THE SECRET GARDEN (1949)
Article 2119 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-3-2007
Posting Date: 6-1-2007
Directed by Fred M. Wilcox
Featuring Margaret O’Brien, Herbert Marshall, Dean Stockwell
An orphan whose parents have died in India from cholera is taken in by an uncle, who is in grief at the passing of his wife. The girl hears screams in the castle at all hours and discovers a locked-up garden on the grounds.
I’ve not read the Frances Hodgson Burnett novel on which this is based, but I have seen one other movie version of the story, though I don’t remember it well enough to make any meaningful comparison. It’s not really genre, though it might be considered a fantasy depending on how you interpret the final scene. Nonetheless, the scenes in the mansion during the first half of the movie have a definite horrific quality to them, what with the shadowy corridors and the mysterious screams, as well as the rumor that the Uncle is a hunchback (as far as I can tell, he isn’t). It’s basically a story about grief and healing, and one of the most interesting things about the story is how most of the major characters come off as unlikable when we first meet them. Yet, we grow to care about them, because they are all unhappy and grieving, and it takes outsiders in one capacity or another (Dickon the village boy, Dr. Fortescue and finally Mary the orphan herself) to bring light and healing in one form or another to the house. Horror fans will recognize Elsa Lanchester as a maid, and George Zucco has a great role as Dr. Fortescue, whose refusal to kowtow to the Master’s wishes marks a turning point in the story for a certain character.