Movie Review: Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (1939)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1939 movie starring actress Bonita Granville as detective Nancy Drew.

Synopsis: A pair of aging sisters are two weeks away from finally inheriting their family estate, which they plan on donating to a local doctor so it can be turned into a hospital. However, someone is secretly trying to prevent them from fulfilling the requirements of their father's will and it is up to Nancy Drew, with the help of her boyfriend Ted, to figure out who that person is.

A Fun Movie

My oldest daughter wanted to watch some television with me last night before bed. Since I wasn’t really in the mood for yet another re-run of “Spongebob Squarepants,” I convinced her to watch a movie with me instead. And, since she loves Nancy Drew books, I figured this would make a good choice. As it turns out, I was correct.

The best way I can think to describe this 1939 movie is it was just fun to watch. The mystery wasn’t overly difficult to solve (there really was only one potential suspect, the only thing that wasn’t immediately clear was the motive) and the storyline was somewhat simplistic. However, the movie proved to be entertaining for both of us.

I think the thing I liked most about this particular film was how her boyfriend, Ted (Thomas) kept being persuaded into helping her only to continuously get in trouble with the police while she somehow managed to keep her nose clean each time. It was silly and fun to watch. I also loved the ongoing joke involving the various blocks of ice being ordered for Nancy’s ice box. I think my wife (who wasn’t really watching the movie with us) got a chuckle out of the giant stack of ice that was forming in her kitchen.

The one thing I wasn’t really impressed about when it came to this movie was the way the writers made Nancy Drew into a character that was somewhat helpless. I’ve never actually read the books but, from what my daughter tells me, she is a strong character. Yet, in this film, she had to run to rely heavily on Ted for everything from escaping a bad guy to protecting her from a frog and I can only assume it was related to when the movie was made.

Also while I do think Granville is a funny actress she does have a bit of a high pitched voice. While this isn’t a huge deal most of the time, there were some scenes where it sounded very whiny and was kind of irritating as a result.

The Hidden Staircase (Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #2)

After receiving a call from her friend Helen Corning, Nancy agrees to help solve a baffling mystery. Helen's Aunt Rosemary has been living with her mother at the old family mans...

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Final Opinion

Final Opinion:  Again, the mystery is a little too easy to solve. But, despite that, this movie actually proved to be entertaining enough to be worth taking the time to watch. I would recommend it.

My Grade: B

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Updated: 05/28/2019, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 03/28/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
The library system here does not have the 1939 version of Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase. It nevertheless does have a colorized reboot or remake from 2007.

Would you all happen to have seen the recent version?

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