Nancy Drew … Reporter, Happy Anniversary? Well, Almost, but Let’s Celebrate Anyway!

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On a Friday in the autumn of 1938 the cinematic story of America’s favorite, young female detective continued; filming on Nancy Drew, Reporter was scheduled to begin on October 17, but instead began on October 29, 1938.[1] The film was ready for the Press to view on January 20, 1939, in Los Angeles and Vance King of Motion Picture Daily gave a positive review of the mystery and[2] the Los Angeles Times nearly glowed in their report saying: “Thrills of an exciting chase, with more than a dash of good comedy, excellent dialogue as well as a well-knit, believable story.”[3]

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This the second film of the series was in production prior to the release of the first flick in the franchise, Nancy Drew, Detective, which premiered around November 19, 1938; because of no track-record to go on, the budget remained the same for Reporter. The third movie in the series (Nancy Drew, Trouble Shooter), saw its budget upped because of Detective’s draw.[4] Warner Brothers wrapped shooting on Reporter by the middle of December, while Detective was doing great business at the turnstiles.[5]

The reason the traditionally accepted release date for Nancy Drew, Reporter, is listed as Saturday, February 18, 1939, is because of Boxoffice Magazine (The Reel Journal, at that time) reported such in their “Booking Chart” of current releases, yet this is ten-days later than known theater-listings and advertisements which reveal the actual opening.[6] Reporter was seen in Salem, Oregon, at the Warner’s Capitol Theatre on Wednesday evening, February 8. It seems likely then that the youthful-mystery-thriller was available for the weekend of February 4, but this film had (as so many of that era did) a soft-roll-out-release; being seen here, there and everywhere, sometimes in small clusters of openings, but occasionally premiering one city at a time.

The_Oregon_Statesman_ Salem, Oregon Wed__Feb_8__1939_

Oregon Statesman, Salem, Oregon, February 8, 1939

The_Boyden_Reporter_ Boyden, Iowa Thu__Feb_9__1939_

Boyden Reporter, Boyden, Iowa, February 9, 1939

Warren_Times_Mirror_ Warren, Pennslyvania, Wed__Feb_15__1939_

Warren Times Mirror, Warren, Pennsylvania, February 15, 1939

Warren_Times_Mirror_ Warren, Pennsylvania Thu__Feb_16__1939_

Warren Times Mirror, Warren, Pennsylvania, February 16, 1939

 

Nancy Drew Reporter was the second of four films produced and distributed by Warner Brothers, starring the vivacious Bonita Granville as the plucky teenage detective, John Litel as Carson Drew her clueless, loving father and Frankie Thomas appeared as her sidekick, Ted Nickerson. Kenneth Gamet wrote the Reporter screenplay based on the Nancy Drew stories, using the novels as source materials, likewise for the other 3 Drews; Mr. Gamet and director William Clemens worked each of the Drew films. Bryan Foy had the responsibilities as producer for the first entry, but for “Reporter” Mr. Foy moved to associate producer, while Hal B. Wallis and Jack L. Warner came on board as executive producers; WB released the 4 movies Nancy Drew: Detective, Reporter, Trouble Shooter, The Hidden Staircase) in 294 days, 11/19/1938 to 9/9/1939. The films were a smash hit but in 1939 Granville moved from Warner Brothers to MGM, shelving any further projects, her onscreen persona being so entrenched with the character of Nancy Drew.

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Twentysomething Shelia Bromley was brought on board to portray Bonnie Lucas in Reporter; veteran Broadway actress Beulah Bondi was contracted at the same time as Bromley to appear in Nancy Drew, Reporter, but Ms. Bondi did not and instead found work with: On Borrowed Time, released in 1939.[7]

For Nancy Drew, Reporter, star, Bonita Granville (who liked to be called Bunny[8]) introduced a piece of Hawaiian jewelry, a wide-grass-woven bracelet hung with flying fish, tiny gem-studded pineapples and shellacked guitars; this offering was by Warner Brothers’ designer, Milo Anderson. These Anderson Hawaii-inspired trinkets were seen on Olivia de Havilland, Margaret Lindsay and Rosella Towne; Anderson designed the “Island Jewelry” to complement his line of simple gowns.[9]

When Bonita Granville was instructed to appear in Reporter with her hair up, the sixteen-year-old laughed for she knew her mother was displeased with sophisticated hair-styles for her. When the Warner Brothers’ hairdresser put Granville’s hair up it did not satisfy the young actress, she promptly pinned up some little curls and explained, “That’s how I put it up every night just before I go to bed. But I carefully take it down again every morning.”[10]

While not preparing for the aesthetic values of Reporter, Granville was brushing-up on the work of a journalist for the second Drew film by reading former New York Herald Tribune city editor Stanley Walker’s book entitled: City Editor; an insider’s account of newspaper writing, describing the most notable reporters and editors of that era, along with relaying an understanding of the ethics, practices and the ideals of journalism.[11]

Bonita Granville

Bonita Granville

John Litel

John Litel

Frankie Thomas

Frankie Thomas

 

The idea for the Nancy Drew books was developed by Edward Stratemeyer (founder, creator of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, publishers of children’s stories communicated by series), and he gave the character outline to Mildred Wirt Benson (staff writer for the Syndicate); writing under the pen name of Carolyn Keene, Ms. Benson began the Nancy Drew series, on April 28th, 1930 with the release of the 3 volume breeder set which included: The Secret of the Old Clock, The Hidden Staircase, and The Bungalow Mystery.

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It is a great day to celebrate the mystery, the comedy, the thrills and the frills of Nancy Drew, so brightly brought to life by Bonita Granville and the rest of the Drew-crew. The Original Nancy Drew Movies are available on DVD.

 

By C. S. Williams

 

[1]Film Daily, September 26, 1938

Film Bulletin, November 5, 1938

[2] Motion Picture Daily, January 27, 1939

[3] Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) January 21, 1939

[4] Variety, December 28, 1938

[5] Motion Picture Herald, December 17, 1938

[6] Oregon Statesman (Salem, Oregon) February 8, 1939

[7] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) November 12, 1938

[8] Zanesville Signal (Zanesville, Ohio) November 6, 1938

[9] St Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, Florida) November 29, 1938

Gaffney Ledger (Gaffney, South Carolina) December 8, 1938

[10] Warren Times Mirror (Warren, Pennsylvania) February 16, 1939

[11] Dunkirk Evening Observer (Dunkirk, New York) November 19, 1938

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