Yet Another Journal

Nostalgia, DVDs, old movies, television, OTR, fandom, good news and bad, picks, pans,
cute budgie stories, cute terrier stories, and anything else I can think of.


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» Sunday, April 15, 2007
Real and Reel Headaches
The weather would have been pleasant today if the wind wasn't involved and so many people weren't under the gun with this storm working its way up the coast.

The change in the weather was so severe that I suffered from a headache from Friday afternoon all through yesterday. I managed to make it through "hair day" before the real pain hit. I think it was a combination of barometric pressure and the arthritis in my neck and spine, since the pain radiated from my shoulder and neck all the way around the right side of my head to my right temple, like a huge clutching claw; whatever, I was miserable all afternoon and evening. It hurt less when I had my glasses off, so I read or lay with my eyes closed most of the time. Neither ibuprofin nor Tylenol put a dent in it.

I still have it today, but it is just a dull pull with occasional spasms when I bend over or sneeze and is bearable, although the longer I have my glasses on and am awake the more I can feel it.

The weather has been quite a shock: the high today was 63°F at 2 a.m., plummeting to 43. The front came through in the middle of the night, slamming our bedroom door shut. We went out for breakfast and made stops at Costco and BJs as it got darker and darker and the wind tossed the trees like a terrier shaking a toy.

So we spent the afternoon closeted with the newspaper. I decided a few days ago I had to get through the videotapes I'd recorded here and there in the past few months. I checked them all—my God, when was Hugh Laurie on Letterman? I'd completely forgotten I'd taped it, and then there were the two Christmas specials I recorded off the Atlanta PBS station intending to watch them before the new year—and watched two of the four Nancy Drew movies I had recorded from TCM some time ago (I saw the other two several days ago).

I wonder after watching them all what the Drew fans back in 1938/1939 thought of the Hollywood interpretation of their heroine. The appeal of Nancy, along with the mysteries she solved, is that she was a strong, competent female character in an era when girls were still patted over the head if they had serious thoughts. She was smart, responsible, intelligent, and athletic without losing any of the feminine attributes held so dear.

Bonita Granville actually fit the visual profile of Nancy pretty well, although she was clearly blonde instead of "titian-haired" as portrayed in the novels. Had the scripts written Nancy as "Carolyn Keene" portrayed her, Granville could have carried it off well. But the movie Nancy is disappointing: she has bursts of inspiration, but all is considered "women's intuition," not smarts, as if Warner Brothers couldn't bear to portray an intelligent female character. She mixes "intuition" with silliness and does things her novel counterpart would be embarrassed to do. There's a running "women driver" gag throughout the four films where Nancy either bumps into other cars with her roadster or takes her hands off the wheel when excited. The conscientious Nancy of the books would have been horrified by those events—not to mention the sequence where Nancy covers up a murder by talking someone into writing a fake suicide note for the corpse!

And poor Ted Nickerson (changed from "Ned" in the books) is Nancy's fall guy instead of chum and helper. In the course of the films she tricks him into fixing her car for free, gets him stuck in a dress because his clothes are stolen, gets him arrested, traps him in innumerable situations with her—he ends up being the goat all the time.

Carson Drew, Nancy's father, the famous lawyer, puts up with all these shenanigans in the reel versions. In the novels, Nancy is so mature and responsible that he trusts her with important errands. The movie Nancy couldn't be trusted to do anything but get into trouble.

To add even more humorous elements, Warner Brothers tossed aside Hannah Gruen, the wise, faithful housekeeper who had brought up Nancy from the time her mother died, and replaced her with Effie Schneider, who was forever getting into poison ivy or contributing a funny remark.

Probably the saddest element in the four movies is the black character Apollo Johnson in Nancy Drew, Troubleshooter. The character, played by Willie Best, believes in "ha'nts," steals chickens, is lazy, and in general is a textbook version of the idiot Stepin Fetchit African-American character foisted off on the public in movies, books, and radio steries of that era. Even if you can put up with Nancy's film idiocies, this character pretty much ruins a present-day viewing of the movie.

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