Blu-Ray Review: The Chalk Garden

Hayley Mills and Deborah Kerr

Enid Bagnold’s writing career did not get off to the most propitious start. Whilst working as a nurse during World War I, her critical writings about the hospital administration landed her in trouble. Which ultimately resulted in losing her job. However, the writing stuck and she went on to pen a number of plays and poems, most famously National Velvet, which has been beloved by generations of children. Another favourite is The Chalk Garden, which was adapted for the screen in 1964.

Despite having no experience or references, Miss Madrigal (Deborah Kerr) answers an advert for a governess at the home of Mrs. St. Maugham (Edith Evans). The job is to take charge of her unruly and headstrong granddaughter Laurel (Hayley Mills) who has seen off all the past incumbents. She is being kept away from her ‘disgraced’ mother, who she detests. Miss Madrigal’s only ally is Maitland (John Mills), the butler, as she tries to steer the wayward teenager back on track.

The strength of The Chalk Garden rests in the impressive writing and wonderful cast, who ensure that it’s a fascinating and powerful drama. The source material is obviously rich but Ronald Neame’s film flourishes thanks to its focus on the relationship between governess and ward and the mystery of Miss Madrigal’s past. The house is full of secrets and lies which weave themselves into the complex tapestry of the narrative. The Chalk Garden is rich and rewarding cinema.

Special features:

  • High Definition remaster
  • Original mono soundtrack
  • Audio commentary with film historians Lucy Bolton and Josephine Botting (2021)
  • The BEHP Interview with Ronald Neame (1991, 107 mins): archival audio recording, made as part of the British Entertainment History Project, featuring the acclaimed director in conversation with Roy Fowler
  • Fertile Ground (2021, 8 mins): assistant production accountant Maurice Landsberger remembers filming at Eastbourne
  • 8mm Location Footage (1963, 1 min): excerpts from John Mills’ home movies shot at Beachy Head during production
  • Clever Conversation (2021, 22 mins): appreciation of Malcolm Arnold’s score by author and musician David Huckvale
  • Loved and Envied (2021, 11 mins): Josephine Botting on the life and career of Enid Bagnold
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Image gallery: promotional and publicity material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Limited edition exclusive 32-page booklet with a new essay by Melanie Williams, extracts from interviews and autobiographies, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits
  • UK premiere on Blu-ray
  • Limited edition of 3,000 copies

The Chalk Garden is released on limited edition Blu-ray by Powerhouse Films as part of the Indicator Series on 26 April.

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