Carolyn Keene's series of juvenile mystery novels debuted in 1930 and immediately captured the fancy of young readers. In 1938 Warner Bros. purchased the screen rights, and found the perfect actress to bring Nancy to life: Bonita Granville. Her Nancy is brainy, feisty, resourceful, and full of energy - boundless energy. Frankie Thomas, Jr. plays her boyfriend and crime-solving cohort, and John Litel is (type)cast as her attorney father. Other characters and incidents were combined or compressed from Keene's books, but only one script was actually adapted from a novel: Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase, the best in the series and ironically the last. All four films were directed by William Clemens with typical Warner Bros. zip and pace; they're more densely plotted than one might expect for B-pictures, and though they're aimed at a younger audience, they seldom skirt the grim realities of crime and murder. The four films are very much of a piece, and hew to a Hollywood formula; if they're not quite as good as the books, they're still fun to watch.
1 hour, 6 minutes
Bonita Granville, John Litel, James Stephenson, Frankie Thomas, Frank Orth, Renie Riano, Dick Purcell.
Nancy investigates a wealthy woman's disappearance in the series' debut film, with Granville's energetic performance scoring a bullseye. ** 1/2
(Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide 1997 Edition).
Frankie Thomas and Bonita Granville (scanned by webmaster).
Bonita Granville and John Litel.