Torchy Blane

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Glenda Farrell as Torchy Blane in Smart Blonde (1937)

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.[1] 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, newspaper reporter was one of the few roles in American cinema that portrayed women positively, as intelligent, competent, self-reliant, and career-oriented—virtually equal to men. Of these role models, Torchy Blane, a headline-hunting wisecracking female reporter was perhaps the best known. The typical plot of movies featuring the character have the resilient, fast-talking Torchy solving a crime (the central element of the film's plot) before her less-than-perceptive boyfriend, loud-mouthed police detective Steve McBride, can.


Glenda Farrell and Barton MacLane in Torchy Runs for Mayor (1939)

In 1936, Warner Bros. began to develop an adaptation of the MacBride and Kennedy stories by detective novelist Frederick Nebel. For the film version, Kennedy is changed to a woman named "Torchy" Blane and is now in love with MacBride's character.[2] Torchy was loosely based on Kennedy. She was also 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. Director Frank MacDonald immediately knew who 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 Torchy Blane film, Torchy Blane in Panama (1938), Warner Bros. replaced Farrell and MacLane (a pairing that was loved by the moviegoing public) with Lola Lane and Paul Kelly as Torchy and Steve. Negative fan reaction led Warner Bros. to recast Farrell and MacLane in the leading roles. They starred in three more Torchy Blane films. In 1939, Farrell left the studio, and Warner Bros. recast the roles with Jane Wyman and Allen Jenkins. The public again reacted negatively to the new casting. Torchy Blane... Playing with Dynamite (1939) would be the final film in the series. A leftover Torchy Blane script was adapted into the 1939 film 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.


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."[3]


Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel credited Glenda Farrell's portrayal of Torchy Blane as the inspiration for the Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane and the name of actress Lola Lane as his inspiration for Lois' name.[4] Joanne Siegel, Siegel's wife and the original model for Lois Lane, also cited Farrell's portrayal of Torchy as Siegel's inspiration for Lois.[5]

Home media[edit]

Warner Archive released a boxed set DVD collection featuring all nine Torchy Blane films on March 29, 2010.[6]


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


  1. ^ Backer, Ron (August 25, 2012). Mystery Movie Series of 1930s Hollywood – Torchy Blane: The Investigative Reporter. McFarland. p. 258. ISBN 0786469757.
  2. ^ "Smart Blonde (1936)". All Movie. Retrieved February 22, 2016.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Letters to the Editor, Time magazine (May 30, 1988), pp. 6–7.
  5. ^ Superman: The Complete History, the Life and Times of the Man of Steel, p. 20.
  6. ^ KEHR, DAVE (May 7, 2010). "The Torchy Blane Collection". The New York Times. Retrieved October 1, 2016.

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