1938 and 1939 saw the release of four films starring Bonita Granville as Nancy Drew. In the film, Drew is a precocious teenager who is always stumbling into mysteries.
These are light mystery comedies with typical 1930s suspense stories. The mysteries aren’t bad, but the comedy really reigns supreme. The books and the movies are like night and day. This was really standard Hollywood practice when they’d bring a detective to radio or film. They’d be far more likely to adapt the character to what was popular at the time rather than take a risk on making a movie based on what made the books work.
Thus Nancy while bright, intelligent, and brave, also makes some klutzy mistakes and can charge in too quickly to danger, making her a typical 1930s heroine. Other changes are less clear. Why they changed the boyfriend’s name from “Ned” to “Ted” I’ll never know.
That said, the movies are good fun for what they are, light mysteries with a touch of Screwball comedy. The best of the films is the only one in the public domain: Nancy Drew, Reporter. It features a pretty intriguing plot and the comedy consistently hits with one scene where Nancy, her boyfriend, and two younger kids perform a song to get out of a tight spot in a scene that seems like an inspiration for the 80s cult hit Adventures in Babysitting.
Bottom: All four films are pretty fun but those expecting the straighter mysteries and the super competence of Nancy in the novels may be disappointed.
Rating 3.5 Stars out of 5.0
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