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Special Feature: Frances Hodgson Burnett

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Special Feature: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Postby stargazer » Oct 13, 2009 4:46 pm

This Special Feature request comes to us from starkat. Thanks!

Author Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924) is most well-known today for her children's novels A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, both of which have inspired TV and big-screen adaptions. Among her other works is Little Lord Fauntleroy and a number of short stories and plays (check out this list detailing her published works.

This thread is for discussion on all her writings, as well as the movie and TV adaptations. To start off, which are your favorite stories and characters? Do you like the movies? How faithful are they to the story?
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Re: Special Feature: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Postby L.M. Pevensie » Oct 13, 2009 8:05 pm

I've A Little Princess and The Secret Garden and they are on my list of favorite classics.

I am a HUGE fan of The Secret Garden Musical. It is REALLY beautiful and close enough to the book to please me. Although all the dead people are a bit disconcerting...
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Re: Special Feature: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Postby Nioniel » Oct 13, 2009 8:52 pm

I love love love A Little Princess, and most passionately dislike the Shirley Temple film version. :D That other non Shirley Temple version - the one with that other girl with curlyish hair - is pretty good despite the VERY ORIGINAL ending.

I rather like A Little Garden. I hated it when I first read it because Mary Lennox and Whatsisname and the other Whatsisname were all so very annoying, but I read it about ten more times anyway, and got over it, and now I consider it a favourite. :P My sisters like the movie with that girl with straightish hair, but I'm not terribly fond of it myself. (Ha! I remember his name now) Colin is just too aggravating.

I loved Little Lord Fauntleroy the movie first, and then I read the book. I felt so accomplished having read such a difficult book at such a young age. B-) I consider it a favourite also, but I don't really remember anything about it. :D

There's a musical of The Secret Garden, L.M.? Cool. :D
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Re: Special Feature: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Postby Silvertongue » Oct 14, 2009 6:10 am

I can never quite decide between "The Secret Garden" and "A Little Princess" as my top favorite by Frances Hodgson Burnett, but it JUST might be "The Secret Garden". :D I love Mary Lennox AND Sara Crewe, so it's hard to decide.

I love the "Secret Garden" musical, as well, L.M. Pevensie! :D Never actually SEEN it, but I love the soundtrack. ;) For movies...my favorite would probably have to be the 1993 version with...is it Kate Maberly? I believe it is...I do wish there was another, better version out there though. ;)
As for "A Little Princess", my favorite version is 1986 TV version...it's the only one I've seen that actually stayed true to the book. The 1995 version is cute enough...it's the soundtrack that I like the most.

Apparently there's an "A Little Princess" musical...but from the clips I heard, it sounds terrible! lol.
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Re: Special Feature: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Postby daughter of the King » Oct 14, 2009 1:24 pm

I've read A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntelroy, and I think almost all of her short stories. Little Princess and Secret Garden are my favorites I think. The paperback copies that I got when I was ten are almost completely worn out and the covers are falling off.
I like the movie version of Little Princess(the new one, not the Shirley Temple. Sad that her best movie was a horrible adaptation), and I liked the miniseries, don't remember what year, it was fairly true to the book, but it just sort of skimmed over my favorite part, the bit with the bun shop and "one of the populace." No one ever does that part right and it drives me nuts!!
Anyway, I've seen three different versions of Secret Garden and none of them were done well enough for me to remember them........One stuck out in my mind, but for bad reasons. Instead of Mr. Craven being Mary's uncle, he was an old friend of the family and at the end of the movie Colin and Mary got married. Ugh. Hated that. Should never have been allowed. [-(
I've only seen one version of Little Lord Fauntelroy and it was terrible.
There's a Secret Garden musical?? Is it on film or just a stage show?
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Re: Special Feature: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Postby L.M. Pevensie » Oct 14, 2009 3:47 pm

Has anyone seen the Secret Garden movie where Mary marries Colin in the end? COLIN, HER COUSIN! To top it off, Dicken is dead! Yes, it's awful. I never saw or felt anything from the book that set that up.

What do you think?
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Re: Special Feature: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Postby Nioniel » Oct 14, 2009 5:05 pm

I have been fortunate enough to have been spared that version of The Secret Garden, L.M. Pevensie and daughter of the King. :P I never ever ever thought of Mary marrying Colin - I always just vaguely thought that if Mary married anyone, it would be Dicken. I wouldn't like to see that in a movie though. :P

I saw one really terrible Secret Garden sequel - it had something or other to do with this girl who couldn't act, who met the grown-up Mary Lennox or something, and had to get the garden growing again. Because it was dying because there were no children playing in it. And there was something about a riddle to get the magic back into the garden. 8-| It was horrifying. My family thought it was "cute".
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Re: Special Feature: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Postby Silvertongue » Oct 14, 2009 6:48 pm

I DID see that version, L.M. Pevensie! *shudders*
And I DID see the Secret Garden sequel, Nioniel! It was titled "Back to the Secret Garden" *again shudders* Mary would NEVER allow her garden to become like that! The actress is actually Camilla Belle (she's in the 1995 "A Little Princess". :D), which the only way I know her is that she played Aubrey Shepherd for a while in the radio drama "Adventures in Odyssey". ;)
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Re: Special Feature: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Postby BuBbLyLu » Oct 14, 2009 7:23 pm

Ooh, I was so excited to see this Special Feature! because I had just finished reading The Secret Garden today. How lucky is that? ;))

I liked reading The Secret Garden, can't say it will become one of my favorites. I grew up watching the '87 version, so I was immensely pleased to find out that there is no romantic relationship between Mary and Colin. I never liked that part about the movie, and always choose to ignore it. It was really weird and made no sense to me (they're cousins, for Pete's sake!!), for if there had to be romance I would think Mary would have the sense to choose Dicken. *high-fives Nion*

Favorite character would have to be, hands-down, Dicken. :P Aside from his "animal charming" gift, he really is a... charming person! Sorry I can't think of a better word to describe him. ;)) There's also this level of mysteriousness that I think draws me, and his Yorkshire accent is cute.
Also, I love the cheeky beggar Robin. He really is fighting for faves with Dicken. ;)) :P

Mary and Colin are okay characters, imho. Spoiled brats to be sure, and it's a good thing Burnett managed to turn them around into decent human beings in an interesting way. Or otherwise I don't think I would tolerate the book much, even though there were times when I thought their fighting was a little funny.

What do you guys think about the Magic in The Secret Garden? Did you think Burnett was using this as a child's possible perspective of God? At the beginning I was beginning to think Burnett was using this Magic as a method of "derailing" God (the 23rd chapter got me thinking this when they all started chanting in a circle), but further into the book I started to change my mind. Especially at this passage:


Chapter 26: It's Mother wrote:"Do you believe in Magic?" asked Colin after he had explained about Indian fakirs. "I do hope you do."

"That I do, lad," [Susan Sowerby] answered. "I never knowed it by that name but what does th' name matter? I warrent they call it a different name i' France an' a different one i' Germany. Th' same thing as set th' seeds swellin' an' th' sun shinnin' made thee a well lad an' it's th' Good Thing. It isn't like us poor fools as think it matters if us is called out of our names. Th' Big Good Thing doesn't stop to worrit, bless thee."


What do y'all think? :)

BTW, did anyone else beside myself have to pace yourself with reading the Yorkshire? ;)
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Re: Special Feature: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Postby Silvertongue » Oct 15, 2009 5:32 am

Mary has always been my favorite character from "The Secret Garden"...her brattiness makes her very human and real to me. :D Makes for a more interesting plot!

As for the magic...I've never really dwelt on it heavily.*shrugs* Something to think about...

As for having to pace myself with the Yorkshire accents...I never really had to...perhaps because I'd grown up watching the movie, hearing the accent from that and watching other Britsh films with some Yorkshire accents...so when I read the book, it was kind of like hearing the accent in my head. :D I'd probably have had a harder time if I had never heard of a Yorkshire accent beforehand. ;)
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Re: Special Feature: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Postby starkat » Oct 15, 2009 6:27 am

L.M. Pevensie wrote:Has anyone seen the Secret Garden movie where Mary marries Colin in the end? COLIN, HER COUSIN! To top it off, Dicken is dead! Yes, it's awful. I never saw or felt anything from the book that set that up.

What do you think?


Distant cousins if I remember right. I happen to like that version of the Secret Garden. :P Actually, what I like the most about is, in between the bookends, the film seems to be pretty faithful to the book. If you exclude the bookends, it makes for a decent adaptation.

I've not read anything beyond Little Princess and The Secret Garden, but I love those two books. I've been reading them for probably as long as I've been reading larger chapter books. I remember the copies my mom has that are very classic looking in nature. She'd had them for years. I was very careful with them.

I do like the Shirley Temple version of LP, but I do wish it had been a more faithful adaptation. The version where there are flashbacks to India is good too, but a touch too far from the book.

As for the "magic," I'm not entirely sure about it. On some level, I just chalked it up to be a figment of the kids' imagination, but the line by Susan Sowerby does paint it in a slightly different light. It seems to be an acknowledgement that there is something or someone out there that is big enough to make the world go 'round, but as for it being a Christian reference, I'm not so sure because several belief systems have that belief. Does anyone know what her religious beliefs were?
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Re: Special Feature: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Postby daughter of the King » Oct 15, 2009 3:50 pm

I have no clue what her religious beliefs were, but I think the "magic" refers to different things depending on the context. In the bit with Susan Sowbery, I'm guessing it's meant to be a child's version of God. In other parts I think it refers to the spring itself.
She also references magic in Little Princess, but I think it's different there and more meant to represent Sara's imaginings.
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Re: Special Feature: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Postby 220chrisTian » Oct 15, 2009 5:01 pm

Aiming for a quick response... ;)

I haven't read any of Burnett's books. :ymblushing: I most want to read The Secret Garden. :)

Movie versions I've seen [favorites in bold]:
The Secret Garden: 1987 [w/Colin Firth], 1993 [w/Maggie Smith]
A Little Princess: 1939 [w/Shirley Temple], 1986 [w/Nigel Havers], 1995 [w/Liesel Matthews]
Little Lord Fauntleroy: 1936 [w/Mickey Rooney]

I didn't like the 1987 SG because the girl who plays Mary is American, with an accent to match! /:) She ends up with Colin Craven/Colin Firth [ =)) ] at the end. Do I like this? I don't know. It didn't bother me. But I didn't like that Dickon was killed in the war. I much preferred the 1993 version because I thought it had better acting and screenwriting, and a more believable setting. :)

I didn't like the 1995 LP because of the melodramatic scene where Capt Crewe recognizes and screams "Sarah!" It seemed so fake to me. I thought the way the dad recognized Sarah in the 1939 version was more realistic and poignant. It's my favorite scene in that movie. :) I'm hoping the 1986 version is closest to the book. They really took pains with that one! :)

Little Lord Fauntleroy: when my mother was younger, she wanted her son to be like Fauntleroy. Even now, she wants my son [if I have kids] to be like Fauntleroy. :p But I thought this angelic figure was too angelic, and a bit wimpy/girlish, at least in the 1936 version. :ymblushing:

One thing some of you have noted, but haven't discussed, is the references to British colonial India in both The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, at least in the movies. This is significant! It's part of the backdrop to what made Britain Britain. It's also a formative part of Sarah and Mary's childhood, of their characters. Initially, it sets them apart, as though they're not quite British. The Brits didn't like Anglo-Indians so much, even though they needed them [and Brits stationed in other colonies] to run the Empire and keep Britain going industrially.

One thing I just realized though, is that in the 1939 version of LP Capt Crewe returns from Mafeking. This was a town under siege in South Africa during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). But in the 1995 version, Capt Crewe returns from India. So what's the non-English setting in the book? :-\ Either way, there are explicit and significant references to Britain's Empire in both LP and SG. ;)

Source material for A Little Princess according to Wikipedia: "The novella appears to have been inspired in part by Charlotte Brontë's unfinished novel, Emma, the first two chapters of which were published in Cornhill Magazine in 1860, featuring a rich heiress with a mysterious past who is apparently abandoned at a boarding school." Wikipedia's source

EDIT
Some of you asked about Mrs. Burnett's religious beliefs. Well, according to Wikipedia,
After her first son Lionel's death of consumption in 1890, Burnett delved into Spiritualism and apparently found this a great comfort in dealing with her grief (she had previously dabbled in Theosophy, and some of its concepts are worked into The Secret Garden, in which a boy who has been an invalid for a long time helps to heal himself through positive thinking and affirmations). During World War I, Burnett put her beliefs about what happens after death into writing with her novella The White People.
Theosophy and Spiritualism aren't Christian. And Wikipedia's article on The Secret Garden mentioned Christian Science. :(
/EDIT
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Re: Special Feature: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Postby daughter of the King » Oct 15, 2009 7:53 pm

220chrisTian wrote:One thing I just realized though, is that in the 1939 version of LP Capt Crewe returns from Mafeking. This was a town under siege in South Africa during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). But in the 1995 version, Capt Crewe returns from India. So what's the non-English setting in the book?

In the book, Sara gets sent to boarding school for her education, not because her father is going to war. Actually, the book takes place over several years, while the movies generally have the story take place over a matter of months. And (you will hate me for putting this up if you haven't read the book so I suggest you not click if you haven't)
Captain Crewe dies in the book, and the gentleman next door plays a much bigger part.
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Re: Special Feature: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Postby 220chrisTian » Oct 15, 2009 8:28 pm

daughter: thanks for hiding info in a spoiler but I already know some of what happens in the book because I read a plot summary on Wikipedia. :ymblushing: I know, bad of me, but... I just had to know! :p
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Re: Special Feature: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Postby coracle » Oct 16, 2009 1:27 pm

I've just seen the final rehearsal for a lovely stage production of The Secret Garden, which opens tonight.
It's done well, but to reduce to under 2 hours there is a lot lost.

I've also seen the Broadway musical (in London 8 years ago) and have a DVD copy of the lovely 1975 BBC serial. If you see it anywhere, grab it - I think they captured Mary, Dickon and Colin so well (Dickon could have been a bit older and more rugged but he's lovely, and clearly the BBC wanted three children of similar age).

The 1990s film was awful - it was riddled with a sense of pseudo-Indian mystical spirituality and ahem, attraction between the cousins (seen near the end) which I thought was out of order as they were still little kids! (it wasn't just affection).
It's a great book, and I wish I hadn't lost my copy - must buy another one!
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