Saturday, December 29, 2007

B-Movie Detectives: Part 7

Nancy Drew, the teenage amateur detective who has been the star of countless novels, popped up in four movies produced by Warner Brothers in 1938 & 1939. Nancy was played by cute-as-a-button Bonita Granville, who is so spunky and energetic in the role you often can't help but feel she needs to be sedated.

In each movie, Nancy and her boyfriend Ted (played by Frankie Thomas) get involved investigating a crime. The basic premise, that a pair of over-eager teenagers can figure out whodunit, is a silly one. But the movies aren't tongue-in-cheek at all. They take Nancy seriously and thus she comes across as likeable and intelligent. Aimed at a younger audience than many of the other film series I've discussed, there's little violent action, but the plots still move along swiftly and logically.

This is not to say that the films don't take time to simply have fun. In Nancy Drew, Reporter, there's a wonderful sequence in which Nancy, Ted and the two annoying kids they're babysitting don't have enough money to pay their tab at a Chinese restaraunt. This leads to a great scene in which the four of them are forced to literally sing for their suppers.
Another strength of the films is that they don't treat Nancy as an action hero. In Reporter, she and Ted are being held at gun point by the bad guy. They are terrified and can do nothing while he locks them in a room. It's only after the bad guy has left that they are able to start thinking their way out of their makeshift jail. This works perfectly for the character, whereas trying to jump the bad guy in some way wouldn't have worked at all.
Because they were aimed more at kids than adults, the Nancy Drew films have a completely different feel to them than do the other detective films of the era. This just adds to their appeal.

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