Torchy Blane

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Glenda Farrell as Torchy Blane in Smart Blonde (1937).

Torchy Blane is a fictional female reporter who appeared in a series of light "B" films during the late 1930s, which were mixtures of mystery, action, adventure and fun.


During the pre-World War II period, 'newspaper reporter' was one of the few roles in American cinema that positively portrayed women as intelligent, competent, self-reliant, and career-oriented -- virtually equal to men. Of these role models, "Torchy Blane," was perhaps the best-known. The typical plot of movies featuring the character have the resilient, very-fast-talking Torchy solving a crime (the central element of the film's plot) before her less-than-perceptive lover -- the loud-mouthed police detective, Steve McBride -- can.

Torchy was loosely based on the male character, "Kennedy," in the MacBride and Kennedy stories by Louis Frederick Nebel; although, Torchy was more compatible with the Hays code, than a faithful on-screen adaptation of the drunkard Kennedy would have been.

Farrell had played a fast-talking reporter in an earlier Warners film, Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), and it's likely her portrayal in that chiller led to her casting as Torchy; certainly, the characterizations are almost identical--though admittedly both roles fit neatly into Farrell's well-established persona of the brash, wise-cracking "dame."


In all but two of the films featuring the character, "Torchy Blane" was played by Glenda Farrell; Steve McBride, by Barton MacLane. Lola Lane played Torchy in Torchy Blane in Panama with Paul Kelly as McBride.

In the final film of the series, Torchy Plays with Dynamite, Jane Wyman (who, coincidentally, had played a bit part in the series' first film,) played Torchy, and Allen Jenkins was Lt. Steve McBride. A leftover Torchy Blane script was adapted into Private Detective, also starring Jane Wyman.

The only actor appearing in all nine Torchy Blane films was Tom Kennedy as Gahagan, McBride's slow-witted cop sidekick given to bursts of poetry.


Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel cited Glenda Farrell's portrayal of Torchy Blane as his inspiration for the personality of the character Lois Lane, and the name of actress Lola Lane (who also played Torchy Blane) as his inspiration for Lois' name.[1] Joanne Siegel, Siegel's wife and the original model for Lois Lane, also cited Farrell's portrayal of Torchy Blane as Siegel's inspiration for Lois Lane.[2]


The character of Torchy Blane appeared in the following Warner Brothers and First National films:

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

As of 2009, Turner Classic Movies have made a number of original trailers freely available online at their web site.

A DVD box set of all nine features has been released by Warner Archive.


  1. ^ Letters to the Editor, Time magazine (May 30, 1988), pp. 6-7.
  2. ^ Superman: The Complete History, the Life and Times of the Man of Steel, p. 20.

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