Torchy Blane is a fictional female reporter starring in a series of films in the 1930s. Warner Bros. produced nine films between 1937 and 1939.The Torchy Blane series were popular second features during the later 1930s and were mixtures of mystery, action, adventure, and fun.
During the pre-World War II period, the role of newspaper reporter was one of the few in American cinema that portrayed women as intelligent, competent, self-reliant, and career-oriented—virtually equal to men. Among these screen characters, Torchy Blane, a wisecracking female reporter with an instinct for a scoop, was perhaps the best known. The movies were lighthearted cops-and-robbers films. A typical plot had the daring, fast-talking Torchy unraveling a mystery by staying several steps ahead of her boyfriend, gruff police detective Steve McBride.
In 1936, Warner Bros. began to develop an adaptation of the MacBride and Kennedy stories by detective novelist Frederick Nebel. These stories featured a no-nonsense cop named MacBride and his friend known as Kennedy, a hard-drinking newspaperman. For the film version, Kennedy was changed to a woman named "Torchy" Blane and became the love interest of the cop, whose name was now spelled "McBride".Torchy's lifestyle was more compatible with the Hays code than a faithful on-screen adaptation of Kennedy would have been.
The first film was based on Nebel's MacBride and Kennedy story "No Hard Feelings". (The story was later adapted again as the 1941 film A Shot in the Dark , which was not a Torchy Blane film.) Director Frank MacDonald immediately knew whom he wanted for the role of Torchy Blane. Glenda Farrell had already played hard-boiled reporters in earlier Warner Bros. films, Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) and Hi, Nellie! (1934), she was quickly cast in the first Torchy Blane movie, Smart Blonde , with Barton MacLane playing detective Steve McBride. Farrell and MacLane would co-star in seven of the nine Torchy Blane films by Warner Bros. Smart Blonde was released on January 2, 1937, the film was a surprise hit, and Warner Bros. made eight more movies from 1937 to 1939.
In the fifth film, Torchy Blane in Panama (1938), Warner Bros. replaced Farrell and MacLane with Lola Lane and Paul Kelly. Negative fan reaction led Warner Bros. to recast Farrell and MacLane in the lead roles. They starred in three more Torchy Blane films. In 1939, Farrell left Warner Bros., and the studio recast the roles with Jane Wyman and Allen Jenkins for the series' final entry, Torchy Blane... Playing with Dynamite (1939). Public reaction was tepid. A leftover Torchy Blane script was adapted into a 1939 film Private Detective , also starring Jane Wyman, but not as the Torchy character.
The only actor to appear in all nine Torchy Blane films was Tom Kennedy as Gahagan, McBride's slow-witted cop sidekick given to bursts of poetry. Various other Warner stock actors were also used repeatedly. Character actor George Guhl made notable appearances in all but the last entry in the series, as forgetful Desk Sergeant Graves, while bit part players Harry Seymour and Jack Wise were in seven. Composer Howard Jackson was credited with scoring all nine films.
In seven of the nine films featuring the character, Torchy Blane was played by Glenda Farrell. In her role as Torchy, Farrell was promoted as being able to speak 400 words in 40 seconds. On her portrayal of the character, Farrell said in her 1969 Time interview: "So before I undertook to do the first Torchy, I determined to create a real human being—and not an exaggerated comedy type. I met those [news-women] who visited Hollywood and watched them work 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 in movies."
Comic book writer and Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel credited Glenda Farrell's portrayal of Torchy Blane as the inspiration for the DC Comics reporter Lois Lane and the name of actress Lola Lane for Lois' name.Joanne Siegel, the wife of Jerry Siegel and the original model for Lois Lane, also cited Farrell's portrayal of Torchy as Siegel's inspiration for Lois.
Warner Archive released a boxed set DVD collection featuring all nine Torchy Blane films on March 29, 2010.
|Released||Film title||Run time||Starring as|
|Torchy Blane||Steve McBride||Gahagan|
|1937||Smart Blonde||59 min||Glenda Farrell||Barton MacLane||Tom Kennedy|
|Fly-Away Baby||60 min|
|The Adventurous Blonde||61 min|
|1938||Blondes at Work||63 min|
|Torchy Blane in Panama||59 min||Lola Lane||Paul Kelly|
|Torchy Gets Her Man||63 min||Glenda Farrell||Barton MacLane|
|1939||Torchy Blane in Chinatown||58 min|
|Torchy Runs for Mayor||60 min|
|Torchy Blane... Playing with Dynamite||59 min||Jane Wyman||Allen Jenkins|
Glenda Farrell was an American actress. With a career spanning more than 50 years, Farrell appeared in over 100 films and television series, as well as numerous Broadway play. She won an Emmy Award in 1963 for Outstanding Supporting Actress for her performance as Martha Morrison in the medical drama television series Ben Casey.
Barton MacLane was an American actor, playwright, and screenwriter. Although he appeared in many classic films from the 1930s through the 1960s, he became best-known for his role as General Martin Peterson on the 1960s NBC television comedy series I Dream of Jeannie, with Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman.
John Ridgely was an American film character actor with over 175 film credits.
Tom Kennedy was an American actor known for his roles in Hollywood comedies from the silent days, with such producers as Mack Sennett and Hal Roach, mainly supporting lead comedians such as the Marx Brothers, W. C. Fields, Mabel Normand, Shemp Howard, Laurel and Hardy, and the Three Stooges. Kennedy also played dramatic roles as a supporting actor.
Francis Connolly Shannon, better known as Frank Shannon, was an Irish actor and writer.
Prison Break is a 1938 American crime-drama film directed by Arthur Lubin and starring Barton MacLane, Glenda Farrell and Paul Hurst.
Smart Blonde is a 1937 American mystery film directed by Frank McDonald. Starring Glenda Farrell as Torchy Blane, a beautiful, fast-talking wisecracking female reporter, teaming up with her boyfriend detective Steve McBride, to solve the killing of an investor who just bought a popular local nightclub. The first of nine Torchy Blane films by Warner Bros, it was released on January 2, 1937. The film is followed by Fly-Away Baby (1937).
Fly-Away Baby is a 1937 American crime-mystery film starring Glenda Farrell as reporter Torchy Blane, along with her detective boyfriend, Steve McBride solving a murder and smuggling case during around-the-world flight.
Torchy Gets Her Man is a 1938 American comedy-drama film directed by William Beaudine and starring Glenda Farrell as Torchy Blane and Barton MacLane as Detective Steve McBride. It was released on November 12, 1938. It is the sixth film in a series of Torchy Blane films by Warner Bros. The film is followed by Torchy Blane in Chinatown (1939).
Torchy Blane in Chinatown is a 1939 American crime mystery film directed by William Beaudine and starring Glenda Farrell and Barton MacLane. Released on February 4, 1939, it is the seventh film in the Torchy Blane film series by Warner Bros. and is followed by Torchy Runs for Mayor (1939). The rivalry between newspaper reporter Torchy Blane and her boyfriend, Lieutenant Steve McBride, escalates as the two investigate a death threat involving priceless jade tablets.
A Shot in the Dark is a 1941 American drama film directed by William C. McGann and written by M. Coates Webster, starring William Lundigan, Nan Wynn, and Ricardo Cortez. It was released by Warner Bros. on April 5, 1941. The film was based on the short story "No Hard Feelings" by Frederick Nebel in the Black Mask magazine. The movie is also a remake of the Torchy Blane film Smart Blonde (1937).
The Adventurous Blonde is a 1937 American romantic comedy film directed by Frank McDonald and written by Robertson White and David Diamond. The film stars Glenda Farrell and Barton MacLane. It was released on November 13, 1937. This is the third film in the Torchy Blane movie series by Warner Bros. and is followed by Blondes at Work (1938).
Blondes at Work is a 1938 American police comedy film directed by Frank McDonald and written by Albert DeMond. The film stars Glenda Farrell and Barton MacLane. It is the fourth film in a series of Torchy Blane movies by Warner Bros, and, in a departure from other films in the series, focuses on the actions undertaken by Torchy Blane to evade the efforts of Lieutenant Steve McBride to keep her from using inside information to "scoop" rival newspapers on the progress of police investigations. It was released on February 6, 1938. The film is followed by Torchy Blane in Panama (1938).
Torchy Blane in Panama is a 1938 American mystery film directed by William Clemens and starring Lola Lane, Paul Kelly, and Tom Kennedy. Released on May 7, 1938, the fifth film in a series of Torchy Blane movies by Warner Bros. It is followed by Torchy Gets Her Man (1938). Torchy, Steve, and Gahagan are on the trail of a bank robber aboard an ocean liner traveling from New York to Los Angeles via the Panama Canal.
Torchy Runs for Mayor is a 1939 American drama-comedy film directed by Ray McCarey. It is the eighth film in the Torchy Blane film series by Warner Bros., and the last film starring Glenda Farrell and Barton MacLane as Torchy Blane and Steve McBride. It was released on May 13, 1939. The film is followed by Torchy Blane... Playing with Dynamite (1939).
Torchy Blane... Playing with Dynamite is a 1939 American drama film directed by Noel M. Smith, written by Earle Snell and Charles Belden, and starring Jane Wyman, Allen Jenkins, and Tom Kennedy. It was released on August 12, 1939. It is the final film in a series of nine Torchy Blane movies by Warner Bros. The first film, Smart Blonde, was released in 1937.
Frederick Lewis Nebel, was an American author with over 300 works to his credit, best known for his hardboiled detective fiction. Nebel was a prolific writer, penning up to five thousand words a day, often keeping five to six serial heroes in action from week to week for the pulps. Nebel also wrote three novels and many of his works were adapted for the screen.
Lola Lane was an American actress and one of the Lane Sisters with her sisters Leota, Rosemary, and Priscilla Lane. She appeared on Broadway and in films from the 1920s to 1940s.
George Bricker (1898–1955) was an American screenwriter. He generally worked on second features at studios such as Warner Bros., Columbia, Universal and Monogram.