Farrell in Stolen Heaven (1938)
June 30, 1904|
Enid, Oklahoma, U.S.
May 1, 1971 (aged 66)|
New York City, U.S.
(m. 1921; div. 1929)
Dr. Henry Ross
(m. 1941; her death 1971)
Glenda Farrell (June 30, 1904 – May 1, 1971) was an American actress of film, television, and theater. She is best known for her role as Torchy Blane in the Warner Bros. Torchy Blane film series and the Academy Award-nominated films Little Caesar (1931), I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932), and Lady for a Day (1933). With a career spanning more than 50 years, Farrell appeared in over 100 films and television series, as well as numerous Broadway plays. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960, and won an Emmy Award for best supporting actress for her performance in the television series Ben Casey in 1963.
Farrell was born to Charles and Wilhelmina "Minnie" Farrell, of Irish and German descent, in Enid, Oklahoma. After her family moved to Wichita, Kansas, Farrell began acting on stage with a theatrical company at age seven, playing the role of Little Eva in the play Uncle Tom's Cabin. She received a formal education at the Mount Carmel Catholic Academy. When her family moved to San Diego, California, she joined the Virginia Brissac Stock Company. Farrell made the third honor roll in Motion Picture Magazine’s "Fame and Fortune Contest." Her picture and biography were featured in the magazine’s April 1919 issue, which also stated that Farrell had some experience in the chorus, vaudeville, and camp entertainments.
1928–1939: Stage and films
In 1928, Farrell was cast as the lead actress in the play The Spider and made her film debut in a minor role in Lucky Boy. Farrell moved to New York City in 1929, where she replaced Erin O'Brien-Moore as Marion Hardy in Aurania Rouverol's play Skidding. The play later served as the basis for the Andy Hardy film series. By April 1929, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that she had played the role 355 times. Farrell appeared in a number of other plays, including Divided Honors, Recapture, and Love, Honor and Betray with George Brent, Alice Brady, and Clark Gable.
In 1930, she starred in the comedy short film The Lucky Break with Harry Fox, and in July 1930 Film Daily announced that Farrell had been cast in Mervyn LeRoy's film Little Caesar as the female lead, Olga Stassoff. Afterward, she returned to Broadway and starred in On the Spot at the Forrest Theater. At the time, Farrell conceded that motion pictures offered immense salaries, but felt the theater was the foundation of the actor's profession. She appeared in several more plays, and in 1932, starred in the hit play Life Begins. Her performance in the play caught the attention of Jack Warner, who signed her to a long-term contract with the Warner Bros. film studio and cast her to recreate the role in Warner Bros.' film adaptation of Life Begins later that year. Farrell did not return to the stage until 1939.
In her first two years with Warner Bros., Farrell starred in 17 films, including Girl Missing (1933), Gambling Ship (1933), Man's Castle (1933) opposite Spencer Tracy, and Columbia Pictures' Lady for a Day (1933) by director Frank Capra. Farrell often worked on four films at once and managed to transition from one role to another effortlessly. She worked in over 20 movies between 1934 and 1936, starring in films such as Go into Your Dance (1935), Little Big Shot (1935), and High Tension (1936). She appeared with Dick Powell and Joan Blondell in the Academy Award-nominated Gold Diggers of 1935 and Gold Diggers of 1937 musical film series. Farrell was very close friends with fellow Warner Bros. actress Joan Blondell, and throughout the early 1930s, they were paired as bombshell comedy duo in a series of five Warner Bros. movies: Havana Widows (1933), Kansas City Princess (1934), Traveling Saleslady (1935), We're in the Money (1935), and Miss Pacific Fleet (1935). Farrell and Blondell co-starred in a total of nine films. Together, they came to personify the smart and sassy, wisecracking dames of '30s and '40s film.
Torchy Blane series
In 1937, Farrell was given her own film series as Torchy Blane, "Girl Reporter". In this role, she was promoted as being able to speak 400 words in 40 seconds. Warner Bros. began to develop a film adaptation of "MacBride and Kennedy" stories by detective novelist Frederick Nebel in 1936. For the film version, Kennedy is changed to a woman named Teresa "Torchy" Blane and in love with MacBride's character. Director Frank MacDonald immediately knew whom he wanted for the role of Torchy Blane. Farrell had already proved that she could play hard-boiled reporters in Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) and Hi, Nellie! (1934). She was quickly cast as Torchy with Barton MacLane playing detective Steve McBride in the first Torchy Blane film, Smart Blonde. On her portrayal of the Torchy Blane 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.
Smart Blonde was a surprise hit and became a popular second feature with moviegoers. Warner Bros. starred her in several more Torchy Blane movies opposite Barton MacLane. She portrayed Torchy in seven films from 1937 to 1939. The films took Farrell's popularity to a new level. She was beloved by the moviegoing public and received a huge amount of fan mail for the films.
Along with starring in the Torchy Blane series, Farrell appeared in a number of other films, including Breakfast for Two (1937), Hollywood Hotel (1937), and Prison Break (1938). Additionally, she performed in several radio series, including Vanity and Playhouse in 1937, and Manhattan Latin with Humphrey Bogart in 1938.
Farrell was elected to a one-year term as the honorary mayor of North Hollywood in 1937, beating her competition Bing Crosby and Lewis Stone by a three-to-one margin. Despite the fact that it began as a Warner Bros. publicity stunt, Farrell took the job very seriously, attending functions, presentations, and ceremonies. She was also put in charge when the North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced that it wanted to put sewers along Ventura Highway and started the groundwork for that project.
In 1939, after eight years working in films, when her Warner Bros. contract expired, Farrell left the studio and returned to the theater. "There's something more satisfying about working in a play. You get that immediate response from the audience, and you feel that your performance is your own. In pictures, you get frustrated because you feel you have no power over what you’re doing", Farrell told syndicated columnist Bob Thomas in 1952.
1939–1969: Television, stage, and films
Farrell starred in the lead role in the play Anna Christie at the Westport Country Playhouse in July 1939, then followed that with a summer stock production of S. N. Behrman's play Brief Moment. She co-starred with Lyle Talbot and Alan Dinehart in the long-running play Separate Rooms at Broadway's Plymouth Theater for a successful 613-performance run throughout 1940 and '41.
In 1941, Farrell returned to motion pictures, starring in director Mervyn LeRoy's film noir, Johnny Eager. She starred in the play The Life of Reilly on Broadway in April 1942. Throughout the '40s, '50s, and '60s, Farrell continued to appear in numerous films, including the Academy Award-nominated The Talk of the Town (1942), Heading for Heaven (1947), and the 1954 Charlton Heston adventure epic Secret of the Incas, upon which the film Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) was based a quarter-century later.
Farrell made her television debut in 1949 in the anthology series The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre. She appeared in over 40 television series between 1950 and 1969, including Kraft Theatre, Studio One in Hollywood, The United States Steel Hour, Bonanza, and Bewitched. She won the Emmy Award for outstanding performance in a supporting role by an actress in 1963 for her performance as Martha Morrison in the medical drama series Ben Casey.
Farrell briefly retired in 1968, but soon decided to return to acting. Farrell's final work in her long career was the Broadway play Forty Carats. She was appearing in Forty Carats at the Morosco Theatre until ill health forced her to leave the play a few months later. Farrell was eventually diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.
Farrell's portrayal of Torchy Blane was credited by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel as the inspiration for the Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane. Siegel also named June Farrell, one of the characters in his Funnyman comic book series, after Farrell.
In 1920, Farrell was hired to do a dance routine at a San Diego Navy benefit ball and met her first husband, Thomas Richards. They were married from 1921 to 1929. Their son, actor Tommy Farrell, was born in 1921. In 1931, she was engaged to Jack Durant of the comedy duo "Mitchell and Durant" but never married him. She dated screenwriter Robert Riskin a few years later.
Farrell married Dr. Henry Ross in 1941, a staff surgeon at New York's Polyclinic Hospital and West Point graduate who had served as chief of the public health section on General Eisenhower's staff. The couple met when Farrell sprained her ankle during the play Separate Rooms and was treated backstage by Ross, who had been called forth from the audience. Farrell and Ross remained married until her death 30 years later. In 1977, Ross donated 38 acres of land to the Putnam County Land Trust, establishing the Glenda Farrell-Henry Ross Preserve.
In 1971, Farrell died from lung cancer, aged 66, at her home in New York City and was interred in the West Point Cemetery, West Point, New York. When Ross, who did not remarry, died in 1991, he was buried with her.
|1930||The Lucky Break||Short|
|1931||Little Caesar||Olga Stassoff|
|1932||Scandal for Sale||Stella||Uncredited|
|Life Begins||Florette Darien|
|Three on a Match||Mrs. Black||Uncredited|
|I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang||Marie|
|The Match King||Babe|
|Mystery of the Wax Museum||Florence Dempsey|
|Girl Missing||Kay Curtis|
|How to Break 90 #2: Position and Back Swing||Golfer's Wife||Short, uncredited|
|Gambling Ship||Jeanne Sands|
|Mary Stevens, M.D.||Glenda Carroll|
|Lady for a Day||Missouri Martin|
|Bureau of Missing Persons||Belle Howard Saunders|
|Man's Castle||Fay La Rue|
|Havana Widows||Sadie Appleby|
|The Big Shakedown||Lily 'Lil' Duran|
|Hi Nellie!||Gerry Krale|
|Dark Hazard||Valerie 'Val' Wilson|
|I've Got Your Number||Bonnie|
|Heat Lightning||Mrs. Tifton|
|Merry Wives of Reno||Bunny Fitch|
|The Personality Kid||Joan McCarty|
|Kansas City Princess||Marie Callahan|
|The Secret Bride||Hazel Normandie|
|Gold Diggers of 1935||Betty Hawes|
|Go into Your Dance||Molly Howard|
|We're in the Money||Dixie Tilton|
|Little Big Shot||Jean|
|Miss Pacific Fleet||Mae O'Brien|
|Snowed Under||Daisy Lowell|
|The Law in Her Hands||Dorothy 'Dot' Davis|
|Nobody's Fool||Ruby Miller|
|High Tension||Edith McNeil|
|Here Comes Carter||Verna Kennedy|
|Gold Diggers of 1937||Genevieve Larkin|
|Smart Blonde||Torchy Blane|
|Fly-Away Baby||Torchy Blane|
|Dance Charlie Dance||Fanny Morgan|
|You Live and Learn||Mamie Wallis|
|Sunday Night at the Trocadero||Short|
|Breakfast for Two||Carol Wallace|
|The Adventurous Blonde||Torchy Blane|
|Blondes at Work||Torchy Blane|
|Prison Break||Jean Fenderson|
|The Road to Reno||Sylvia Shane|
|Torchy Gets Her Man||Torchy Blane|
|Breakdowns of 1938||Torchy Blane||Short, uncredited outtakes|
|1939||Torchy Blane in Chinatown||Torchy Blane|
|Torchy Runs for Mayor||Torchy Blane|
|1941||Johnny Eager||Mae Blythe|
|Twin Beds||Sonya Cherupin|
|The Talk of the Town||Regina Bush|
|City Without Men||Billie LaRue|
|A Night for Crime||Susan|
|1944||Ever Since Venus||Babs Cartwright|
|1947||Heading for Heaven||Nora Elkins|
|1948||I Love Trouble||Hazel Bixby|
|Mary Lou||Winnie Winford|
|Lulu Belle||Molly Benson|
|1952||Apache War Smoke||Fanny Webson|
|1953||Girls in the Night||Alice Haynes|
|1954||Secret of the Incas||Mrs. Winston|
|Susan Slept Here||Maude Snodgrass|
|1955||The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing||Mrs. Nesbit|
|1959||Middle of the Night||Mrs. Mueller|
|The Bells of St. Mary's||TV movie|
|1961||A String of Beads||TV movie|
|Special for Women: The Glamour Trap||Beauty Operator||TV movie|
|1964||Kissin' Cousins||Ma Tatum|
|The Disorderly Orderly||Dr. Jean Howard|
|1970||Tiger by the Tail||Sarah Harvey|
- Note: TV movies are listed in the filmography section.
|1949||The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre|
|1950||The Silver Theatre||Gaudy Lady|
|Faith Baldwin Romance Theatre|
|Prudential Family Playhouse||Effie Flound|
|1953||Tales of Tomorrow|
|Armstrong Circle Theatre||Serena Price||Two episodes|
|1955||Goodyear Playhouse||Mrs. Davis|
|The Elgin Hour||Mrs. Dane|
|1956||The Kaiser Aluminum Hour|
|The Alcoa Hour||Eloise Schroeder|
|Front Row Center||May Cooper|
|1957||The 20th Century-Fox Hour||Mae Swasey|
|The Sheriff of Cochise||Sarah Avery|
|Kraft Theatre||Stella Harvey / Alma Wilkes||Five episodes|
|1958||Studio One in Hollywood||Claire / Mrs. Endsley / Irene||Four episodes|
|Cimarron City||Maggie Arkins|
|1959||The Further Adventures of Ellery Queen|
|General Electric Theater||Mrs. Brady|
|Wagon Train||Belle MacAbee|
|1960||Play of the Week||Rose Frobisher|
|The Islanders||Mrs. Dan King|
|1962||Frontier Circus||Ma Jukes|
|The Defenders||Edna Holley|
|1963||Ben Casey||Martha Morrison||Two episodes|
Won the Emmy Award for outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role by an Actress.
|The United States Steel Hour||Grace Smith / Edna Huntington / Mrs. Rausch||Five episodes|
|Rawhide||Mrs. Elizabeth Farragut|
|Dr. Kildare||Vera Dennis|
|The Fugitive||Mrs. Maggie Lambert|
|1964||Bonanza||Lulabelle 'Looney' Watkins|
|1968||Felony Squad||Jeanette Anderson|
- "Hollywood Star Walk: Glenda Farrell". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
- Bubbeo, Daniel. "Glenda Farrell: The Gimme Girl". The Women of Warner Brothers: The Lives and Careers of 15 Leading Ladies, with Filmographies for Each. McFarland & Company. p. 74. ISBN 0786411376.
- "Glenda Farrell: Her Life and Legacy". Retrieved March 13, 2016.
- Aliperti, Cliff (September 10, 2013). "Glenda Farrell Biography and 1930s Hollywood Heyday". Immortal Ephemera. Retrieved March 13, 2016.
- "My Pal Glenda". Hollywood Magazine. January 1936. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
- Backer, Ron (August 25, 2012). Mystery Movie Series of 1930s Hollywood - Torchy Blane: The Investigative Reporter. McFarland. p. 258. ISBN 0786469757.
- Bubbeo, Daniel. The Women of Warner Brothers: The Lives and Careers of 15 Leading Ladies, with Filmographies for Each. McFarland & Company. p. 79. ISBN 0786411376.
- Bubbeo, Daniel. The Women of Warner Brothers: The Lives and Careers of 15 Leading Ladies, with Filmographies for Each. McFarland & Company. p. 80. ISBN 0786411376.
- Mike French & Gilles Verschuere (2005-09-14). "Debora Nadoolman interview". TheRaider.net. Archived from the original on 2014-03-27. Retrieved 2008-04-07.
- Bubbeo, Daniel. The Women of Warner Brothers: The Lives and Careers of 15 Leading Ladies, with Filmographies for Each. McFarland & Company. p. 82. ISBN 0786411376.
- "Glenda Farrell". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved March 13, 2016.
- Siegel, Joanne. "The True Inspiration for Lois Lane". Superman Home Page. Retrieved July 19, 2015.
- Van Neste, Dan. "Glenda Farrell: Diamond in the Rough". Classic Images. May 1998. Issue 275.
- "Los Angeles Actress To Wed In June", Los Angeles Times, March 11, 1931, p. 11.
- "Glenda To Wed", The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Indiana. February 6, 1941, p. 5.
- "Dr. Henry Ross, 89, Eisenhower's Chief Of Health in War". The New York Times. June 28, 1991. Retrieved April 14, 2009.
- "Actress Glenda Farrell Dies in N.Y. at Age 66", European Stars and Stripes, May 3, 1971, p. 6.
- Garson Kanin, “Glenda Farrell 1904-1971”, New York Times, May 16, 1971, p. 14. (Retrieved 2017-05-04.)
- "Hollywood Gossip", The Daily Times-News (Burlington, North Carolina), March 29, 1934, p. 8.
- "Film and Drama", Press-Telegram (Long Beach, California), June 22, 1952, p. 31.
- "Studio and Stage", Los Angeles Times, May 29, 1925, p. A7.
- "Glenda Farrell Praised for Art in Best People", Los Angeles Times, October 4, 1925, p. 23.
- "Stage Star To Play In Films", Los Angeles Times, July 9, 1930, p. A12.
- 1930 United States Federal Census, April 15, 1930, Enumeration District 19-30, Sheet 15-A.
- “Glenda Farrell, Film Star, Dies at 66”, New York Times, May 2, 1971, p. 74. (Retrieved 2017-05-04.)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Glenda Farrell.|
- Glenda Farrell on IMDb
- Glenda Farrell at the Internet Broadway Database
- Glenda Farrell at the TCM Movie Database
- Glenda Farrell at AllMovie
- Glenda Farrell at Hollywood.com
- Literature on Glenda Farrell
- Glenda Farrell papers, 1929-1972 (bulk 1930s-1940s), held by the Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts