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the entire movie.
Mary Lennox (Kate Maberly) is the neglected child of a wealthy English couple living in India during the early 20th century. Her mother and father never wanted her and only care about themselves.
One night during one of their frequent parties, Mary can be seen hiding in her mother's bedroom under a dresser, as her mother unexpectedly returned. Her father follows her mother, and her mother claims that she left her fan behind, whereupon Mary really sees how much they care about one another.
Continuing in her narrative, she tells us that her parents always think of themselves, never about her, and that, if only she'd known that in a few minutes she'd lose them forever. Ultimately, an earthquake occurs and both of Mary’s parents are killed in the destruction.
Six months after the incident, Mary is sent by ship to Liverpool, England, where she is picked up, several hours late, by Mrs. Medlock (Maggie Smith), the strict housekeeper of Misselthwaite Manor in Yorkshire. She speaks with the man who is in charge of incoming ship passengers, where they inconsiderately discuss Mary's appearance in front of her.
Mrs. Medlock says that Mary is a "queer, unresponsive little thing" and that her mother was beautiful, and Mary is not. The man quickly agrees with her, and says that children change. Mrs. Medlock agrees as well, and ushers Mary along.
Mrs. Medlock explains, while in a carriage back to the manor, to Mary that her aunt died before she was born. Mary did not know this because her parents spent no time with her. She doesn't know how to look after herself, as her needs were always met by her ayah back in India; nor has she learned to cry. Upon her arrival at the manor, she hears someone crying from a distant room, but all of the servants tell her differently, claiming that it is the wind.
On her first night at the manor, Mary discovers a secret door in her room that leads her to the abandoned rooms of the manor (one being the room of her late aunt, who is also her mother's twin sister). She later meets Martha Sowerby (Laura Crossley), the manor's cheerful, youngest servant, with whom she quickly becomes friends.
Martha tells Mary that her uncle, Lord Archibald Craven (John Lynch), would like to see her sometime, although Mrs. Medlock denies this fact, too. Lord Craven frequently travels away from home because his wife died during the birth of his son, Colin Craven (Heydon Prowse), as he is unable to overcome his loss; it is thought to be a curse that is laid upon Lord Craven.
The next day, when Mary is out in the fresh air and the local gardens, she discovers another hidden garden behind some overgrown ivy. One of the gardeners, Ben Weatherstaff (Walter Sparrow), tells her that there is no entrance because it was meant to be shut it off by Lord Craven after the death of his wife. Mary, driven to find out more about the garden, remembers a key she found in her late aunt’s bedroom, and discovers it fits the lock to the hidden door.
One night after dreaming about her mother for the first time since coming to England, Mary hears the crying from the distant room she heard before. Determined to find out where the crying is coming from, she discovers the room that belongs to her sickly cousin, Colin Craven, who is the master of the house during Lord Craven's absence. Colin, who lives in bed, is unable to walk and has a morbid obsession with death, and believes he will become a hunchback like his father.
Colin and Mary get to know each other very well. His windows are boarded up because of his belief that the light and "spores" outside can harm him. When Mary decides to pull them down with the help of Martha’s brother, Dickon Sowerby (Andrew Knott) (whom she met earlier when she discovered the door to the secret garden), Colin falls out of his wheelchair onto the floor, launching a terrible tantrum. It is revealed that Medlock keeps Colin concealed from Mary as she is convinced Mary is capable of killing Colin if she goes anywhere near him.
Soon, Mary persuades Colin that the fresh air is safe, and she and Dickon take him outside in his wheelchair to see the secret garden that they have been trying to restore. Mary and Dickon ultimately teach Colin to stand up and walk, but they decide that Lord Craven should be the first to see Colin walking, so they conceal the secret from Medlock and the others.
Mary, Dickon, and Colin one afternoon notice Ben Weatherstaff staring at them, and he admits to tending to the garden for the late Lady Craven, and having a special love for the roses. Ben is angry when he sees Mary, and Mary claims that their robin friend showed her the door.
Ben also sees that Colin is in a wheelchair, and asks if he has a crooked back and crooked legs. Angrily, Colin denies both accounts and gets Mary & Dickon to help him stand, shocking Ben completely. Dickon goes to let him in, and Colin asks Mary if the garden is really magical.
Mary claims that Colin is the magical one, and Colin proposes marriage to Mary, whereupon Mary quickly says that they're cousins. Colin, meanwhile, claims that he doesn't care, and that he wants them to be together forever. Mary smiles and kisses him, telling him that they are together. Dickon returns with Ben, and the children agree to allow him into the garden, as long as he will keep their secret.
Later, Colin begins walking better and better, and Mary and Dickon are able to play more games with him. One day, Dickon is pushing Mary on the garden's swing (a swing that Dickon told Mary that Lady Craven fell off of and ultimately gave birth to Colin too soon) and Colin is snapping pictures of them with an old camera.
Mary playfully throws her hat to Colin, and he puts it on, and tells Dickon to sit beside Mary on the swing. He laughingly notices them looking at each other, then tells them to look at him. Mary and Dickon do not, hinting at an attraction between the two, but Colin becomes jealous, and demands that they look at him.
After Mrs. Medlock states that Colin is gravely ill, she forces Mary and Colin to be separated, locking Mary in her bedroom. Mary however escapes from her room through the second door behind a tapestry. Then she takes Colin and Dickon to the garden to perform magic at night, barefoot.
The magic causes Lord Craven to have a dream about his late wife in the secret garden with Colin. Alarmed and terrified, he rushes back to Misselthwaite Manor to find him. Lord Craven goes into the secret garden to find Colin walking quite well now. With Mary (certain that no one wants her anymore) running away, Lord Craven persuades her that she is truly a wanted person.
Soon, Mary has learned to cry for the first time and Lord Craven has regained his sense of humor and laughter. Upon their return to the Manor, Medlock and the other servants are amazed to see Colin walking back independently with Mary and Lord Craven.
The film ends with Dickon riding over the Yorkshire countryside on his horse as the world zooms out around him. Mary speaks of her uncle's learning to laugh and her learning to cry...and that the whole world is a garden.
- Maggie Smith as Mrs. Medlock
- Kate Maberly as Mary Lennox
- Andrew Knott as Dickon Sowerby
- Heydon Prowse as Colin Craven
- John Lynch as Lord Archibald Craven
- Irène Jacob as Mrs. Lennox/Lilias Craven
- Colin Bruce as Major Lennox
- Laura Crossley as Martha Sowerby
- Walter Sparrow as Ben Weatherstaff
The production for "The Secret Garden" began in October of 1992 and filming began on November 28, 1992. Production ended on May 17, 1993 and filming ended on May 31, 1993.
Yorkshire's imposing Allerton Castle was used for most of the exterior shots of Misselthwaite Manor and some of the interior was also used. Fountains Hall was also used for part of the exterior.
Interiors of the former Midland Grand Hotel were used for filming as well, notable the scenes on the grand staircase.
Throughout the film, Kate Maberly wore a wig because she had short hair when she was cast in the role of Mary.
The biggest challenge for production designer, Stuart Craig was the garden because it was built from scratch to avoid the logistical nightmare of crowd control that would have been required for a complicated summer/winter shoot in an existing garden.
"The Secret Garden" opened at #4 at the box office, grossing $4,625,583 during its opening weekend. Domestically, it grossed $31,181,347.
In the United Kingdom, the film grossed £2,620,293.
"The Secret Garden" has garnered positive reviews and currently holds an 85% "fresh" approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website (based on 40 reviews).
Roger Ebert gave the film four stars, calling it "a work of beauty, poetry and deep mystery" and added that "watching it is like entering for a time into a closed world where one's destiny may be discovered."
Janet Maslin from the New York Times described it as "elegantly expressive, a discreet and lovely rendering of the children's classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett."
Megan Rosenfeld's review in the Washington Post was critical, saying that there "is not a lot of action in the film, and it is likely to be of little interest to anyone under the age of about 8, unless he or she is particularly literary or cerebral."