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Dangerous Nan McGrew (1930)

Passed | | Comedy, Romance, Western | 22 June 1930 (USA)
Dangerous Nan McGrew is the sharp-shooting expert of a traveling medicine show that is stranded in the Canadian northwest at the snowbound hunting lodge of wealthy Mrs. Benson. Nan is ... See full summary »



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Cast overview:
Helen Kane ...
Bob Dawes
Eustace Macy
Roberta Robinson ...
Clara Benson
Louise Closser Hale ...
Mrs. Benson
Allan Forrest ...
Godfrey Crofton
Sheriff (as Robert Milash)


Dangerous Nan McGrew is the sharp-shooting expert of a traveling medicine show that is stranded in the Canadian northwest at the snowbound hunting lodge of wealthy Mrs. Benson. Nan is invited to put on a show for the benefit of Mrs. Benson's Christmas-Eve guests. While performing her boop-a-doop songs, Eustace Macy, the saxophone-tooting nephew of Mrs. Benson falls in love with Nan. And, then, the villain, the bank-robbing Doc Foster, makes his entrance. Can Dawes of the Royal Mounted be seen slushing in pursuit behind the gangster? Could Be. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

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HE COULDN'T RIDE, SHOOT OR ROPE BUT---with the cowboy's gals he was a real "bad man." (original poster) See more »






Release Date:

22 June 1930 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
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Did You Know?


One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »


Aw C'Mon, Whatta Ya Got to Lose?
Music by Richard A. Whiting
Lyrics by Leo Robin
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User Reviews

Someone took her Boop-Boop-a-Doop away
12 August 2013 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

Singer Helen Kane is best remembered today as the flesh-and-blood prototype for Betty Boop: she was cute, petite, and plump, a brunette with short curly hair and a stray spit-curl bang or two dangling over her eyes. She sang in a nasal, girlish falsetto, punctuated with her familiar Boop-Boop-a-Doops, and spoke with a pronounced New Yawk accent. Kane first attracted attention when she appeared in a 1927 Broadway show called "A Night in Spain," and soon became a popular recording artist. She captured the spirit of her era, the giddy pinnacle of the Roaring Twenties, and in her songs embodied the good-hearted, semi-innocent flapper. Kane's rise to prominence happened to coincide with the birth of the talkies, and she was quickly signed to appear before the cameras in musical shorts and featured roles in such early musicals as Sweetie and Pointed Heels.

I enjoy Kane's recordings, including her signature song "I Wanna Be Loved by You," the risqué "He's So Unusual," and the amusing specialty number "Dangerous Nan McGrew." This last-named tune provided the title for the feature film that proved to be Helen's one-and-only starring vehicle, made for Paramount and produced in 1930 at their Astoria Studio in Queens, NY. Although I've long been aware that this film is generally held in low esteem by buffs (which is putting it mildly), I was curious about it, and approached it with an open mind and low expectations, hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Sad to say, Dangerous Nan McGrew's reputation is well earned. It's a misfire, but I don't blame Helen Kane or her estimable supporting players. The film's problems include a weak script, uninspired direction, and the miscasting of a key role.

Helen plays Nan McGrew, who is teamed with "Doc" Foster (Victor Moore) in a two-person medicine show. They've got a horse-drawn wagon, and they're traveling through the snowy regions of Canada. Doc peddles elixir, while Nan sings and performs an Annie Oakley-style shooting routine. Business is poor. When Nan learns that a dangerous killer is on the loose, with a $10,000 bounty on his head, she decides to capture the scoundrel, collect the reward, and upgrade the ragtag medicine show she shares with Foster by trading in their horse for an automobile. That's the gist of the plot, and it's a perfectly serviceable premise. A central problem, however, is that the fugitive is played by -- get this -- Frank Morgan, ridiculously miscast as a tough-talking roughneck. I've always admired Morgan, and have seen him in many varied roles, and know that he was more versatile than people tend to assume, but casting him as a ruthless killer, even in a lightweight musical comedy, is just silly. His performance suggests that he was aware of this incongruity, so he settled on a gruff, over-the-top delivery suitable to the villain in a children's pageant. When Morgan barks lines such as "Listen you, shut up, before I rip ya limb from limb!" you just have to wonder how the other actors kept from cracking up on camera. Sure is a long way from the Emerald City.

There's nothing wrong with Helen Kane's performance, except that her phrasing is hard to understand at times. Admittedly, a little of her act goes a long way. While I know that her style is not for all tastes, I do like her rendition of "I Owe You," her character's love theme. The script defeats everyone else. Victor Moore does what he can with his material, but the laughs are sparse. I've never been a fan of Stu Erwin, and his performance as Helen's dim-witted love interest did nothing to change my mind about him. Director Malcolm St. Clair, whose work was often impressive in the silent era, seemed to be no more excited by this project than the actors; his staging is perfunctory throughout, and the pace is woefully slow much of the time, even by early talkie standards. Still, there's one good reason to see this film: at a Christmas party sequence about two-thirds of the way in, Helen performs the title tune with her characteristic verve, and for a few minutes the movie comes to life. If you were to encounter that sequence excerpted alone, you might think this a movie worth tracking down. But unfortunately, once you've seen that number, you've seen the best that Dangerous Nan McGrew has to offer.

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