The Secret Garden (1949 film)

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The Secret Garden
The Secret Garden FilmPoster.jpeg
Theatrical re-release poster
Directed by Fred M. Wilcox
Screenplay by Robert Ardrey
Based on The Secret Garden
1911 novel
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Produced by Clarence Brown
Cinematography Ray June
Edited by Robert J. Kern
Music by
Distributed by Loew's Inc.
Release date
  • April 30, 1949 (1949-04-30)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1,432,000 [1]
Box office$993,000 [1]

The Secret Garden is a 1949 American drama film. [2] [3] It is the second screen adaptation of the classic 1911 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. (The first was a silent version released in 1919.) The screenplay by Robert Ardrey was directed by Fred M. Wilcox. It centers on a young orphan who is thrust into the dark and mysterious lives of her widowed uncle and his crippled son when she comes to live with them in their isolated country house in Yorkshire, England.


The MGM film was filmed primarily in black-and-white, with the sequences set in the restored garden of the title filmed in Technicolor. The movie was Margaret O'Brien's final film for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film was released on DVD on May 7, 2013 as part of the Warner Archive Collection. [4]


When tempestuous Mary Lennox (Margaret O'Brien), born in India to wealthy parents, is orphaned by a cholera epidemic, she is sent to live with her reclusive and embittered Uncle Archibald Craven (Herbert Marshall) and her ill-behaved, bedridden cousin Colin (Dean Stockwell), about her own age, at their desolate and decaying estate known as Misselthwaite Manor. Dickon (Brian Roper), the brother of one of the house maids, tells her of a garden secreted behind a hidden door in a vine-covered wall. When a raven unearths the key, the two enter and discover the garden is overgrown from neglect since Craven's wife died there in an accident. They decide to keep their discovery a secret, and begin to restore it to its original grandeur. Under the influence of the Secret Garden, Mary becomes less self-absorbed, Colin's health steadily improves, and Archibald's curmudgeonly personality fades away.



MGM announced the film in November 1946. It was to be a vehicle for Claude Jarman Jr and was to be directed by Clarence Brown. [5]


According to MGM records the film earned $610,000 in the US and Canada and $383,000 overseas, resulting in a loss of $848,000. [1]

On TCM, Margarita Landazuri writes that at the time of release, many critics “felt, as did the Variety critic, that 'the allegorical and psychological implications that have been carried over from Frances Hodgson Burnett's book are clearly for the grown-up trade. Not only that, but a good bit of the production is designed to create eerie terror that may discourage parents from letting moppets see the pic.' In this era when even the youngest 'moppets' take Harry Potter in stride, however, such criticism seems quaint, and The Secret Garden seems ahead of its time.“ [6]

Leonard Maltin gives the “Vividly atmospheric“ film three out of four stars. [7]


  1. 1 2 3 The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. Variety film review; April 27, 1949, page 11.
  3. Harrison's Reports film review; April 23, 1949, page 66.
  4. "The Secret Garden (MOD) – WB Shop". Archived from the original on 20 September 2020.
  5. AYRES TO APPEAR IN WARNER MOVIE New York Times 13 Nov 1946: 41.
  6. "The Secret Garden (1949)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  7. "The Secret Garden (1949) - Overview -". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 13 August 2020.

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