Frances Hodgson Burnett brought pleasure to countless generations of readers and earned herself critical praise with her writing, in particular three novels which have made the transition to the screen and stage countless times, Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886), A Little Princess (1905), and The Secret Garden (1911).
Norma Varden plays a nurse in the Craven household. Why is there a nurse in the house? It is to care for the "poor boy." Craven's son Colin is played by Dean Stockwell. The boy is a cripple with the threat of an early death hanging over him. Colin is a great one for giving the staff a hard time through his behavior and tantrums. Mary has finally met someone who matches her, fault for fault. These cousins are holy terrors who must raise themselves out of the depths of their despair. In an outburst for the ages, Mary breaks Colin down: "I was worse the day I was born than you are this minute!"
The secret of the Craven family and of the locked-up garden on the grounds will prove life-affirming and cathartic for our trio of youngsters. The adult cast is superb, especially George Zucco as a doctor with common sense and the correct prescription for the shut-up Colin and his father.
Robert Ardrey (The Green Years, Madame Bovary) wrote the screenplay for The Secret Garden under the auspices of producer Clarence Brown for MGM Studios. The prestigious film was directed by Fred M. Wilcox (Lassie Come Home).
I find in the best of Clarence Brown's work, producing and/or directing, a particular empathy for the outsider especially as represented by the lonely, isolated world of children in such films as The Yearling, Intruder in the Dust, Ah, Wilderness!, The Human Comedy, National Velvet, Angels in the Outfield, and this lovely version of The Secret Garden.
TCM is screening The Secret Garden, 1949 on Thursday, February 24th at noon Eastern Time. Other classic novel adaptations in the lineup include Pride and Prejudice, 1940, Little Women, 1933, The Age of Innocence, 1934, Murder She Said, 1961, and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, 1968.
Previous titles in the Caftan Woman's Choice series.