The Spanish Gardener (film)

The Spanish Gardener is a 1956 VistaVision and Technicolor film based on the novel of the same name by A. J. Cronin, first published in 1950. The film stars Dirk Bogarde and Jon Whiteley, and was directed by Philip Leacock.

The Spanish Gardener
Directed byPhilip Leacock
Produced byEarl St. John
Written byA. J. Cronin (novel)
Lesley Storm
StarringDirk Bogarde
Jon Whiteley
Michael Hordern
Cyril Cusack
Music byJohn Veale
CinematographyChristopher Challis
Edited byReginald Mills
Distributed byThe Rank Organisation
Release date
25 December 1956
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The adaptation was filmed both at Pinewood Studios, near London, and in Palamós, nearby Mas Juny estate, and in S'Agaro, on the Costa Brava, Catalonia.

There were also two are adaptations of the story for Brazilian television: Nicholas (1958) and O Jardineiro Espanhol (1967).

The film was entered into the 7th Berlin International Film Festival.


British diplomat Harrington Brande (Sir Michael Hordern) takes up a minor provincial consular post in Spain. The appointment is a disappointment to Harrington, who was hoping for a more senior position. His abandonment by his wife may have adversely affected his career, as might his brusque manner. He is accompanied by his nine year old son, Nicholas (Jon Whiteley), whom he home schools, contrary to his friend’s advice that the boy would benefit from the social engagement with other boys at a boarding school. Harrington prefers to monopolize his company.

Nicholas sees it as an adventure, and soon becomes friends with the teenage gardener, José (Sir Dirk Bogarde), spending time every day helping him with the plants and relaxing together. The exercise he is getting is much better for him than his father’s mollycoddling of the perfectly healthy boy. However, the middle aged Harrington is jealous of his son’s enthusiasm for and friendship with the much younger man. He rebukes his son for taking him to watch Jose play pelota and refuses Jose’s gift of fish that he had caught. Similarly, he refuses to let Nicholas join a youth group organised by a junior colleague. He later bans Nicholas and Jose from speaking on pain of Jose's dismissal. He also sets Jose to clear a large rockery as punishment.

While Harrington is away on a business trip, the drunken Garcia, the butler/ chauffeur, threatens Nicholas with a knife and tries to break into his bedroom and the terrified boy takes refuge overnight with Jose with whm he has again been spending time. His father discovers this and is furious. Garcia then frames José to cover up his own behaviour.

The ending of the film differs from that of the book.



The film was one of the most popular at the British box office in 1957.[1]


  1. Thumim, Janet. "The popular cash and culture in the postwar British cinema industry". Screen. Vol. 32 no. 3. p. 259.

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