
Subjects (Major): Children
  Fathers and sons
  Gardens
  Grief
  Orphans
  Psychosomatic illness
  Wards and guardians
  Yorkshire (England)
 
Subjects (Minor): Accidental death
  Cholera
  Cousins
  Friendship
  Gardeners
  Hunchbacks
  India
  Invalids
  Physicians
  Servants
  Temper
  Transformation
  Uncles
  Widowers
  Worms

Note: Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel was serialized in The American Magazine between 1910 and 1911. Matthew Boulton's name is misspelled "Mathew" in the onscreen credits. A Dec 1946 HR news item indicates that Claude Jarman, Jr. was orignally slated for the part played by Dean Stockwell. A HR news item on 7 Apr 1947 indicated that M-G-M had planned to shoot the film in England on a "newly erected studio," but the film was eventually shot on the M-G-M lot in Culver City, CA. The film's Technicolor sequences were those that took place in the garden. Modern sources credit Marni Nixon with dubbing Margaret O'Brien's singing voice. Other film adaptations of Burnett's novel are The Secret Garden , a 1919 Famous Players-Lasky Corp. production, directed by G. Butler Clonebough (a pseudonym of Gustav von Seyffertitz) and starring Lila Lee and Spottiswoode Aitken (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.3908); a 1984 BBC production, also entitled The Secret Garden , directed by Katrina Murray and starring Sarah Hollis and David Patterson; and a 1993 Warner Bros./American Zoetrope production, The Secret Garden , directed by Agnieszka Holland and starring Maggie Smith and Kate Maberly. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   30 Apr 1949.   
Daily Variety   22 Apr 49   p. 4.
Film Daily   25 Apr 49   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Dec 46   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Apr 47   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Oct 48   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Oct 48   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Oct 48   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Nov 48   p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Apr 49   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Apr 49   p. 3, 10
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   30 Apr 49   p. 4590.
Variety   27 Apr 49   p. 11.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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