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The Secret Garden
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAgnieszka Holland
Screenplay byCaroline Thompson
Based onThe Secret Garden
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Produced byFred Fuchs
Tom Luddy
Fred Roos
CinematographyRoger Deakins
Jerzy Zieliński
Edited byIsabelle Lorente
Music byZbigniew Preisner
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • 13 August 1993 (1993-08-13) (US)
  • 20 January 1994 (1994-01-20) (UK)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States
United Kingdom
Box office$40 million[1]

The Secret Garden is a 1993 fantasy drama film directed by Agnieszka Holland, executive-produced by Francis Ford Coppola and distributed by Warner Bros. under their Family Entertainment imprint. The movie stars Kate Maberly, Heydon Prowse, Andrew Knott, John Lynch, and Maggie Smith, was written by Caroline Thompson and based on the 1911 novel of the same name by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The novel was previously adapted into two films: a 1949 drama film and a 1919 silent film, which starred Lila Lee and Spottiswoode Aitken.

Set in Yorkshire, England, Yorkshire's Allerton Castle was used for most of the exterior shots of Misselthwaite Manor, as well as interior shots. The film was a critical and commercial success. Maggie Smith was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. In 2005, the British Film Institute included it in their list of the "50 films you should see by the age of 14".


In 1901, recently orphaned 10-year-old Mary Lennox is sent from her home in British India to her uncle Lord Archibald Craven's mansion, Misselthwaite Manor, in Yorkshire, England. She was unloved and neglected by her late parents who were killed in an earthquake in India. Due to their ill treatment, Mary is cold, self-centered and so repressed that she is unable to cry.

Mary is unhappy in her new surroundings. Head housekeeper, Mrs. Medlock, informs her she will not be spoiled as she was in India and her uncle, who spends extended periods of time away, will likely not see her. Although ordered by Mrs. Medlock not to leave her room, strange noises lead Mary to explore the mansion on her own. She discovers a hidden door in her room that leads to uninhabited and unkempt parts of the house, including what appears to be her aunt's old room. There, she discovers a large key in a jewelry box, but unsure of what it is for, she leaves it alone.

Soon after her arrival, Mrs. Medlock commands her to play outside to keep her occupied and out of the way. On the expansive grounds, Mary discovers her late Aunt Lilias' walled garden, which has been locked and neglected since her death 10 years prior. She realizes that the key she found earlier unlocks the garden, but keeps it a secret.

Dickon Sowerby (younger brother of Martha, Mrs. Medlock's cheerful housemaid who befriends Mary), an outdoors boy who claims he can talk with animals, befriends Mary. Fascinated by the secret garden, Mary enlists Dickon to help her bring it back to life, gradually becoming friendlier and happier in the process. When she is finally introduced to her uncle, Mary is apprehensive, knowing that he had ordered no one to enter the garden following his wife's untimely death. She evasively asks to plant seeds on an "unwanted" part of the manor grounds. Lord Craven grants her permission, then claims he is leaving for an extended period. Confident that the garden will remain a secret, Mary and Dickon continue their work, growing close.

Hidden away in the gloomy mansion is Lord Craven's son and Mary's cousin, Colin Craven, who has been treated like a fragile, sickly invalid his entire life. A spoiled, demanding, short-tempered boy (similar to Mary in India), he has never left his room nor learned to walk and has to be confined to his bed or a wheelchair for mobility. Mary eventually finds him, discovering that he was the source of the crying she has been hearing. Although taken aback by his difficult nature, she reaches out anyway, showing him he is not really sick, and the outside world is not as dangerous as Mrs. Medlock has claimed. Encouraged by Mary, Colin goes outside for the first time. Mary and Dickon take him to the secret garden, and Colin begins both his physical and mental healing process.

Mary, Colin, and Dickon spend all of their free time in the garden, where Colin learns to stand and walk. Anxious to show his father, they perform a magic ceremony, hoping to bring him back home. Appearing to work, Lord Craven awakens suddenly from a dream of Lilias calling him home to the garden and immediately returns. He finds the secret garden and sees Colin walking and playing Blind man's buff with the other children, leaving him dumbfounded with joy.

Upon seeing her uncle, Mary runs off and bursts into tears for the first time in her life, certain that she is unwanted and fearing the garden will be locked up again. Lord Craven seeks her out and reassures her that she is now part of the family. Promising never to lock it up again, he thanks Mary for bringing his family back to life and reuniting them. Mary, Colin, Lord Craven embrace, then celebrate. Dickon rides away to inform his sister and the rest of the manor staff of the good news, as Lord Craven and the children follow close behind him.

The film ends as Dickon is shown riding on his horse in a meadow while a voiceover of Mary reflects that "If you look the right way, the whole world is a garden."


  • Kate Maberly as Mary Lennox
  • Heydon Prowse as Colin Craven, Lord Craven's son and Mary's cousin
  • Andrew Knott as Dickon Sowerby, Martha's younger brother
  • Laura Crossley as Martha Sowerby, Mrs. Medlock's servant and Dickon's older sister
  • John Lynch as Lord Archibald Craven
  • Maggie Smith as Mrs. Medlock, Lord Craven's servant and housekeeper
  • Irène Jacob as Mrs. Lennox/Lilias Craven
  • Peter Moreton as Will
  • Colin Bruce as Major Lennox
  • Walter Sparrow as Ben Weatherstaff, the gardener


Exterior of Allerton Castle in Yorkshire, northern England

Yorkshire's imposing Allerton Castle was used for most of the exterior shots of Misselthwaite Manor, and some of the interior was also used.[2] Fountains Hall was also used for part of the exterior.[2] Interiors of the former Midland Grand Hotel were used for filming as well, notably the scenes on the grand staircase.Template:Citation needed


The film features the end credits song "Winter Light" performed by Linda Ronstadt, which is based on two themes from the score by Zbigniew Preisner. However, this song was not included in the film's original soundtrack release, but was in Ronstadt's eponymous album Winter Light.[3] Sarah Brightman and the youngest member of Celtic Woman, Chloë Agnew, covered it for their albums; Brightman's Classics and Agnew's Walking In The Air. The soundtrack, released by Varèse Sarabande, contains the original score.[4]

Home media

The Secret Garden was originally released on VHS in the UK on 1 August 1994 and was re-released on 15 December 1997 by Warner Home Video.


Since its 1993 release, the film has garnered positive reviews. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 88% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 42 reviews, with an average rating of 7.9/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "The Secret Garden honors its classic source material with a well-acted, beautifully filmed adaptation that doesn't shy from its story's darker themes".[5] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 74 out of 100 based on 26 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[6] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[7]

Desson Thomson of The Washington Post praised the acting by young actors, calling their acts "quite proficient and un-sappy too", but adding, "it's not their fault if they too often seem like chessmen being moved around on the director's board, composed into picturesque tableaux".[8] Todd McCarthy of Variety wrote that "[the film is] executed to near perfection in all artistic departments", and called it "[a] superior adaptation", mentioning that "[the adaptation] of the perennial favorite novel will find its core public among girls, but should prove satisfying enough to a range of audiences".[9]

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "C+" and called it "earnest, heartfelt, and, for all its lavishness, rather plodding".[10] Janet Maslin of The New York Times called this new adaptation of The Secret Garden "[an] elegantly expressive, a discreet and lovely rendering of the children's classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett".[11]

Trevor Johnston of Time Out said that "With well-judged performances played straight, and topical subtexts (Green consciousness, the dysfunctional family), this 'children's' film sets no age limit on its potential audience".[12]

The film grossed $31.2 million in the US and Canada.[13] Internationally, it grossed $8.8 million for a worldwide total of $40 million.[1]

Awards and nominations

Award wins

  • Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Music – (Zbigniew Preisner)

Award nominations

  • BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role - (Maggie Smith)


  1. 1.0 1.1 <templatestyles></templatestyles>"Top 100 grossers worldwide, '93-94". Variety. 17 October 1994. p. M-56.
  2. 2.0 2.1 McDonald, Guy (2004). England. New Holland Publishers. p. 834.
  3. Promis, Jose F.. "Winter Light - Linda Ronstadt". 
  4. "Secret Garden, The. Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  5. "The Secret Garden (1993)". Fandango Media. 
  6. "The Secret Garden Reviews". CBS Interactive. 
  7. "Home" (in en-US). 
  8. <templatestyles></templatestyles>Howe, Desson (13 August 1993). "'The Secret Garden' (G)". The Washington Post. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  9. <templatestyles></templatestyles>McCarthy, Todd (6 August 1993). "The Secret Garden". Variety.
  10. <templatestyles></templatestyles>Gleiberman, Owen (13 August 1993). "The Secret Garden". Entertainment Weekly.
  11. *<templatestyles></templatestyles>Maslin, Janet (13 August 1993). "Review/Film; Blossom Time for a Lonely Girl". The New York Times. p. C3.
  12. <templatestyles></templatestyles>Johnston, Trevor (9 February 2006). "The Secret Garden". Time Out.
  13. "The Secret Garden (1993)". IMDb. 


  • <templatestyles></templatestyles>Wolf, Matt (8 August 1993). "Film; 'The Secret Garden' and How It Grew". The New York Times. p. 11.

External links

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