Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


NANCY DREW AND THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE (1939). Director: William Clemens.

Loosely based on The Hidden Staircase, this uses many of the elements of the novel but is basically a new story. Two elderly sisters live in a mansion and have had to abide for twenty years with their late father's ridiculous will, which says they will inherit the place if they live in the house that entire time and if at least one of the sisters is present in the mansion every night. There's two weeks to go, after which the women intend to give the home to a charitable medical facility. When their chauffeur is murdered, the women panic and Nancy Drew (Bonita Granville) does her best to convince everyone that his death was actually a suicide. She investigates when the old ladies claim items have been stolen from their home even though all the doors and windows were locked. As usual she inveigles the hapless "Ted" Nickerson (Frankie Thomas) into helping her with her schemes. In the books Nancy was brave and occasionally foolhardy but in this she's irresponsible and stupid -- and even screams in fright at a frog! The idiot police chief lets Ted handle the murder weapon. The climax isn't bad, however, and there are some amusing sequences. John Litel is again cast as Carson Drew.

Verdict: The last of Nancy on the big screen [at that time] -- and not a moment too soon! **.
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