Contributor; Chicago, Illinois
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When Home Vision Entertainment initially offered me the chance to interview the star of the now classic, and many feel definitive, version of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden( 1975) I was somewhat reticent especially given Twitch’s normal content. But after all, as appealing and safe as our parent’s basements are, most of us geeks (and I include myself in this category) could stand to creep out of the cultural shadows more often.

Few stories offer as much genuinely sunny warmth as The Secret Garden. Andrews plays Mary Lennox a 19th century British girl living in India. Orphaned by cholera she’s sent to live with her uncle Craven in Yorkshire. Her self-important attitude gives way to compassion as she explores the vast estate and becomes part of the family and servants lives. But it’s the discovery of a secret garden that sets her on the journey from self-absorbtion to other centeredness.

Dave Canfield: The Secret Garden is one of the most adapted pieces of children's fiction ever yet many consider your version (1975) the definitive one- any thoughts on why?

SHA: The 1975 version of the SG was popular I believe mainly due to director/screenwriter Dorothea Brooking’s love and passion for the story. Doro had made at least one other black and white version for television with Prunella Scales playing Martha and with Billie Whitelaw playing Mrs. Medlock, early on in their careers. Doro was a maverick in childrens' television and tackled a lot of the children’s classics during the 50s on through the 80s. In the end I think it was a case of a good script in the hands of good actors. The story has its own appeal and magic, to which people seem to respond.

DC: Do you read children's fiction? Potter etc.? What do you think of the speed with which such books are adapted to film? Can you compare the visual style of Children's films today with that of the simpler style of The Secret Garden?

SHA: I can’t say I read a lot of children’s fiction, although i probably should! I tend to read the old stuff, Dickens etc. But it seems apparent that technology has speeded up the art of story telling. It creates great visual and sound effects etc. for whoever is watching. But I can’t help wonder if perhaps the instantaneous effect takes away a little from the imagination, that a slower simpler version would allow for.

Of course movies are different than plays or books. All those ways of storytelling encourage the watcher or reader to absorb the story differently. In a book you simply have more space to develop characters, relationships and situations. Hopefully The Secret Garden struck a middle ground. None of this is to denigrate movies. Speediness can be fun!

DC: The IMDB only has one other reference for you. What have you been doing?

SHA: What have i been doing? Oh dear. So many years have gone by. Film and Television, professional theatre, have all taken up a lot of my time. I have traveled extensively and lived in different countries. I currently reside in Santa Fe NM where I’ve
been involved with the theatre scene for some years. I am a founding member of the Red Thread Collective theatre Co. I enjoy writing, and study the violin and I continue to work in plays and projects when they appeal to me.

DC: What sorts of interaction have you had with fans over the years?

SHA: It’s been wonderful. At the time of Secret Garden I received so many letters from children and adults who had liked the series, I answered them all. But I still hear from fans! It is amazing to me how much Secret Garden continues to be remembered.

DC: Do you have any children? If so is acting something you'd be interested in having them pursue?

SHA: I do not have children. I would say to pursue acting only if, as with any vocation, you feel called to do it. It is a tough business but a fascinating art form, which you can learn

DC: Do you ever hear from Secret Garden cast and crew?

SHA: I hadn’t heard from or seen any cast or crew, other than Doro Brooking, John Woodnutt and Jennie Goosens since making the series. But in 2004 the BBC Worldwide contacted myself and three other children from the series to do an interview. We met again for that, 30 years on!

DC: What are your fondest memories of making The Secret Garden?

SHA: Such fond memories. The house we filmed in for some of it was Constable estate in Yorshire, a big rambling place with lovely gardens and wonderful atmosphere. Working with the animals was also very exciting, we had a rabbit, owl and fox, all very co-operative. There was as I recall a great feeling during the making of the entire production. One of my favorite memories is of filming the 'skipping' scene. I had to pretend not to know how to skip rope when , in real life, I was quite good at it. That was a challenging bit of acting there!!

DC: What about the message of The Secret Garden is important for children to hear today?

SHA: The Secret Garden has such a great message about environment and the way that it teaches us about ourselves. The garden is riddled with symbols of death, life, sickness, and health, and shows us children growing through particular transitions. We are fairly removed from all that in our modern world. For now and the future I think we need to reconsider the earth. We are doing so to a degree, but it needs more attention. The Secret Garden perhaps in some small way informs us again of the importance of that.

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Jim KlukkertJuly 24, 2005 5:30 PM

Wonderful interview, especially the last bit on how the environment can help us learn about ourselves, which echoes the native/aboriginal attitudes in which their is no division between the natural world and its inhabitants.

Thank you Ms.Hollis-Andrews, and you too, Mr. Canfield. It seems there are obvious benefits for us geeks to waunder out sometimes!.

Michelle HeywoodApril 23, 2006 7:19 PM

Ive just watched the full series again. Its the third time in my life Ive seen it. First when I was seven and when it was repeated ten years later when I was at College studying Art. What a delightful story and still stands up to the quality of the acting after all these years.Ive watched the recent film version but always remembered the series it really stood out in my mind and now I know why after seeing it again. Really nice to hear about sarah in this Article too.

Mark StreetApril 29, 2006 8:14 AM

I was probably 7 or so when I first saw the series and it has always stuck in my mind. To use an analogy that fits with the show, it's almost like a seed that lies within you, ready to bloom at a moment's notice. Above all I remembered the tremendous warmth and sense of optimism that the series generated, as a result of the entrancing acting. Bizarrely, I would often hum to myself that incredibly haunting and moving theme tune over the years - it was such a beautiful piece of music.

In the UK, the DVD was given away free with the Times the other week, so I decided to rewatch it after all that time. The strangest thing was that I enjoyed watching it now just as much as I did when I was 7! I also found it just as uplifting. They don't make em like that any more!

Alan ThompsonMay 1, 2006 2:19 PM

We have been watching "The secret garden" as it has been relesed on DVD courtesy of a national newspaper. I never saw the 1975 version until it was released no DVD. My wife saw it with her duaghetr who was then eight in 75 and made an effot to secure a copy. I am glad she did. The acting from Sarah Hollis Andrews and the other children was superb. I am so surprised that Sarah as not offered more roles here in the UK following her performance. There is little doubt in my mind that even at that tender age - was she about 10? - that she was destined to become a fine actress.

Some years ago I interviewed Val Lehman - Bea from Prisoner cell Block H from Australia and she said that she had asked an audience how many had been to the theatre in the last year. Only a handful of people had. She said that the indigenous theatre was doomed unless it was well supported. She said you British have the finest theatre in the world, so don't lose it. Therefore, I think it is wonderful that Sarah has gone on to not only support theatre, but be proactive in its orgnaisation.

Again, wonderful effort from everyone in the Secret Garden, keep up the good work Sarah.

Kind regards

Alan Thompson,
North Walsham, Norfolk, UK

AgustinusMay 18, 2006 10:29 PM

I have watched "The Secret Garden" more than ten times. Absolutely superb performance by Mary Lennox

MarcusDecember 21, 2006 12:35 AM

I have just watched the 1975 version of this story for the first time - I liked the modern versions as the story is such a classic but none come close to this version. I found it enchanting; I had to watch it all the way through and was rather upset when I realised it was nearing the end!

As someone else mentioned above, I'm surprised that Sarah Hollis Andrews didn't appear in more films when she was young - she had a natural acting ability that seems to be lacking in some young actors today.

The other characters are played endearingly by the other actors too - I'm especially fond of Wetherstaff.

My thanks to the Times for including the DVD in their publication!

andrew martin garrowMay 10, 2007 2:09 AM

As a tenth month old baby i was in the secret garden 1975 version i was the son of one of the servants, it was thrilling to see myself as a baby i enjoyed it very much.
would love to find out what happened to all the other cast members.
So i call for a reunion.

hideomathjpSeptember 7, 2007 10:00 AM

I saw the movie by Agnieszka Holland and after that I read the original novel about ten years ago. I feel that movie is quite different from the novel. I like the novel more than that movie. Recently I saw the DVD by BBC. I had happy time watching that and think this work is very real and natural. I shall watch the DVD many times. I thank Ms. Sarah Hollis Andrews and the persons concerned with the film for good work.

This interview is very interesting for me, because I dont't know about this work well.

Hideo Ueda

Osaka, Japan

charles birchJune 11, 2008 11:31 PM

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this interview. Back then, as a very very young boy, I fell in love with Sarah Hollis Andrews. I was also enchanted by the theme music. Can someone please put me out of my misery and tell me the title and artist of the theme music (played on oboe if I remember correctly) and where i might find it?! Also, if anyone can point me in the direction of a photograph of Sarah Hollis Andrews (then and now) I would greatly appreciate it! Many thanks.