Monday, October 11, 2010

Who Was Torchy Blane?

I had to do some research, because I am not that well read on literature of the 1930s.  Torchy Blane (1937 - 1939) had a short movie life, just nine films in three years.  She should be remembered.  All actors and actresses in B-Movies should.

Torchy was a strong woman who worked as a reporter.  She was close friends (as close as you could get in the Hays Code days) with police detective Steve McBride (also 1937 - 1939).  The pair would get involved with one crime or another, and Torchy always seemed to solve it before her beau.  Talk about a role model for young women.

The movies were made by Warner Brothers and First National Films, and they were all about an hour long, making them true B-Movies.  They would be shown along with a feature and a cartoon or newsreel, back in the day.  Quite a value for your admission fee, but we were still in the depression and this type of entertainment helped everyone feel better.  (You may also get a piece of "depression glass" at the theater as a thank you gift.  I have a nice set of depression glass ice cream cups!)

Back to Torchy.  The first three films were all in 1937 and starred Glenda Farrell (1904 - 1971) and Barton MacLane (1902 - 1969) as Torchy and Steve.  They were, Smart Blonde, Fly Away Baby, and Adventurous Blonde.  I guess Torchy was a blonde.

In Smart Blonde we see Jane Wyman (1917 - 2007) in a bit part.  Wyman played Torchy in the very last film in the series.  We also find the ever popular Tom Kennedy (1885 - 1965) as another cop, and he is the only actor to appear in all nine Torchy films.

Most of the cast are people you find in other B-Movies, and are not household names today.  I suspect that is the case for the entire series.  But if you can find these films, watch the small parts.  You will find gems like Fred "Snowflake" Toones (1906 - 1962) who has 213 titles listed on IMDb, including The Gold Diggers of 1937 (released in 1936) starring Dick Powell (1904 - 1963) and Joan Blondell (1906 - 1979), and Way Out West (1937) starring Laurel and Hardy.  I would like to see his film, Yodelin' Kid from Pine Ridge (1937) with Gene Autry (1907 - 1998) and Smiley Burnette (1911 - 1967).

In Fly Away Baby, Torchy goes around the world to get her story.  Along the way she meets some great Bit Actors including Gordon Oliver (1910 - 1995).  Oliver appeared in Jezebel and Blondie (both in 1938), and has 45 titles on his list.  She also meets Lane Chandler (1899 - 1972) who has 376 roles in his career.

Adventurous Blonde was next with rival newspapers staging a fake murder that turns out to be real.  Guess who solves the crime?  Look for Anne Nagel (1915 - 1966) who was in a total of 86 roles in her career.  She was in My Little Chickadee (1940), Blondie's Holiday (1947), and Mighty Joe Young (1949), among her other work.

More Torchy tomorrow.


  1. I really enjoy the Torchy movies! Maybe they appeal to me because I'm a journalism student (though half of Torchy's reporting mehtods are now deemed illegal and unethical), but it is probably because they are fun.

    I don't think I've seen a Glenda Farrell movie that I don't enjoy. She is so overlooked, I guess because she is so similar to her peers Ginger Rogers and Joan Blondell. But she is something more. She has an extra sassy attitude that others didn't.

  2. The truth is that I am not very familiar with Glenda Farrell. In my research of others, I kept seeing the Torchy series, so I did some research. I think Netflix will be hearing from me soon!

    Thanks for your comments.


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