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The Spanish Gardener
Remind Me
The Spanish Gardener

The Spanish Gardener

Based on A.J. Cronin's 1950 novel of the same name, The Spanish Gardener (1956) is a timeless and touching film about father/son relationships and the power of forgiveness. Michael Hordern plays Harrington Brande, a diplomat who moves to coastal Spain with his young son Nicholas (Jon Whiteley) following the breakup of his marriage. Brande is a rigid, possessive man and an overprotective father who cuts Nicholas off from the outside world. When Brande hires local gardener José (Dirk Bogarde) to tend to the grounds of his estate, Nicholas takes to him immediately. José takes the lonely boy under his wing, helping Nicholas to build up his confidence away from the watchful eye of his father. When Nicholas begins to prefer José's company to his own, however, Brande becomes jealous and goes to great lengths to end José's influence on his son's life.

The Spanish Gardener is a British film with remarkable performances and some gorgeous Technicolor location scenery of the Spanish Costa Brava. It was the second film that actor Dirk Bogarde made with director Philip Leacock. Their first collaboration had been on Appointment in London in 1952. The Spanish Gardener was also the second film that Bogarde made with child actor Jon Whiteley. They had previously worked together on Hunted in 1952. Whiteley had also worked with director Leacock before on the 1953 film The Little Kidnappers, a role which earned Whiteley a miniature Academy Award for his "Outstanding Juvenile Performance."

Critics were generous with their praise of The Spanish Gardener when it was released. "A.J. Cronin's novel of a minor diplomat with considerable academic qualifications, but without human understanding translates into absorbing screen entertainment," said Variety. It is a leisurely told story with colorful Spanish backgrounds...Bogarde gives a polished, restrained study as the Spanish gardener...Jon Whiteley's moppet is a keenly sensitive portrayal. Cyril Cusack, as a sinister valet, and Maureen Swanson, as the gardener's girlfriend, top a good supporting cast."

The New York Times said, "A simple and fragile theme is handled with delicacy and understanding in the British-made The Spanish Gardener...Jon excellent as the little boy torn by his innate love for his troubled father and his admiration of the gardener...Although it is an unsympathetic assignment, Michael Hordern does quite well by the role of the father...he is truly the picture of a man desperately endeavoring, through a warped approach, to monopolize the affections of the child. Dirk Bogarde, playing the title role...does so with a maximum of understatement and Cyril Cusack is simply unctuous and oily as a conniving servant."

Producer: John Bryan
Director: Philip Leacock
Screenplay: John Bryan, Lesley Storm; A.J. Cronin (novel)
Cinematography: Christopher Challis
Music: John Veale
Film Editing: Reginald Mills
Cast: Dirk Bogarde (Jose), Jon Whiteley (Nicholas Brande), Michael Hordern (Harrington Brande), Cyril Cusack (Garcia), Maureen Swanson (Maria), Lyndon Brook (Robert Burton), Josephine Griffin (Carol Burton), Bernard Lee (Leighton Bailey), Rosalie Crutchley (Magdalena), Ina De La Haye (Jose's Mother), Geoffrey Keen (Dr. Harvey), Harold Scott (Pedro), Jack Stewart (Police Escort), Richard Molinas (Police Escort), Susan Lyall Grant (Maid), John Adderley (Taxi Driver), David Lander (Policeman).

by Andrea Passafiume



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