The Chalk Garden makes no bones about its legit background. Enid Bagnold’s drama had a healthy 17 months’ run at the Haymarket in 1956 and producer and director have not done much to disguise the original.
Hayley Mills vigorously plays a 16-year-old girl, in some ways perceptive beyond her years. But audiences will feel that a well-applied hairbrush on her derriere could have swiftly ironed out some of the problems that beset her and the surrounding adults.
The child suffers from the feeling that she is not loved. Her mother has remarried and her grandmother is more obsessed with her arid garden. So the confused, unhappy girl grows up in a world of fantasy and lying. On to the scene comes a mystery woman as governess. Deborah Kerr’s background turns out to be that of a woman straight from prison after a suspended sentence for bumping off her stepsister.
On paper, this sounds like a ripe old piece of Victoriana, but curiously it works, largely because of confident, smooth performances by all concerned.
1964: Nomination: Best Supp. Actress (Edith Evans)