A brooding Yorkshire manor, tragedy, misty moors and mysteries waiting to be ferreted out--all are present in tonight's "Hallmark Hall of Fame" production of "The Secret Garden," airing at 9 p.m. on CBS (Channels 2 and 8). It's a stylish presentation of a classic in children's literature.
As directed by Alan Grint, Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1911 story of 10-year-old Mary Lennox, a sour and unlikable orphan brought from India to live in a gloomy English castle, remains mostly intact.
Mary (Gennie James) comes out of her shell as she meets the gruff but kindly gardener Ben Weatherstaff (Michael Hordorn), the fretful young invalid Colin Craven (Jadrien Steele) and Dickon (Barret Oliver), a mystical Yorkshire boy who talks to animals. In turn, Mary's awakening brings life and warmth to unhappy Misselthwaite Manor and its inhabitants.
The child actors are fine, despite a disconcerting hodgepodge of accents--American children are featured with an otherwise all-British cast. The adults are a pleasure to watch: Derek Jacobi in the small role of Archibald Craven, master of the manor, haunted by the loss of his wife in childbirth; Billie Whitelaw's tight-lipped Mrs. Medlock; girlish Cassie Stuart as Mary's maid and first friend.