Torchy Gets Her Man
A New York stage actress, Farrell had made an impression in her first film role as Douglas Fairbanks's girlfriend in Little Caesar in 1931. Warners offered her contract the following year, and she repeated her stage role in the film version of the play Life Begins. She settled in at Warners, giving impressive supporting performances in A-pictures such as I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) and starring roles in B-films. By 1937, the always-dependable Farrell was handed her own B-series, playing a character that had originally been male in Frederick Nebel's McBride and Kennedy magazine stories about a cop and a reporter investigating crimes together. Farrell played smart, wisecracking journalist Torchy Blane, who helped her not-too-bright gumshoe boyfriend solve crimes.
The Torchy films were each about an hour long, made quickly and cheaply, and the studio cranked them out at the rate of three a year, thanks to directors like the prolific Beaudine, known as "One Shot" because he rarely made more than one take. Nevertheless, Farrell took the films and her character seriously. In an interview, she said that prior to Torchy, women reporters in films "were caricatures of newspaperwomen as I knew them. Before I undertook to do the first Torchy, I determined to create a real human being...I met those who visited Hollywood and watched them on visits to New York City. They were generally young, intelligent, refined, and attractive. By making Torchy true to life, I tried to create a character practically unique to the movies."
Nevertheless, after four Torchy films and roles in dozens of other movies, Farrell decided it was time to move on when her Warner Bros. contract expired, and she decided to go freelance. Warners continued the Torchy Blane series, casting Lola Lane and Paul Kelly as Torchy and Steve in one film, Torchy Blane in Panama (1938). But the new team had no chemistry, and the film did not do well at the box office, so the studio coaxed Farrell and MacLane back for Torchy Gets Her Man and two more Torchy Blane films. In the ninth and final installment of the series, Torchy Blane...Playing with Dynamite (1939), Jane Wyman (who had played a bit part as a hatcheck girl in the first Torchy Blane film, Smart Blonde, 1937) played Torchy and Allen Jenkins replaced MacLane.
Among the fans of the Torchy Blane movies was the co-creator and writer of the Superman comic books, Jerry Siegel. He acknowledged that he based the character of "gutsy, beautiful headline-hunting reporter" Lois Lane on Glenda Farrell's portrayal of Torchy-even though he gave her the last name of Lola Lane.
Another Farrell fan was writer-director Garson Kanin, who noted in a New York Times tribute after the actress's death in 1971 that she was the prototype for a certain kind of 1930s movie heroine: "She invented and developed that made-tough, uncompromising, knowing, wisecracking, undefeatable blonde. Whether she was the Girl Friend of the star, a cynical secretary, a salesgirl, a world-weary wife, a madam, homesteader, or schoolteacher-she was always, relentlessly The Type."
by Margarita Landazuri