Movie Review: Nancy Drew, Detective (1938)

Synopsis: Shortly after pledging $250,000 to Nancy Drew's school, the wealthy Mary Eldredge goes missing. Everyone thinks the elderly Eldredge simply changed her mind or didn't really intend to donate the money except for Nancy, who believes something sinister has happened to the woman. She feels her suspicions are confirmed when a local doctor is kidnapped and forced to treat an elderly woman but her attempts to locate the woman could potentially put Nancy's life in danger.

Who's in it? The movie stars Bonita Granville, John Litel, James Stephenson, Frankie Thomas and Helena Phillips Evans.


Review: I was under the impression I had seen this movie before, especially since I know I saw the other three Nancy Drew films starring Bonita Granville. However, as I watched it this morning, I realized that probably wasn't the case after all and, after finally seeing it (or seeing it again after not remembering it), I have to say I am glad I took the time to watch it.

I've seen multiple on-screen incarnations of Nancy Drew and Granville's version is easily my favorite. I absolutely love the energy she brings to the character and how she plays Nancy in a way that makes it clear she is intelligent but, at the same time, reminds us she is a teenager, especially toward the end, when she has a fairly realistic (though still comedic) response to what happened. I also liked how, in this movie, she was able to show some self-reliance, such as being able to change a flat tire, rather that just relying on her would-be boyfriend, Ted (Thomas) - something future movies in this series inexplicably decide not to do.

I thought the mystery itself was decent. It wasn't too difficult to figure out who the bad guy was (especially since the movie pretty much tells you after a short while) but, since he seemed to be one step ahead of Nancy, it was unclear how she would be able to prove he was a kidnapper when there wasn't even any evidence of a kidnapping. The fact her life was also being threatened also added an important element in the film because it was clear her dad (Litel) wasn't going to let her investigate if he could avoid it.

I will admit, I am still somewhat confused about the end of the film and Nancy/Ted's escape using an X-ray machine. It just doesn't seem like something that should work but, at the same time, maybe the technology was different enough 83 years ago for his efforts to make sense. I am just going to assume the latter.

Final Opinion: This is an entertaining movie with a great performance by Granville and a plot that wasn't as predictable as I was expecting. I'd recommend watching it as a result.

My Grade: A

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