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Secret Garden, The (1975)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Secret Garden, The (1975)
BBC, 1/1-12/2/75
7 x 30 min episodes, colour
DirectorDorothea Brooking
ProducerDorothea Brooking
ScriptDorothea Brooking
From the novel byFrances Hodgson Burnett

Cast: Sarah Hollis Andrews (Mary Lennox), Andrew Harrison (Dickon), David Patterson (Colin), John Woodnutt (Mr Archibald Craven)

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Orphan girl Mary Lennox is taken into the care of her Guardian Uncle at his cold and inhospitable manor house. In its grounds she stumbles across a walled garden, abandoned and overgrown.

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When The Secret Garden was first published in 1910, author Frances Hodgson Burnett's portrayal of children (including Dickon, a peasant child, at that) as independent, positive agents spreading goodwill and questioning repressed Victorian values was revolutionary at a time when children were still seen and not heard.

There have been several cinema adaptations (US, d. Gustav von Seyffertitz, 1919; US, d. Fred M. Wilcox, 1949; US, d. Agnieszka Holland, 1993), but it's the television adaptations that are best remembered by the British public. BBC productions in 1952, 1960 and 1975 used largely the same script. The main difference in the staging was an increasing amount of location filming in successive productions. Showing the passing seasons and the springtime bloom of the secret garden has always proved problematic. In 1960, filming was in winter, and daffodils and crocuses had to be brought in and planted to suggest spring's arrival. The 1975 version controlled the seasons by shooting all of the secret garden scenes on a studio set dressed with appropriate greenery. The end result, however, jarred against genuine location footage filmed in the rest of the 'Misselthwaite' grounds and was a limited success.

Dorothea Brooking directed all three adaptations and the 1975 version uses the slow, episodic pace that was the norm in the 1950s but seemed lethargic by the mid-1970s. In 1984 the BBC issued a 107-minute video of the production which lost little plot despite such drastic cutting.

Other Hodgson Burnett works adapted for television include Little Lord Fauntleroy (BBC, 1995) and A Little Princess (aka Sara Crewe) (BBC, 1951; 1957; 1973; ITV, 1987).

Alistair McGown

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Video Clips
1. Entering the garden (3:58)
2. Sharing the secret (2:56)
3. Mysteries (3:47)
Children's Fantasy and SF
Children's TV Drama