Nancy Drew and friends on the case. Image: TCM

The fascinating thing about historical police investigations, we think, is the way investigators were able to catch criminals without the use of modern surveillance technology. Old-timey investigators had to be patient, smart, and resourceful.

Movies don’t often dwell on the methodical and (sometimes) mind-numbing aspect of investigations, and that is certainly the case in the curiously-punctuated Nancy Drew… Reporter (1939).

Indeed, the police in this film are Morons in Uniform who are easily hoodwinked by Nancy and her friends, because no one wants stupid police officers gumming up murder investigations.

About the Murder: A rich, elderly woman has been poisoned, and her sole heir (Betty Amann) has been arrested. Amann knows the Evidence weighs heavily against her, and she must put her trust in Nancy Drew, the Only One convinced of her innocence.

This isn’t a new premise, whether in the movies or real life, and there isn’t much of a mystery, either. The most baffling thing here is how thick-headed people are able to land jobs in law enforcement.

Get this: In one scene, Nancy Drew and friend visit Amann in prison. As they take a photo of Amman, the flash makes a loud bang – this being 1939 – and the dumbest prison guard in in the world asks, “What is that noise?” then shrugs it off.

However, for the sake of law-abiding citizens everywhere, we can rest assured Nancy Drew will Sort Everything Out.

What can possibly go wrong? Image: The New York Public Library

You might be wondering how Nancy Drew becomes mixed up in this business.

Nancy and some of her classmates win a trip to a newspaper, and the editor gives them feeble assignments to write as “reporters”. Nancy, not one to be mollified by patronizing of any Sort, overhears news of a murder inquest. She steals the assignment and races to the courthouse so she can burst this thing Wide Open.

Here she meets one of the Bad Guys, and learns of the key piece of evidence: a poisonous chemical that would have permanently imprinted the killer’s fingerprints on the tin (just go with it), and the rest of the film is spent finding and retrieving that tin.

It seems straightforward, but this wouldn’t be a Nancy Drew movie if that were the case. Sadly for her, the bad guys are almost as smart as she is, and they’re a lot Meaner.

The thing is, Nancy has a way of almost Doing Herself In, with or without the bad guys. Her maverick personality both condemns and saves her.

She’s forever getting tangled in cycles of near destruction. To be in close proximity to Nancy is to be sucked into her chaotic vortexes.

It’s a wonder anyone survives her.

The Bad Guys don’t know with whom they’re messing. Image: IMDb

Nancy Drew… Reporter was the second film in a series of four Nancy Drew films from Warner Bros., based on the popular mystery books written by various authors under the name Carolyn Keene.

These films star Bonita Granville, who was 15 when she was first cast as Nancy Drew. Granville has a manic yet feminine charm, although many have criticized her somewhat harebrained Nancy vs. the serious-minded girl detective of the novels.

We (yours truly) are a sucker for anything Nancy Drew. We adored her as a kid, and we read every Nancy Drew book in the school library, our greatest achievement to date. We don’t object to Granville’s performance; in fact, we admire her determination to get to The Bottom of Things, a quality she shares with the literary Nancy.

Are you a Nancy Drew fan? Even if you’re not, we hope you’ll catch Nancy Drew… Reporter the next time you’re up for some madcap detective work.

This post is part of the MOVIES ARE MURDER Blogathon, hosted by the CMBA.

Nancy Drew… Reporter: starring Bonita Granville, John Litel, Frankie Thomas. Directed by William Clemens. Written by Kenneth Gamet. Warner Bros. Studios, 1939, B&W, 68 mins.

Happily blogging about old movies and using the royal "We".

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