Friday, November 23, 2012

The Skinny: Nancy Drew is Eighty-Two!

They are easy to spot--those trademark yellow spines. We see them on a weekly basis, either on our own shopping trips, or in neat little stacks on the front counter of the shop where we work. She may have gotten her start in 1930, but Nancy Drew is clearly still going strong.

 From 1930-1961, Nancy's stories (#1-#38) were bound in blue, with a graphic dust jacket. The yellow binding began in 1962. And it's not just the covers that evolved. The plots, characters, even Nancy herself changed through those first 56 books. Initially, Nancy's best friend is Helen Corning. Bess Marvin and George Fayne take over as Nancy's closest crew by book 5, and remain essential characters for the rest of the series. Ned Nickerson is introduced in number 7, but Burt and Dave (beaus of Bess & George) don't enter the group until book 20 of the original series. When the early books were revised, the fellows were written into several of them.

In 1938 and 1939, Warner released four Nancy Drew movies, starring Bonita Granville, which further strengthened the popularity of Ms. Drew and her friends (even if her boyfriend in the movies is Ted instead of Ned).  These films take elements from the books, so the plots are a bit of hodgepodge, but highly entertaining.

Some of the changes throughout the initial series are due to the fact that the author, Carolyn Keene, was at least eight different people, hired as ghost writers. Nancy begins the series as a vivacious, adventurous blonde, and transitions to a cool, perfect girl with more skills than her entire social circle (Nancy can do anything!), and never a reddish-blonde hair out of place. Other changes to the series came in the form of revisions to the early titles, which smoothed out racial issues, updated appropriate social standards, and beefed up, or completely replaced, the original plot lines. For this reason, a side-by-side comparison of Nancy Drew books often yields different cover art, different page and chapter numbers, different internal illustrations, and completely different characters, even though your two books have the same title.
The Bungalow MysteryThe Bungalow Mystery

Nancy now has over 500 adventures under her belt, and has been published in at least 26 different languages, but those first 56 books are, without question, THE Nancy Drew series. However, her international popularity cannot be denied, even if many countries have changed her name (the French know her as Alice, and in other nations she is Kitty). The Danish seem to think that she is sexy:

The Clue in the Diary
#7, The Clue in the Diary

And, of course, Nancy also tends to be highly collectible in alternative formats:

lobby card for one of the films

Madame Alexander Nancy Drew dolls

Earliest version of the Nancy Drew board game

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