Friday, January 22, 2016

The Spanish Gardener

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By addison de witt on January 26, 2015
Format: DVD
This is a touching little film, and the only reason there are so few reviews here is that it's huge success was almost entirely outside the USA. There are some really naieve comments here however. This film was made in the 50's and set at that time - when people did things very differently. Especially the British upper middle classes. They would think nothing of letting a child spend days with a trusted employee. The hired help brought up the children of these diplomatic families, and this kind of thing was totally acceptable. Some reviewers here are looking at this film with modern eyes. The big problem for me is the lousy transfer. This film was made in VistaVision, a stunning process with a crystal clear image that should fill a widescreen television. This is a lousy print taken off an old video. This film should look stunning, and it doesn't. As for the Spanish gardener speaking with a posh English accent - back then stars were as important for a film's success as they are now. Dirk Bogarde was a real star, and he got along wonderfully with Jon Whiteley on, and off the screen, which is why the film works. In fact they made two films together. The slightly unusual relationship between these two is what makes the film so potent. In the novel, the father is more enthusiastic about the handsome gardener than he should be. But at the time, they had to dispense with that element of the story. However, Bogarde and Michael Hordern were both such good actors, they suggest all of this. The father is jealous of his son's relationship with the gardener. This is all you need to know to fill in the blanks. Criterion, a Bluray please!Format: Amazon Instant Video
I was surprised to see the lukewarm (and few) reviews on IMDB for this very interesting film. The story of a martinet father who drives his wife away before the action of the film, and whose jealousy of the gardener who befriends his young son drives him to alienate his own child, is quite compelling. Dirk Bogarde stars as the (English accented) Spanish gardener of the title. Based on the A.J. Cronin novel (which had as its antagonist/father an American diplomat) the film, produced by Pinewood Studios, makes the career foreign service officer a Brit, stranded in what he considers a backwater assignment beneath his capabilities. [Amusingly to me, the reason his superior gives for the lousy post is that "he has failed as a man" meaning that his wife left him, so maybe he's not "man" enough for a prestige diplomatic post? Well that was the 1950s so we can't judge by today's notions]
The action is at first very small, very subtle, and progresses to a very compelling finish which as all good fiction, turns the entire situation upside down, causing a kind of paradigm shift in the thinking of all involved via the turn of events.
Well worth the time and as another reviewer wrote perhaps a good "family film" though I'm not sure I would've wanted my sons to watch it when they were young, but that's just me.I opened this book 9 this morning and could not put it down until I finished at 5pm. I kept and still feel like I have known of this story but know I have not read it before. The ending proved that. It made me so angry what the author did towards the ending. \not what was expected and not welcomed at all. this is the third of Cronin's books I have read and the second to get 5 stars. Will have to order the others of his.

The Spanish Gardener

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the 1950 novel. For the film, see The Spanish Gardener (film).
The Spanish Gardener
The Spanish Gardener cover.jpg
First edition (UK)
AuthorA. J. Cronin
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherGollancz (UK)
Little, Brown (US)
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages256 pp. (UK hardback edition)
The Spanish Gardener is a 1950novel by A. J. Cronin which tells the story of an American consul, Harrington Brande, who is posted to San Jorge on the Costa Brava, Spain with his young son Nicholas. The novel relates how Nicholas’s innocent love for his father is destroyed by the latter’s jealousy and vindictiveness when Nicholas forms a friendship with the young Spanish gardener, José Santero.
The novel was adapted for both filmand television.

Plot summary[edit]

A restrained, precise man, Brande has an elevated sense of his own importance, believing his qualities have been overlooked in a series of postings around Europe which have failed to result in promotion. His other abiding resentment is the failure of his marriage to his wife Marion, who left him when his dispassionate and obsessively controlling nature overwhelmed her.
Brande’s paranoid need to be loved and respected are focused on his hobby, a manuscript on Malebranche, a French philosopher, and on his nine-year-old son Nicholas. Nicholas is a delicate child who has been reduced to a state of invalidism by his father’s overprotective and restrictive regime.
At San Jorge, the Brandes take a villa for which a couple, Garcia and his wife Magdalena have been engaged to act as butler/chauffeur and cook/housekeeper. Nicholas takes an instinctive dislike to Garcia, fearing his dead fish eyes and his tendency to appear unannounced, but Brande sees the man’s obsequious servility as recognition of his own superior qualities. At Nicholas’s suggestion, a gardener, the 19-year-old José, is hired to tend the neglected garden. José’s amiable and ingenuous nature, despite his poverty and the responsibility of providing for his family members, soon attract Nicholas’s curiosity and the pair strike up a friendship. Nicholas helps José in the garden and his health improves.
However, Garcia informs Brande of their friendship and, intensely jealous of Nicholas’s affection, Brande forbids the boy to speak to the gardener again. He has no justifiable cause to dismiss José, so he sets out to punish him and break his spirit by ordering him to build a rockery from boulders. Nicholas, however, realises that he only promised not to speak to José, and this does not preclude writing and exchanging secret notes with each other.
Brande then receives a letter summoning him to Madrid and informing him that his predecessor at San Jorge who was promoted to First Consul, has suffered a stroke. Elated and assuming that he will be appointed to the vacant post, Brande hurries to Madrid.
José takes advantage of Brande’s absence to take Nicholas by train into the mountains on a fishing trip. Their enforced silence is broken and the day is the idyllic highlight of Nicholas’s life so far. Yet when Nicholas returns it is to find a drunken Garcia wielding a knife and abusing Magdalena. He spends a terrified night in his room and, when José learns of it the following day, rather than leave the defenceless boy alone for another night, takes him home with him.
A distraught Brande returns early from Madrid. He had merely been summoned to Madrid to temporarily fill the vacancy until a permanent appointment could be made and, upon telling his superior that he expected to be appointed permanently, is effectively laughed at and told he has no hope. He refused the temporary posting and writes to summon his friend and psychiatrist Eugene Halevy.
On returning to his villa, he finds Nicholas missing and Garcia informs him Nicholas has spent the night with José. He further shows Brande a scrap of Nicholas’s correspondence to José saying how much he loves to spend time with José. When Nicholas returns, Garcia and Magdalena deny his version of events and he is confined to his room where Professor Halevy ‘examines’ him, intent upon reading something sinister into his relationship with José.
Garcia then informs Brande that he is missing sums of money and suggests Brande checks his jewellery, all of which has gone. A pair of Brande’s cufflinks are found in the lining of José’s jacket and he is arrested.
José is to be sent for trial in Barcelona and Nicholas learns from his grandfather that he will attempt to escape from the train and hide in the old mill where they went fishing. Nicholas sets off to meet him, while his father accompanies José and the police to act as witness in the trial. He has received a letter from the employment agency stating that Garcia is very likely to be a criminal the police are looking for, but he decides to do nothing about it until after José’s trial. On the train, José makes his escape attempt, but Brande, anticipating his action, catches his sleeve, spoiling his jump so that José falls onto the track and is killed. In a violent storm, Brande then has to find the missing Nicholas.
Seven months later, Brande is posted to Stockholm but his relationship with Nicholas is irretrievably broken. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Nicholas told Brande that he hated him. He asked for his mother’s photo and her address and has been writing to her. In Stockholm, Nicholas, now recovered from a serious illness resulting from his misadventure in the storm, informs his father that he wishes to go and live with her in America.
Information on 'The Spanish Gardener' from the fly leaf of 'Beyond This Place' (Published 1953 Australia and NZ):
Dr Cronin has portrayed a man at the mercy of his own vanity. This man's son is the victim of his doting parent until the Spanish gardener shows the boy the way to a freer, healthier, happier life.
This is a haunting book with overtones of both beauty and tragedy. Among its characters - the frail, confined and sensitive little boy Nicholas; the father who was afraid to face hmself; the criminal servant; the Consul's assistant upon whom at the moment of crisis he was reluctantly forced to rely; the fraudulent psychiatrist who would twist words spoken under mental torture; and above all the lovable character of the Spanish gardener himself - these are among Dr Cronin's most memorable characters.

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