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The Secret Garden (1987)

When a spoiled English girl living in nineteenth century India loses both parents in a cholera epidemic, she is sent back to England to live in a country mansion. The Lord is a strange old ... See full summary »


Alan Grint


Blanche Hanalis (teleplay), Frances Hodgson Burnett (novel)

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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Gennie James ... Mary Lennox
Barret Oliver ... Dickon Sowerby
Jadrien Steele Jadrien Steele ... Colin Craven
Michael Hordern ... Ben Weatherstaff
Billie Whitelaw ... Mrs. Medlock
Derek Jacobi ... Archibald Craven
Lucy Gutteridge ... Mrs. Lennox
Colin Firth ... Adult Colin Craven
Julian Glover ... Colonel McGraw
Cassie Stuart ... Martha Sowerby
Philip Locke ... Pitcher
Karen Archer Karen Archer ... Mrs. Crawford
Irina Brook ... Adult Mary
David Waller David Waller ... Dr. Craven
Pat Heywood Pat Heywood ... Mrs. Sowerby


When a spoiled English girl living in nineteenth century India loses both parents in a cholera epidemic, she is sent back to England to live in a country mansion. The Lord is a strange old man, frail and deformed, immensely kind, but so melancholy. She wishes to discover what has caused him so much sorrow and to bring joy back to the household. It all must have something to do with the screams and wails which echo through the house at night and no one wants to talk about. Written by Paul Emmons <pemmons@wcupa.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Family | Drama








Release Date:

30 November 1987 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Hallmark Hall of Fame: The Secret Garden (#37.1) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The building used as the house, Highclere Castle, is not only the seat of the Earl of Carnarvon who helped find Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922, but also was the filming location of the British drama Downton Abbey (2010). See more »


Mary: Dickon knows things no one else knows.
See more »


Version of The Secret Garden (1949) See more »

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User Reviews

Not an ideal adaptation, stands pretty well on its own though
3 July 2017 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

Like 'A Little Princess', also written by Frances Hodgson Burnett, 'The Secret Garden' is a lovely, engrossing read with memorable characters, some of whom that you don't exactly like at first but as they grow and change one likes them much more, and a vivid setting.

There will always be debate as to which version is the best version of 'The Secret Garden'. The most faithful is perhaps the 1975 adaptation, and the 1949 film with Margaret O'Brien is also very much worthwhile. My personal favourite is the 1993 film, one of my favourites as a child and is still an enchanting film now (and no this is not nostalgia talking, there has been a fair share of childhood favourites that hold up poorly now), to me it had more polish and heart.

In no way is that to knock this 1987 adaptation. It stands pretty well on its own enough, and there are some faithful moments and most of the characters are true to personality and how they evolve, but there are also some very odd deviations that do distract pretty badly (anybody looking for a completely faithful adaptation without strange deviations and additions should look elsewhere).

Two in particular stand out as either unnecessary or weird. The book-end scenes with the children as adults is the strongest example of the former, those scenes added absolutely nothing and felt very clunky and mawkish in writing. The same with the very ham-fisted message introduced here. The way Dickon's character is written is especially strange, in a way that really doesn't fit the character and jars with the setting.

Most of the acting is good, apart from the un-authentic accents. Faring weakest is perhaps Jadrien Steele, whose Colin is stiff in places and while the character is meant to be insufferable at first other adaptations did a better job in showing his change. Barret Oliver does quite well as Dickon but is disadvantaged by the way the character is written.

Visually, however, this 'Secret Garden' looks good, beautifully and atmospherically photographed that even an at times less than perfect transfer can't ruin, costumed with a lot of love and care and with scenery that's both charming and atmospheric. The music, with some haunting use of Chopin, fits remarkably well and doesn't feel tonally at odds at all.

Dialogue has a mostly natural flow and has the right amount of enchantment and mystery. The story has a lot of charm, and there is enough to leave one in awe and make one cry. The direction is above competent and the sound is crisp and clear, complementing the music and dialogue well.

Apart from reservations about Steele and to a lesser extent Oliver, the acting is fine. Gennie James gives a Mary that grows in character from spoilt and sullen to a happier and more caring character, displaying all those traits without being too sentimental or too irritating. Michael Hordern's Ben Weatherstaff is spot on, how lovely to see a character treated like a minor character in a couple of the other adaptations be a scene-stealer.

Billie Whitelaw is suitably beastly as Mrs Medlock, while giving her some humanity later on. Viewers seem more mixed on Derek Jacobi, to me his Lord Craven was suitably melancholic and mysterious. Martha was quite appealing too.

In summary, stands pretty well on its own but purists better look elsewhere. 7/10 Bethany Cox

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