Sunday, November 04, 2007

Truthing & Sleuthing

Damn daylight savings time! I woke up a whole hour earlier than necessary this morning. Not that I'd been doing anything raucous last night that would necessitate any sleeping in -- in fact, I've been more mousy and housebound than usual this weekend. Which is why I now have two films to write about.

Nancy Drew - Detective is one of four adaptations of the novels made in 1938 and '39, and is heavy on nostalgia appeal. Much like the novels, the mysteries in the film are soft enough to for pre-adolescent girls to follow and solve themselves, but that's not really the point here. The smokescreen mystery is a mere excuse to watch Nancy in action, bugging her dad, outsmarting the cops, and torturing the life out poor Ned Nickerson (improbably re-named Ted) all the while exuding her particular brand of smarts and pluck.

Though the movie Nancy is clever enough, she's definitely not as level-headed as I imagined the book Nancy to be, and she comes off as extremely excitable, almost spastic. I always imagined Nancy to be calmer, serious, more willowy and sophisticated. Bonita grows on you though, and the film's funny and lighthearted tone could soften the heart of any cynic. Ted's also quite amusing and I love the kids' thirties slang ("Aw, don't disturb the molecules") and wisecracks ("No bacon? Is the recession still on?") though for the most part it's all fairly silly stuff. Still, the films are guaranteed to delight to any Nancy fan, especially those with old-timey tendencies.

Also, the credits look really fabulous:

Moving on ...

The Awful Truth is a classic screwball comedy directed by Leo McCarey, who I'm sort of getting obsessed with ever since I saw Ruggles At Red Gap. Starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, it reminds me a little of His Girl Friday (the divorce/reconciliation theme, and poor Ralph Bellamy playing the rebound sucker) but of course it's a standout film in its own right. There are some marvelous bits (the two men in the bedroom scene is ridiculous, as is the scene where Irene Dunne pretends to be Grant's sister) and I love watching portrayals of Depression-era affluence and New York City dance halls.

But best of all, possibly, is Aunt Patsy, one of the all-time greatest Spinster Aunts ever portrayed on screen. Patsy, who I'm sure I heard Dunne call "Patty" once or twice, is suave, sophisticated, bored, jaded, hilarious, and ultimately well-meaning (she doesn't want her niece to marry a bore like Bellamy!). Oddly enough, Patsy is played by a very mannish-looking person named Cecil Cunningham ... who is supposedly a woman ... I guess. Anyway, (s)he's a fabulous Spinster Aunt, and has a great line when Bellamy says he's learned about women from Irene Dunn: she slaps Dunne's Dear John letter into his hands and says, "Here's your diploma."

Besides showcasing spinsters with clever lines, the movie also scores points for featuring clever terriers named Mr. Smith, and funny hats.

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