Last week TCM (Turner Classic Movies) added teenage wannabe detective Nancy Drew to their Saturday morning lineup with a screening of 1938's Nancy Drew: Detective, the first-ever screen adaptation of the hugely popular young adult mystery series whose first book was published in 1930. On Saturday, July 12 at 10:45 a.m./9:45 a.m. central, TCM will present 1939's Nancy Drew...Reporter, the second in a series of four film produced by Warner Bros. featuring Bonita Glanville as the up-and-coming detective.
In the second installment of the Nancy Drew film series, Nancy and fellow students, including a then virtually unknown Joan Leslie (High Sierra, Sergeant York, Yankee Doodle Dandy) and Florence Halop (who, decades later would star as Florence Kleiner in TV's Night Court) have been selected to compete for a gold medal and cash prize by submitting stories to the local newspaper. When Nancy draws a rather boring assignment, she overhears the city editor mention a murder trial as he looks for his star reporter and she quickly switches assignments and heads off to court. While in the courtroom, Nancy doesn't waste a minute assuming the role of reporter as she makes her way to the press box. While there, she notices a ruffian with a strange looking ear. As she listens to the defendant Eula Denning (Betty Amann, German-born co-star of Alfred Hitchcock's 1931 comedy-thriller East of Shanghai) testify that she had nothing to do with a Mrs. Lambert's murder, Nancy picks up on clues that might clear Miss Denning.
Of course a detective often needs a crack team to aide in their investigation. Unfortunately for Nancy she's stuck with best friend , and eventual boyfriend, Ted Nickerson (Frankie Thomas), Ted's sister, Mary (child star Mary Lee making her film debut) and Killer Perkins (child actor and western star Dickie Jones). Interesting facts about these three: in the Nancy Drew books, her boyfriend is Ned Nickerson, not Ted. Mary Lee and Killer provide much of the film's humor, including a bit of song and dance that gets the foursome out of a jam at a Chinese restaurant. Lastly, Mary Lee is the sole surviving cast member of these early Nancy Drew movies, following the July 7, 2014 death of Dickie Jones.
Fans of the Nancy Drew franchise may also remember that she would often enlist the unwitting help of her father, attorney Carson Drew (John Litel). Nancy Drew...Reporter is no exception. After visiting the defendant in jail, with Ted in tow as her 'photographer', Nancy promises Eula that her father will take the case. She just has to track down some solid evidence.
Of course she does this, getting Ted, Mary and Killer in a few scrapes along the way, including a humorous boxing bout with prize fighter Soxie Anthens, played by a suspiciously uncredited Jack Perry); a run-in with Captain Tweedy (Frank Orth) a bumbling beat cop whom viewers remember for the first Nancy Drew movie.
There's also a clever bit of undercover work provided by Sergeant Entwhistle (Olin Howard) when he disguises himself as Nancy's grandmother to gain access to a hotel room near the rendezvous point of the murderer and their accomplice.
Next week, TCM continues to showcase these early Nancy Drew film with a presentation of the third entry, 1939's Nancy Drew: Troubleshooter.
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