When Heidi, from Along the Brandywine, started her Valentine’s Day Period Drama Blog Party, she also published an official tag! As I’ve already posted my entry for the event, a review of the Hallmark Hall of Fame picture, The Love Letter, I thought it’d be nice to answer the tag questions. As I said in that review, period dramas are not regularly covered on 18 Cinema Lane. However, I did try to answer each question as best as I could. If you’ve visited my blog before, you’d know this isn’t my first blogathon tag. Last year, when I joined the Legends of Western Cinema Week, I published my answers relating to the western genre. This time around, I’m answering questions about this blogathon’s theme: period dramas!
Your current three (or up to five!) favorite period dramas?
Swept from the Sea
The Enchanted Cottage
Ben-Hur (the 1959 version)
Nicholas Nickleby (the 2002 version)
To Kill a Mockingbird
2. What would you recommend to someone who’s never seen a period drama as a starter?
Definitely Swept from the Sea! It was the best movie I saw in 2019 and I wish more people knew about it. Here’s the link to my review:
3. A favorite couple that wouldn’t be included in answer #1 (cause I’m figuring those are already top favorites ;)) and/or a favorite secondary character romance?
I really like both couples from Anchors Aweigh! Even though the movie is a musical, there are romantic elements that work well in the overall story. Without giving much away, it shows how subverting expectations can be a good thing.
4. What do you consider foundational qualities for a healthy romance?
Consent and communication. Two years ago, I wrote an editorial about how Lestat and Akasha’s relationship in Queen of the Damned was not healthy. Their lack or consent and communication serve as two reasons why. I’ll leave a link to the article if you want to read it:
I’d say Nicholas’ uncle, Ralph, from Nicholas Nickleby. Like my answer for question number three, I won’t give the story away. But I will say that Ralph is one of the reasons why Nicholas and his family experience hardship in that movie.
6. A favorite proposal scene?
I’m not sure if this would count, but I liked Nicholas and Madeline’s conversation, from Nicholas Nickleby, where they reflect on their pasts. It has a good message of strength that came across as genuine. Nicholas and Madeline also look like they truly care about one another.
7. Favorite period drama characters based on a real life couple?
I haven’t seen this movie in years, but I’ll choose The Young Victoria. From what I remember, I liked Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s relationship. Similar to Nicholas and Madeline’s relationship in Nicholas Nickleby,Victoria and Albert looked like they truly loved each other. In a film about royals in the 19th century, I found that part of the story refreshing!
8. Any classic b/w period dramas you like? and 9. Most mature romance in a period drama? (mature as in age and/or characters who are consciously and wisely ripened by life experience, etc.)
For this answer, I combined questions eight and nine. This is because I think The Enchanted Cottage fits both of them. Not only is this movie presented in black and white, but there is maturity within the protagonists’ relationship. Because Robert Young’s character, Oliver Bradford, is a World War II veteran, there are discussions of trauma and self-worth. Inner beauty and self-perception are also explored between Oliver and Laura, portrayed by Dorothy McGuire.
10. Most excruciatingly long, slow burn romance in a period drama?
The first one that comes to mind is Elizabeth and Jack’s relationship from When Calls the Heart. For five seasons, fans were waiting for these two characters to get married. While they eventually tied the knot, Jack was sent away on a Mountie mission, only for him to die at the end of the fifth season. This means that the fans barely got to see Elizabeth and Jack as a married couple.
11. A story that has multiple film adaptations where you love more than one of them?
After thinking about a double feature I wrote, I’ll pick The Secret Garden. Out of the three adaptations I’ve seen, I like the 1987 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation and the 1993 film. If you’re interested, I’ve posted the links to the aforementioned double feature and its conclusion.
12. A book you think needs to be made into a film (or a new adaptation)?
Last year, in my Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List, I talked about how I’d like to see To Stand On My Own: The Polio Epidemic Diary of Noreen Robertson and Zlata’s Diary receive film adaptations. Instead of repeating myself, I’m sharing the link to that list, so you can read why I feel this way.
This year, I’ve seen several tier ranking videos on Youtube. While most of these videos have revolved around books, there have been a few that focus on films. As I watched these tier lists being created, I discovered how there was no list dedicated to Hallmark’s productions. So, I decided to fill that void by making a list of my own! Because Hallmark has created so many movies, my tier ranking list focuses on all the Hallmark Hall of Fame movies I have seen in my life. This article is based solely on my own opinion and is not meant to be mean-spirited in any way. I also created this list to bring unique content to my blog. I was trying to complete this post yesterday, but this project took longer than I expected, so I apologize for its late arrival. For this tier ranking list, there will be five categories; Bottom of the Barrel, Ok, Decent/Fine, Good, and Great. I will give each film a brief, but thorough explanation for why it has earned that placement.
Bottom of the Barrel
Back When We Were Grown-Ups
Anyone who has read my list of the Top 10 Worst Hallmark Movies of All Time would not be surprised to see this movie placed in the Bottom of the Barrel category. To me, this is not only the worst Hallmark Hall of Fame picture, but also the worst Hallmark project ever made. If you’d like to learn more about why I don’t like Back When We Were Grown-Ups, you can check out my list of the Worst Hallmark Movies at this link:
This is another movie I talked about in my Top 10 Worst Hallmark Movies of All Time list. I’ve only seen Firelight once, but I found it to be so forgettable. When I think about this movie, on rare occasions, I wonder what message it was trying to deliver to their audience? If I, as an audience member, can’t determine what the intended purpose of that specific film is, that likely means something went wrong during the creative process. The rest of my thoughts on Firelight are found in my Top 10 Worst Hallmark Movies of All Time list at this link:
From what I remember, the overall plot was very lackluster. I also found the premise revolving around a child rarely lying to be unbelievable. A Painted House contains other flaws that prevented me from enjoying this picture. One of them was how a few characters were unlikable for no clear reason. For a stand-alone film, having it end on a cliff-hanger wasn’t a good idea. I haven’t read John Grisham’s novel, so I’m not sure if the film’s creative team adopted any liberties for this project.
While I don’t think Rose Hill is a bad movie, I just wasn’t impressed with the final project. The story as a whole was not the most interesting and Rose herself seemed to sit on the sidelines of her own story. There was a mystery within this script, but that part of the story was poorly executed. This surprises me, as Hallmark Hall of Fame released a film in 1990 with a similar story concept titled Caroline?
My Sister’s Keeper
I liked the first half of this movie, where the audience witnesses the two sisters growing up alongside each other. It provided strong opportunities for each sister to receive character development and the film’s first half felt like it was building up to something bigger. When the second half of the movie arrives and both sisters become adults, the project hits a stand-still where nothing interesting happens. I will say the high-light of My Sister’s Keeper is seeing Kathy Bates riding on an elephant.
I’ve only seen about 50% of this movie. However, based on what I saw, I found the project to be just ok. I didn’t find myself feeling emotionally invested in the story like I did with other Hall of Fame titles. I wouldn’t mind re-watching this one, and maybe even reviewing it, to see if I still hold the same opinion.
When I first saw this film, I thought it was decent/fine. But since its 2013 release, it has been relegated to ok status. The Makeover is a glorified Hallmark Channel movie, complete with the male and female protagonist falling in love with each other. In fact, Hallmark’s first network released a movie with a similar premise the year prior called Fixing Pete. Maybe the first Hallmark Hall of Fame project of 2013 should have been given a stronger story.
Blind Spot was decent/fine upon initial viewing, but is now in the ok category. The film’s cautionary message was given more emphasis than the plot. This caused the movie to feel like it belonged on Lifetime when these kinds of films were in their hey-day. As I’ve said before, Karina Arroyave stars in this Hall of Fame presentation. However, her talents were under-utilized in this picture.
The Magic of Ordinary Days
This is one of the most beloved titles Hallmark has ever made. However, I don’t like or love this project as much as other people do. I found the main plot to be too unbelievable for my liking. Hallmark also glossed over the subject of Japanese internment camps when they could have provided some commentary on how prejudice can negatively affect someone’s perspective. There was one romantic relationship that I knew wasn’t going to lead anywhere, making me wonder why it was included in the first place. The Magic of Ordinary Days is another Hall of Fame movie based on a book, so I don’t know what elements from the novel where translated to the screen.
I reviewed this film for the James Garner Blogathon back in February. On the dvd cover, it is considered “the most-honored television movie of all time”. But, to me, the project is a bit on the over-rated side. I’m not a fan of “slice-of-life” stories, which is exactly what the plot of Promise is. The road to educating the audience about Mental Illness seems like it was paved with good intentions. As I say in my review, it could have been executed better though. You can read my review at the link below if you want to learn more about my thoughts on Promise.
Back in 2015, I felt Just in Time for Christmas was a good movie. After giving it some more thought, I’ve come to see the film as just fine. Like The Makeover, the project is a glorified Hallmark Channel movie. But, unlike the aforementioned 2013 release, Just in Time for Christmas tried to do something different with their creative material. Time travel is rarely incorporated in any of Hallmark’s projects. This release was, I believe, the first time it had been included in a Hallmark Hall of Fame title.
In Love and War
When The World War II Blogathon took place last September, In Love and War is the film I chose to review. As a movie, I liked it for it was. But, as a Hall of Fame picture, it didn’t leave as big of an emotional impact as other titles from this collection have. For a story taking place during World War II, there wasn’t a lot of action in it. There was also an imbalance between the ideas of “love” and “war”. If you want to read my review for In Love and War, you can click on the link below:
I haven’t seen this movie since its 2011 release. From I remember, it was just fine. While I liked the acting, the story was straight-forward. I also found the part about the pregnant teacher working and, eventually, bringing her baby to a compromising environment to be unbelievable. Like I said about Loving Leah, I’m not opposed to re-watching this movie and reassessing my opinion on it.
Front of the Class
This is another picture I haven’t seen in years. However, I thought Front of the Class was a fine film. Similar to In Love and War, it didn’t leave a big, emotional impact on me. But, as I’ve said before, I wouldn’t mind watching this movie again and seeing if my thoughts on it have changed.
The Secret Garden
In my Bonus Double Feature last September, I talked about Hallmark Hall of Fame’s version of The Secret Garden. I liked this adaptation, but I found it to be drawn-out. Looking back on this movie, it seems like the creative team placed so much emphasis on respecting the source material, they forgot to bring their own voice to the table. You can check out my thoughts on three different adaptations of The Secret Garden at these links:
I feel The Boys Next Door is one of the more under-rated titles from the Hall of Fame collection. The acting is solid and the perception of individuals with disabilities is mostly positive. My favorite character from this movie is Barry Klemper, but I felt he was under-utilized in the overall story. Also, some of the language toward the four men with disabilities reflects the time period the film was released in. I wonder how different the play this movie is based on is from this adaptation?
The Valley of Light
Despite not having seen this movie since its 2007 release, I remember really liking this film! “She won’t give me my chocolate” is still one of my favorite quotes from a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. This film also contains one of the most shocking plot twists in the history of this collection. I definitely want to re-watch this film and possibly share my thoughts on this movie viewing experience!
As I have said before on this blog, Love Locks is the first newer Hall of Fame title that made me feel like this branch of Hallmark was going back to their roots! Yes, this is the type of story you’d likely find in Hallmark Channel movies. But the way Love Locks was presented made the overall project feel like a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. I also like the movie’s original poster, as it is one of the most creative pieces of marketing in Hallmark history! Personally, I think this is a good picture if you want to introduce someone to the Hall of Fame collection!
Love Takes Flight
This is the most recent release from the Hall of Fame collection I’ve talked about, as I reviewed the film last April. Love Takes Flight is a better movie than its marketing campaign made it seem. However, as I’ve noticed with the newer Hall of Fame titles, it lacks emotional depth because it feels like it adopted Hallmark Channel’s “formula”. It also contains other flaws, like having too many plots. Here’s the link to my review of Love Takes Flight if you’re interested in reading it:
The Beach House is another Hallmark Hall of Fame film that was given less-than-stellar marketing. But this didn’t stop it from being better than I expected! As someone who has also read the book, I think the movie did a better job at telling the story than its source material did! I also believe the overall quality of this project is a good reminder of why the Hall of Fame branch exists. This is another title I reviewed, so I’ll provide the link to that post here:
I thoroughly enjoyed Christmas Everlasting when it was released in 2018! In fact, the only aspect of the film I didn’t like was the limited on-screen presence Patti LaBelle received, as I expected her to have a larger role in the film. Similar to other Hall of Fame titles I’ll mention, this movie features a mystery within the overall plot. Mysteries are not often found in Hallmark Hall of Fame projects, so I like how Christmas Everlasting helped bring something different to the table. I reviewed this movie as well, so here is the link:
I liked this movie and the book it was based on! The overall execution of this project made it feel like a Hall of Fame production, making this the collection’s first newer Christmas film to make me feel this way. Similar to Christmas Everlasting, The Christmas Train incorporates a mystery into their story. While this element is also in the book, it brings a unique component to Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Christmas line-up. It’s also special in how most of the film’s events take place on a train, which is rare for a Hall of Fame movie!
The Lost Valentine
This is a good, but sad film! While I appreciate the effort that has gone into Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Christmas movies, it’s nice to see other holidays receive recognition within this branch of Hallmark. The use of flashbacks enhanced the overall story, giving context to the events being presented on screen. Because of how sad the film is, the re-watchability rate is on the lower side of the spectrum. But this is a project I would definitely recommend!
A Dog Named Christmas
A Dog Named Christmas is another Hall of Fame Christmas film I genuinely enjoyed! It does a good job at effectively showing how someone can make a difference in their community. Since this movie places a lot of attention on the titular dog, some story elements end up being over-looked. One of them is seeing how the main protagonist lives his life with a disability. I know there’s a prequel to this film called Christmas with Tucker. I haven’t seen it, but I’d like to see how it holds up to A Dog Named Christmas!
Sweet Nothing in My Ear
I saw this movie for the first time in 2020 and it made me miss the Hallmark Hall of Fame films of yester-year. Even though this story revolves around a debate, the overall project was interesting to watch. Both sides are treated equally and are given enough time to present their case. I don’t like the ending, but I can understand why the creative team made that specific choice. Sweet Nothing in My Ear is a unique addition to the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection!
Pictures of Hollis Woods
I haven’t seen this movie in years, but I recall having a good experience watching it. However, this film has flown under the radar for far too long. The acting is good and the overarching message of family is incorporated into the story very well. I also remember one of the characters lives in and owns a movie theater. This was a highlight for me because that is a dream of mine.
As I’ve said before, mysteries are not often found in Hallmark Hall of Fame projects. It is even rarer when the entire plot is a mystery story. The overall quality of the film’s writing is strong and I also liked the acting performances. However, like I said about Blind Spot, Karina Arroyave’s talents were under-utilized in this project. I’m surprised this movie has never been aired on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, as this title fits the network’s brand.
Grace & Glorie
One of the plot points of this film is a woman from a big city moving to a small town. However, it never felt like the project was following a formula. Instead, the story focuses on the friendship between Grace and Gloria. This part of the movie provided interesting opportunities for character development and exploration of certain themes. The movie also showcased wonderful scenery.
Christmas with Holly
In Christmas with Holly, the protagonist and his brothers take care of Holly after she loses her mother. This part of the movie reminded me of Three Men and a Baby. But what’s great about this 2012 release is how it takes a pre-existing story structure and creates a different narrative with it. While there was a romance in this film, it was never heavily emphasized like in other Hall of Fame titles. The overall story felt well-rounded.
A Smile as Big as the Moon
This is one of my favorite Hallmark Hall of Fame films! I was really impressed with the overall quality of the project when I first saw it in 2012. There is so much to like about this movie, from the acting performances to the messages and themes. To me, this is the perfect example of what a Hall of Fame title should be.
I’m not going to lie; I thought the title sounded ridiculous when I first heard it. But the movie was better than I expected it to be! This film does a good job at exploring how childhood cancer can affect a child and the people around them. It also has a genuine sincerity that doesn’t feel too mushy or manipulative. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say this is a good choice to watch around Christmas-time!
The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler
Hallmark Hall of Fame movies are known for having larger budgets than a typical Hallmark Channel or Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film. The creative team behind The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler used that budget to their advantage. The presentation of this film is so good, it feels like a theatrical release! Everything about the movie feels like it is of the highest quality. I honestly wish Hallmark created more Hall of Fame pictures like this one.
Follow the Stars Home
From the moment I first saw this movie, I knew it would be a winner! But it sometimes feels like this film doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. The acting performances from the whole cast are one of the strongest components of this project. This movie also contains one of the most intense scenes I’ve ever seen in a film. Follow the Stars Home does a good job at balancing the lighted-hearted and serious moments of the story.
The Sarah, Plain and Tall trilogy
This series introduced me to Hallmark Hall of Fame as well as Hallmark films in general. I’d say this is one of the strongest trilogies in film history! The overall quality is consistent and it feels like the creative team truly cared about the project they were making. I would like to see Hallmark attempt another series within their Hallmark Hall of Fame branch!
Ellen Foster is an excellent, but sad film! What makes this movie work is Jena Malone’s performance, as she carries the entire project! This movie features one of the few times where a young person is the film’s lead. The story as a whole is an emotional roller coaster ride that makes its audience experience a variety of feelings. I haven’t read the book this film is based on, but I’d be interested in reading how emotionally intense it is compared to the film.
What the Deaf Man Heard
I have fallen in love with this movie since I first saw it! It does a great job showing how far someone will go to show their love for another person. This film also shows how easy it is for people to take things at face value. There are other solid messages in this story, but I don’t want to spoil it. What the Deaf Man Heard is another Hall of Fame title I can’t recommend enough! It’s also based on a book, so I’d like to read it someday!
Well, here we are. The conclusion of this double feature has finally arrived! At the start of this project, my goal was to figure out which adaptation of The Secret Garden was the best one. After reading the book, I watched and analyzed three of the most well-known film versions of this story. Now that we’re at the end of this double feature, it’s time for me to evaluate my results!
In the video, “Talking Anne with an E (Spoilers)”, Rachel and Amber, who are also hosts of Hallmarkies Podcast, share their thoughts on Netflix’s adaptation of Anne of Green Gables. During this discussion, Amber was saying how the film or television adaptation of this story is “not the end all, be all of Anne”. What she meant by this was that there is much more to the source material than just the first book, Anne of Green Gables. Other stories and characters from this series are just as important as the content that is considered when it comes to adaptations. Amber’s beliefs can also be applied to my double feature. No matter how many adaptations are made, they should never be a replacement for the source material. Each adaptation has a different creative team associated with it, so the beliefs about which elements are worth including in the movie are going to vary. With that said, I think that both the 1987 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation and the 1993 version are the best adaptations of The Secret Garden! Both of these films have their fair share of similarities and differences. But I found them to be close enough to the book where I was satisfied. As a film, however, I would prefer the one from 1993 over the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. While the 1987 production was good, it felt a little too drawn-out. I also think that Kate Maberly did a better job at portraying Mary than Gennie James did. Since I now found the answer to a question that I’ve wanted to find for years, I can honestly say that my mission is finally accomplished.
Have fun at the movies!
If you want to read the other posts from this double feature, go to these links:
1949: There were several similarities to the book in the 1949 adaptation of The Secret Garden. One of them was the incorporation of the wind. In the book, the sounds of Colin’s cries blend with the sounds of the wind. Mary quickly picks out the cries from the wind and notices that something isn’t right. In the movie, this aspect sounded just like how it was described in the book. If one wasn’t paying attention, they would assume that the cries were a part of the wind. The other element was the path to Colin’s room. Mary, in the book, enters different rooms and passageways in order to find the source of the crying. In the movie, when Mary attempts to find out where the crying comes from, she travels through various rooms and hallways, which take her to Colin’s bedroom door. While this trip takes place in a shorter amount of time, the visuals of the different places in the house shows just how intertwined Misselthwaite Manor really is.
1987: More similarities were found in this adaptation than in the 1949 version. The one that I was pleasantly surprised by was Mary’s characteristics. Despite Gennie James’ inability to carry a British accent, she made up for this by embodying the spirit and persona of her character. Through her emotions, actions, and behavior, Gennie brought the likability and unlikability that Mary Lennox is known for. Two examples are when Mary was more upset about losing her doll over her parents and when she became friends with the robin. While we’re on the subject of this friendship, Mary forms a relationship with a robin that is also very fond of Ben Weatherstaff. By befriending the robin, in both the book and movie, Mary’s transformation from self-centered child to selfless individual begins. As for the character transformations, they were developed very well in the source material and the adaptation. Even though the movie was drawn out, it showed that the transformations of characters like Mary, Colin, and Mr. Craven happened over the course of several months. It also showed that these transformations take time and patience.
1993: Similar to the 1987 film, the characteristics of Mary are pretty close to how the character was written in the book. But in this adaptation, the characteristics of almost all the characters seemed like it reflected the book very well. In the 1993 movie, Kate Maberly’s performance was the best portrayal of Mary Lennox! Not only was she able to carry a British accent throughout the entire film, but she also did a really good job at bringing a balance of emotions to her role. During the scene where Martha accidently offends Mary, the angry emotions that Kate brought to her character reminded me of how the character would have behaved in the book. Another good example is when Dickon and Mary are in the secret garden, while they are singing “Mistress Mary Quite Contrary”. Even though she’s happy to be spending time with Dickon, she’s reminded of the painful memories when she arrived in England. Speaking of Dickon, Andrew Knott’s portrayal of this character was the best out of all three adaptations I’ve seen! He did a fantastic job pulling off a Yorkshire accent and brought a sense of likability to his role. The scene where Dickon and Mary meet for the first time is a good example of this.
As I just mentioned, Dickon and Mary sing “Mistress Mary Quite Contrary” in the 1993 movie. This song plays a small role in the book. At the beginning of the story, the song is sung to Mary in a manner of teasing. When the story goes on, she reflects on the song’s meaning and questions her outlook on life. Another aspect of the movie that reflected the book was the interior designs of Misselthwaite Manor. Mary’s and Colin’s room are a great example, as tapestry can be seen on the walls. This is an important detail to mention because tapestry was described in the novel.
Was there anything in the adaptation that was different from the book?
1949: In the 1949 adaptation, there were just as many differences from the book as there were similarities. One notable difference is how emotional Mary Lennox is. In the film, Mary bursts into tears when she finds out that her parents have died. This is not the reaction that Mary has in the book, as she wouldn’t care what happens to her parents because of her poor relationship with them. Speaking of relationships, Mary’s relationship with Ben Weatherstaff is quite different in the film. Mary, as well as Colin and Dickon, don’t like Ben. They not only keep their distance from him, but they also don’t allow him to enter their garden. In the book, however, Ben becomes the children’s ally. He provides them with plenty of information about the secret garden, such as why it’s closed off from the rest of the gardens. The children even invite him into the garden on a few occasions. Finally, how Mary and Dickon meet is also different in the movie. Mary meets Dickon before she’s even aware that a secret garden exists. In the book, Mary meets Dickon after she’s entered the secret garden. She meets him because he’s purchased some flower seeds for her.
1987: While watching this adaptation of The Secret Garden, I noticed fewer differences compared to the 1949 version. Like the 1949 film, the initial meeting of Mary and Dickon happens at a different part of the story. In this movie, Mary meets Dickon before she’s found the secret garden, yet she is aware that it exists. At the beginning and end of the movie, the audience sees that the story is told through the reflections of a grown-up Mary Lennox. Since the book only focused on Mary’s story from when she was a child, this was a creative choice that Hallmark Hall of Fame made. Unlike the book, Mary and Colin are not cousins. I’m not going to reveal the reason for this creative decision because I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen this version. But this choice wasn’t as much of an issue as I thought it could be. Plus, it works within this particular story!
1993: Toward the beginning of the film, Mary loses her parents to an earthquake. This is different from the book, as she loses her parents to sickness. The location of the secret garden’s key is also different from the source material. In the movie, Mary finds this key in her aunt’s jewelry box instead of in the dirt. Another difference I noticed was the characteristics of Mrs. Medlock. This character, in the book, was stern but caring. Mrs. Medlock, in the movie, was much stricter. She’s not only against the idea of Mary and Colin spending time together, but she’s also mean to the other members of the staff. I’m not sure if this creative decision was made to include a conflict or to highlight the acting strengths of Maggie Smith.
Did you find anything in the movie that you felt improved upon the material more than the book?
1949: While the majority of the film is presented in black-and-white, the only scenes that were featured in color were those that took place in the garden. Frances Hodgson Burnett was very descriptive when writing about the garden. But you can only describe so much without giving someone a visual. The way the garden is presented in this adaptation helps bring the text to life.
1987: In a few parts of the film, the element of suspense was incorporated. One good example was when Mary meets Colin for the first time. The build-up to that moment was staged really well, using as little lighting as possible and featuring things like lightening and scary looking statues. Because of these elements coming together, it was better executed in the movie than in the book.
1993: During the 1993 adaptation, a transition happens between winter and spring/summer. This transition isn’t just seen through the exterior background. The cinematography and color of wardrobe are other visuals that indicate the changing seasons. An explanation of how Mary and Colin are related is included in this script. According to this adaptation, Mary’s mother was the twin sister of Colin’s mother. No explanations to how Mary and Colin are related were given in the book. All that’s known is that they’re cousins and Mr. Craven is Mary’s uncle.
Is there anything from the book that improved upon the material more than the movie?
1949: In the book, the garden itself is written as if it were its own character. Because of this, the garden creates a ripple effect on the characters and their lives. In the movie, however, the garden is treated like a Macguffin. It’s not featured in the film for very long and the progression of the characters happens pretty quickly. We also don’t see the process of the garden’s revival.
1987: When I was thinking about this Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation, I found it difficult to find anything that the book did better than the movie. This is because the adaptation was pretty close to the source material. It gives people who have read the book, like myself, a reason to find it satisfying.
1993: Even though she plays a really small role in the book, Susan Sowerby, Martha and Dickon’s mom, shares her wisdom and advice throughout the story. These things have a small, but significant influence over the events of the plot. Because Susan was nowhere to be found in this film, this part of the story was eliminated from the script.
Because each adaptation was released in a different decade, do you feel that the movie itself was affected by the time period in which it was released? If so, how?
1949: MGM’s The Wizard of Oz was one of the first movies to experiment with color imaging. Since the movie was a success for the studio, they were more than willing to incorporate color imaging into their future films. The Secret Garden was released ten years after The Wizard of Oz, so it makes sense that they reserved the color imaging for the titular secret garden. What’s interesting is how little color imaging is included in the movie. It’s only seen on three occasions, after the garden has been fully revived.
1987: There’s three key things that I think had an influence on this version of The Secret Garden. The first is the 1949 movie. Because this particular film had an equal amount of similarities and differences, it encouraged the creative team behind the Hallmark Hall of Fame project to make a more faithful adaptation. The second key ingredient was the trend where content in ‘80s children’s/family-friendly entertainment was darker and “creepier”. Since Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Secret Garden was released in 1987, it provided an alternative for those who wanted to move away from the aforementioned trend. The last thing is the concept of home entertainment and video rental stores. One of the most well-known video rental businesses, Blockbuster, opened its doors in 1985, just two years before Hallmark Hall of Fame’s adaptation was released. Since then, the idea of renting or purchasing films has played a huge role in the world of cinema. I’m not sure when Hallmark starting allowing their movies to be sold for home entertainment. But their version of The Secret Garden has been available on VHS and DVD.
1993: Two important aspects affected the creation of this specific adaptation. The first one is the previous adaptations of The Secret Garden. This particular version of the story was the first theatrical adaptation since the 1949 film. The Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation was close enough to the source material where readers would be satisfied. Taking these films into consideration, the creative team behind the 1993 movie tried to make a movie that felt cinematic and respected the source material. The second thing is the climate that existed in children’s/family-friendly entertainment in the early ‘90s. During this time, the Disney Renaissance was in the early stages. The box office was also receiving films with Don Bluth’s signature animation style. In the live-action department, films like My Girl and Beethoven were released from their respective studios. The early ‘90s provided variety to children’s/family-friendly entertainment. Since this version of The Secret Garden was released in 1993, the film contributed to the aforementioned climate.
If an adaptation of The Secret Garden were made today, how would it be different from the other adaptations?
I think that if The Secret Garden received another adaptation, that film’s creative team would probably try to have the story take place in “modern” times. If this decision were made, the simplistic nature that comes from a historical fiction narrative would be taken away. Another possible change would be the incorporation of an environmental message. This would be unnecessary because the purpose of the secret garden has nothing to do the environment. The garden is included in the story to present the idea of becoming a better person when putting the needs of others before one’s own.
What aspect from the movie or book do you think has stood the test of time?
The messages and themes within this story have been relatable and cherished for many years. As I already mentioned, one idea that can be found in both the source material and any adaptation is how putting the needs of others before one’s own can help someone become a better person. Because the protagonist of this story is a child, the narrative evokes reflection on a time when a person’s life could be care-free. It also reminds the audience of how anything is possible when we set our minds on something.
Back in May, my post called “A Bucky Fan’s Response to one of Looper’s Avengers: Endgame related videos” became my 200th published post! Whenever I publish a hundred posts, I coordinate a double feature where I try to answer a thought-provoking question through the viewing of two similar films. But, around the time when I published my aforementioned post, I discovered that I would soon reach the milestone of 100 published reviews. So, I postponed my Double Feature until that milestone was reached. It was achieved in July when I published my review of Christmas Camp! However, that post was published just before I embarked on an out-of-town trip. So, I postponed my Double Feature until after the trip. But August became my busiest month, as I participated in four blogathons. Because of that, the Double Feature had to be pushed back again. Now that I have set aside some time to coordinate my Double Feature, I can finally announce that it will be published this week! Since I’m celebrating two milestones, I will be writing about three films.
If you ask anyone what the best adaptation of The Secret Garden is, most of them will tell you that it’s the Hallmark Hall of Fame version from 1987. For years, I have heard this statement from many people on the internet. In fact, when I asked a search engine which adaptation of The Secret Garden was the best one, the Hallmark Hall of Fame version was the film that came up as the answer. But is this movie really the best adaptation? That’s what I wanted to find out for myself! The most well-known versions of The Secret Garden that I will be watching are the 1949 release, the Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation, and the 1993 project. I read The Secret Garden prior to watching these films, so I could gain a better understanding of how similar or different each adaptation is from the source material. Because I’m going to talk about three versions of the same story, I will ask myself fewer questions than I did for my Halloween Double Feature. I will also not be giving these films any score ratings because I’m judging them as adaptations. There will be no pre-movie thoughts, questions, or predictions this time because I know what the movies are about before I’ve seen them.