The Secret Garden (1993)

G | 101 mins | Children's works, Drama | 13 August 1993

Director:

Agnieszka Holland

Cinematographer:

Roger Deakins

Production Designer:

Stuart Craig

Production Companies:

Warner Bros., Inc., American Zoetrope
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HISTORY


       As noted in various contemporary sources, including a 6 Aug 1993 DV review, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1909 novel, The Secret Garden, had several previous film adaptations, including a 1919 silent picture produced by Famous Players-Lasky Corp. and a 1949 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. production directed by Fred M. Wilcox (see entries). The BBC produced two television versions of Burnett’s novel before packaging it as a “Hallmark Hall of Fame” presentation, which was reviewed in the 30 Nov 1987 NYT. The success of a 1991 Broadway musical adaptation, which won three Tony Awards, hastened Warner Bros. Inc.’s “longtime” intention to produce their own version of The Secret Garden, according to a 26 Nov 1991 HR news item. HR announced that executive producer Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope was partnering with Warner Bros. to produce the picture and writer-associate producer Caroline Thompson was at work on the screenplay. Principal photography was scheduled to begin Mar 1992. The Warner Bros.-American Zoetrope production halted ongoing plans for a film version of The Secret Garden musical, which, according to the musical’s producer, The Dodger Group, had generated interest from various studios. A Dodger Group representative granted that his company’s misfortune was due to “the liability” of working with a novel in the public domain.
       A 29 Jan 1992 HR article announced that Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland was hired to direct. Although HR previously reported that the project had long been in development at Warner Bros., the 1992 article stated that former American Zoetrope executive Lucy Fisher brought the venture with ... More Less


       As noted in various contemporary sources, including a 6 Aug 1993 DV review, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1909 novel, The Secret Garden, had several previous film adaptations, including a 1919 silent picture produced by Famous Players-Lasky Corp. and a 1949 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. production directed by Fred M. Wilcox (see entries). The BBC produced two television versions of Burnett’s novel before packaging it as a “Hallmark Hall of Fame” presentation, which was reviewed in the 30 Nov 1987 NYT. The success of a 1991 Broadway musical adaptation, which won three Tony Awards, hastened Warner Bros. Inc.’s “longtime” intention to produce their own version of The Secret Garden, according to a 26 Nov 1991 HR news item. HR announced that executive producer Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope was partnering with Warner Bros. to produce the picture and writer-associate producer Caroline Thompson was at work on the screenplay. Principal photography was scheduled to begin Mar 1992. The Warner Bros.-American Zoetrope production halted ongoing plans for a film version of The Secret Garden musical, which, according to the musical’s producer, The Dodger Group, had generated interest from various studios. A Dodger Group representative granted that his company’s misfortune was due to “the liability” of working with a novel in the public domain.
       A 29 Jan 1992 HR article announced that Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland was hired to direct. Although HR previously reported that the project had long been in development at Warner Bros., the 1992 article stated that former American Zoetrope executive Lucy Fisher brought the venture with her when she became an executive vice-president of production at Warner Bros. Producer and American Zoetrope president Fred Fuchs told HR that it took four months for the studio to select a director, and they finally decided on Holland after viewing her 1990 German film Europa Europa. Fuchs also distinguished the Warner Bros.-American Zoetrope production from the 1987 BBC version, which was not well-received, and noted that Zoetrope hoped to repeat the success it had with its 1979 adaptation of The Black Stallion (see entry). A 10 Mar 1992 HR brief explained that Holland met Coppola while she was embroiled in a controversy resulting from Germany’s failure to submit Europa Europa for Academy Award consideration. The debacle required her to visit Los Angeles, CA, several times. On one such occasion, Holland sparked a connection with Coppola that evolved into his viewing of Europa Europa and, ultimately, a deal for her to direct The Secret Garden, her first American production. Holland told HR that she was attracted to the project because it was devoid of the polarizing “cultural obstacles” that she addressed in Europa Europa and which inadvertently provoked a “tide of nasty sentiment… in certain German film circles.” Holland stated the budget was approximately $15 million.
       On 19 Jun 1992, a Screen International news item reported that principal photography would begin 22 Jun 1992. A ten-week shooting schedule was planned in the UK, at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire and on location in Yorkshire. In an 8 Aug 1993 NYT article, production designer Stuart Craig described Holland’s challenge for him to create a ”heightened reality” while avoiding sentimentality and cliché. The film’s garden was constructed on the site of an existing garden that edged the Pinewood complex. Nursery owner and greensman Ron Whittle, who did not receive onscreen credit, used his $180,000 budget to provide “17,200 pots of annuals and grasses,” including “larkspur, love-in-the-mist and asters,” as well as “1,200 perennials and 4,000 wild geraniums, foxgloves and the like.” The 500 live roses used on set were enhanced by thousands of artificial recreations, and synthetic ivy was mixed among real plants to make the garden appear more lush. Summer scenes were filmed at the beginning of the production so the garden’s plants and trees could be stripped of their leaves and, in some cases, killed with formaldehyde, for reuse in the winter sequences. As stated in studio production notes from AMPAS library files, the filmmakers also returned to the garden four months after principal photography was complete, in the winter, to capture it its overgrown, dormant state. During production, the garden required consistent restoration at night because it was trampled by crews throughout the day.
       Interiors of Misselthwaite Hall were shot primarily at Pinewood Studios, but the hallways were filmed on the top floors of London's St. Pancras Hotel, according to NYT. The scale of the corridors’ armor and artwork were reduced to make the rooms appear larger, and the children’s beds were constructed with added height and width to accentuate a contrast between the youngster’s stature and the immensity of their dwellings. Exteriors of the mansion were filmed at King Henry VIII’s Fountain Abbey in North Yorkshire, at architect Robert Adam’s Luton Hoo house in Bedfordshire and at Allerton Hall in Merseyside. A classroom at Eton College in Windsor served as Misselthwaite’s kitchen and a chamber at Harrow School in London was used for the set of “Lord Craven’s” study. A marble staircase at Harrow School provided the location for Craven’s “climactic emotional outburst,” according to NYT.
       The film marked Heydon Prowse’s first appearance in a theatrically released feature film. Prowse, who played the role of “Colin Craven,” had no previous acting experience, according to the picture’s 6 Aug 1993 DV review.

       The end credits conclude with the following acknowledgements: “The producers wish to thank: Eton College; St. Pancras Chambers; Holborn & Camden police; Harrow School; Allerton Park, Yorkshire; Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal of the Yorkshire National Trust.”


The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Jessica Campbell, a student at University of Washington, Seattle, with Jennifer Bean as academic advisor.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
6 Aug 1993
p. 4, 17.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jan 1992
p. 1, 42.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Mar 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 1993
p. 6, 16.
Los Angeles Times
13 Aug 1993
p. 1.
New York Times
30 Nov 1987.
---
New York Times
8 Aug 1993
Section A, p. 11.
New York Times
13 Aug 1993
p. 3.
Screen International
19 Jun 1992.
---
Screen International
26 Jun 1992.
---
Variety
16 Aug 1993
p. 38.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
An American Zoetrope Production
A Film by Agnieszka Holland
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Prod
Prod
Assoc prod
3d asst dir
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl photog
Addl photog
Focus puller
Focus puller
Steadicam op
Cam grip
Cam grip
Stills photog
Stills photog
Gaffer
Best boy
Wildlife cam
Wildlife cam
Cameras
Lighting equip by
Elec
Clapper/loader
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Supv art dir
Art dir
Asst art dir
Loc art dir
Junior draughtsman
Art dept junior
Art dept asst
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
1st asst ed
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
2d asst ed
2d asst ed
Montage seq
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Const coord
Const storeman, U.K.
H.O.D. carpenter
H.O.D. plasterer
H.O.D. painter
H.O.D. sculptor
Prop master
Chargehand dressing propman
Prop storeman
Standby prop
Standby carpenter
Standby painter
Standby rigger
Standby stagehand
Greensman
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Ward supv
Ward master
Ward mistress
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Supv sd ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Asst eff ed
Asst eff ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
1st asst dial ed
Asst dial ed
Asst dial ed
Foley ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Senior spec eff tech
Senior spec eff tech
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Visual eff consultant
Digital composting by
Matte painting
Main title des
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Chief make-up & hair
Make-up artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting US
Casting asst UK
Prod supv
Prod coord
Financial controller
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Loc asst - Yorkshire
Loc asst - London
Scr supv
Acting coach
Dial coach
Asst to Fred Fuchs
Asst to Fred Roos, US
Asst to Fred Roos, UK
Asst to Agnieszka Holland
Asst to Agnieszka Holland
Tech supv
Post prod coord
Post prod coord
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Post prod facilities
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Prod buyer
Prod's runners
Prod's runners
Prod's runners
Animal wrangler
Animal wrangler
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (New York, 1909).
SONGS
"Winter Light," written by Zbigniew Preisner, Linda Ronstadt and Eric Kaz, produced by George Massenburg and Linda Ronstadt, performed by Linda Ronstadt, courtesy of Elektra Entertainment.
DETAILS
Release Date:
13 August 1993
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 13 August 1993
New York opening: week of 13 August 1993
Production Date:
began 22 June 1992 at Pinewood Studios and in Yorkshire, UK
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, a division of Time Warner Entertainment Company, LP
Copyright Date:
5 October 1993
Copyright Number:
PA659537
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
101
MPAA Rating:
G
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
32410
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Ten-year-old Mary Lennox lives in India during the turn-of-the-century with her wealthy, British parents, but she is ignored by the couple and raised by her servant, Ayah. When Mary’s parents die in an earthquake, Mary travels by ship to England to live with her uncle, Lord Archibald Craven, but no one is at the dock in Liverpool to meet her. Later, Mary is claimed by Lord Craven’s surly housekeeper, Mrs. Medlock, who warns the girl that her uncle will not care for her because he is grieving over the death of his wife, Lilias. On Mary’s first morning at Misselthwaite Manor, she demands that Mrs. Medlock dress her as Ayah did, but the housekeeper disabuses the obstinate girl of her belief that she will be waited on as she was in India. Mrs. Medlock forbids Mary from leaving her room, but when the girl hears a faraway cry, she explores the manor and discovers a derelict room, overrun with vines and cobwebs. Mary realizes the chamber belonged to Lilias, her mother’s twin sister, and finds a skeleton key in the lady’s jewelry box. Later that day, Mary meets a young housemaid named Martha, who is unaffected by Mary’s insolence and promises that Lord Craven will see her soon. However, the lord leaves Misselthwaite the next day before visiting Mary, and Martha tells the girl that he has been a recluse since Lilias died. When Martha encourages Mary to play outside, Mary sees a robin fly into a walled garden, but she is unable to find the door. An elderly gardener named Ben Weatherstaff warns Mary that Lord Craven ... +


Ten-year-old Mary Lennox lives in India during the turn-of-the-century with her wealthy, British parents, but she is ignored by the couple and raised by her servant, Ayah. When Mary’s parents die in an earthquake, Mary travels by ship to England to live with her uncle, Lord Archibald Craven, but no one is at the dock in Liverpool to meet her. Later, Mary is claimed by Lord Craven’s surly housekeeper, Mrs. Medlock, who warns the girl that her uncle will not care for her because he is grieving over the death of his wife, Lilias. On Mary’s first morning at Misselthwaite Manor, she demands that Mrs. Medlock dress her as Ayah did, but the housekeeper disabuses the obstinate girl of her belief that she will be waited on as she was in India. Mrs. Medlock forbids Mary from leaving her room, but when the girl hears a faraway cry, she explores the manor and discovers a derelict room, overrun with vines and cobwebs. Mary realizes the chamber belonged to Lilias, her mother’s twin sister, and finds a skeleton key in the lady’s jewelry box. Later that day, Mary meets a young housemaid named Martha, who is unaffected by Mary’s insolence and promises that Lord Craven will see her soon. However, the lord leaves Misselthwaite the next day before visiting Mary, and Martha tells the girl that he has been a recluse since Lilias died. When Martha encourages Mary to play outside, Mary sees a robin fly into a walled garden, but she is unable to find the door. An elderly gardener named Ben Weatherstaff warns Mary that Lord Craven has forbidden entry into the garden since Lilias’s death. On another day, the robin leads Mary to the secret garden’s door and she retrieves the key from her aunt’s jewelry box. Inside the overgrown, dormant winter landscape, Mary uncovers green shoots springing from the weeds. At breakfast, Mary inquires about the wails that echo through the manor, but Martha claims it is only the sound of wind in the moors. Later, Mary meets Martha’s younger brother, Dickon, swears the boy to secrecy, and shows him the garden. When Mary sits on a swing, Dickon tells her that Lilias died in that very place from a fall. One night, Mary dreams of her mother and wakes to the sound of crying. Following the wails, Mary discovers Lord Craven’s son, a sickly boy named Colin. When Colin tells Mary that his mother, Lilias, died in childbirth, Mary remarks that she was told the lady died in her garden. Although Colin’s interest is peaked by the mention of a garden, Mary does not elaborate for fear of revealing her secret. Colin admits to his cousin that he has never been outside; he was bedridden since birth and cannot walk. The next day, Mary plants bulbs in the garden with Dickon, who tells her that Colin was born prematurely when Lilias fell off the swing; he was feared too weak to survive. Later, Mary sneaks into Colin’s room and realizes he is more impertinent than herself. When Mrs. Medlock and Martha interrupt the cousins’ meeting, Mary hides, but Martha spots her and sends her away. That evening, Lord Craven returns home and he sees Mary, who stuns him with her resemblance to her mother and Lilias. When the lord leaves the manor again without visiting his son, Colin tells Mary that he will die for want of love. Spring arrives, the garden blooms, and, with Dickon’s help, Mary removes the boards that have covered Colin’s bedroom windows since his birth. Wincing from the light and jealous of Mary’s camaraderie with Dickon, Colin throws a tantrum, crying that he is near death. Unsympathetic, Mary tells the boy he is selfish and perfectly normal, but she is interrupted by Mrs. Medlock, who is outraged by Mary’s intrusion. However, Colin orders Mrs. Medlock away and asks Mary if he is safe to join her outside. Soon, Colin heads to the garden in a wheelchair with Mary and Dickon, demanding that his servants stay inside to keep his whereabouts a secret. Stunned by the garden’s beauty, Colin decides to return every day and proposes marriage to Mary, hoping to keep her close forever. Ben, the gardener, peers over the wall atop a ladder and catches the children in their hiding place. He is shocked that Colin is not an invalid and to prove Ben’s pretense false, Colin musters the strength to stand. When Ben admits that he longs to return to the garden, Colin permits the old man to join them if he keeps it a secret. On another visit to the garden, Colin is inspired by an orphaned lamb and takes a few steps, himself. One night, Colin stumbles to Mary’s room and says he wants to surprise his father with his newfound strength but he doesn’t know where to find him. Mary suggests they search Lord Craven’s desk for an address and they sneak into the study to discover photographs of Lilias, pregnant, on the garden swing with Lord Craven. As days pass, Colin grows more robust, but Mrs. Medlock is convinced he is still ill and forces him to endure therapeutic treatments. Despite Colin’s pleas, the housekeeper refuses to call Lord Craven home and locks Mary in her room. One night, Mary, Dickon and Colin sneak outside with Ben and chant around a bonfire, hoping to summon Lord Craven’s return. Meanwhile, the lord hears Lilias beckon him to the garden in a dream and immediately heads home. He is outraged to find Colin missing from his bedroom, but Martha suggests the children are in the garden. Lord Craven returns to Lilias’s paradise and discovers Colin walking blindfolded, playing blind man’s bluff. The boy feels his father’s face with recognition, takes off his mask, and eagerly leads Lord Craven through the blooming landscape. Although Dickon is moved by the joyous reunion, Mary runs away in anger, crying that she is unwanted. When Lord Craven tries to console her, Mary accuses him of abandoning the garden and Colin, but the gentleman credits Mary for restoring life to Misselthwaite and promises to keep the garden open. Lord Craven, Colin and Mary embrace and return home to a crowd of astonished and delighted servants, including Mrs. Medlock. +

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Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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