The fictional female reporter, Torchy Blane, paved the way for Lois Lane long before Clark Kent’s girlfriend was a household name. Torchy’s the main protagonist in nine 60-minute B-films produced by Warner Brothers between 1937 and 1939.
Pre-World War II, the role of a newspaper reporter, was one of the only in American cinema that actually portrayed women as equal to men. As opposed to being shown as weak, emotional, and neurotic, women reporters often depicted as competent, intelligent, self-determined, career-minded, and self-reliant.
Torchy Blane is a perfect example of this kind of role in early films. She was a wisecracking reporter with an instinct for always getting the scoop. But she also solved crimes and caused trouble for her detective boyfriend in this popular series of films.
The Torchy films were always relatively lighthearted flicks involving the classic cops-and-robbers motif. A typical plotline typically saw the audacious, fast-talking Torchy getting to the bottom of a mystery by staying several steps ahead of her gruff, no-nonsense police detective boyfriend, Steve McBride. While McBride frequently get frustrated with Torchy for what he saw as getting in the way. By the film’s end, he would always have a newfound respect for her. Ultimately, this resulted in him proposing to her shortly before the credits would roll.
Torchy’s birth name Theresa, but we only ever hear this twice over the course of her films. Once while she’s boarding a plane in 1937’s Fly-Away Baby and again when she’s being written a parking ticket in 1938s Blondes at Work. But it didn’t really matter what her given name was because this feisty fireball seemed to pair perfectly with her sobriquet.
Throughout the nine Torchy Blane films, three actresses played the sharp-witted, crime-fighting character. Glenda Farrell, Lola Lane, and Jane Wyman all took stabs at playing Torchy but Farrell is the one that most audiences are probably most familiar with. Seeing as how she played the amateur sleuth in a total of seven films.
When creating Superman for DC comics, revered comic book writer Jerry Siegel named the fictional reporter and girlfriend of the Man of Steel, Lois Lane, after Lola Lane. While Siegel got Lois Lane’s name from Lola, the actual character heavily inspired by all three incarnations of Torchy.
Although they each left behind a lasting legacy, the Torchy Blane actresses are all unfortunately no longer with us. Join Facts Verse to learn more about the tragic end of all of the Torchy Blane Actresses.
Born in Enid, Oklahoma, in 1904. Glenda Farrell began her acting career appearing on stage as a child.
Her father was a horse trader, while her mother served as the driving force behind her theater career. She had always had aspirations of becoming an actress herself. But after she failed to achieve these goals, she encouraged and supported her daughter’s acting interests instead.
Farrell’s family eventually moved to Wichita, Kansas, where she began acting with a theatrical company at the age of seven. First playing the role of Little Eva in a production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
After Farrell’s family moved to San Diego, California, when she was teenager, she joined the Virginia Brissac Stock Theater Company.
In 1920, after Farrell hired to do a dance routine with the San Diego Navy for a benefit ball. She met a young World War II and Distinguished Service Medal Awardee named Thomas Richards. The two quickly fell in love. Even though he was poor and without a job. And her mother didn’t approve of him, Glenda often met up with him at a local candy shop.
After clandestinely dating for several months, Farrell and Richards secretly married while visiting Hollywood for one of Glenda’s screen tests.
Glenda soon became pregnant, which made it impossible for her to continue dancing in the vaudeville act that she and her husband had been doing together to earn a living. Sadly, not long after their son Tommy was born, their blissful marriage began to sour.
Richards coped with his war wounds and financial problems by hitting the bottle. And he would often disappear for months at a time. Although Farrell tried her best to make things work, she ultimately divorced Richards in 1929.
In 1929, Farrell cast as the female lead in the play The Spider. Later that year, she made her film debut in a relatively minor role in the movie Lucky Boy.
She then moved to New York City where she replaced Erin O’Brien-Moore as the character Marion Hardy in the play Aurania. The play later served as the basis for the popular Andy Hardy series of films.
Around this time, she appeared in several other plays, including Love, Honor, and Betray, alongside Clark Gable and George Brent.
In 1930, she starred in a comedy short titled The Lucky Break with actor Harry Fox. Her next major role was playing Olga Stassoff in Mervyn LeRoy’s gangster flick Little Caesar. The film would proved to be Farrell’s first big breakthrough film role and saw her co-starring alongside legends like Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Edward G. Robinson.
Over the next few years, Farrell starred in films like 1932s I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, 1933s Mystery of the Wax Museum and Lady for a Day, and 1937s Smart Blonde. The latter of which was the first Torchy Blane film.
Smart Blonde ended up a surprise hit and a popular second feature with filmgoers. Farrell went on to play Torchy in seven films opposite Barton Maclane as detective Steve McBride between 1037 and 1939.
The series took Farrell’s career to a new level. She quickly developed a huge fan base who loved her realistic portrayal of the Torchy character. Yet again, audiences weren’t used to seeing women in such affirming roles. To get into her role, Farrell watched real-life female journalists as they worked on visits to New York City.
Farrell noticed that they were generally speaking young, refined, attractive, and intelligent people who were able to hold their own in a mostly male-dominated profession. By making Torchy true to life, she succeeded in creating a character that was very unique to the cinema world.
After doing the Torchy Blane films, Glenda left Warner Brothers in 1939. She went on to remain active in film, television, and theater throughout the remainder of her life.
In 1941, she married Army flight surgeon and Major Dr. Henry Ross after meeting during a performance of the play Separate Rooms after she sprained her ankle. And received medical treatment from him backstage. The two remained happily married until her death.
In 1971, Farrell succumbed to lung cancer at the age of 60 in her home in New York City.
Born Sarah Jane Mayfield on January 5, 1917, Wyman’s professional career began when she signed with Warner Brothers as a contract player in 1933 when she was just 16.
She quickly became a popular actress, often playing the leading lady in films such as 1937s Public wedding, 1938s Brother Rat, and it’s 1940 sequel Brother Rat and a Baby.
Wyman played the title role In the 1939 Torchy Blane flick Playing with Dynamite. Which happened to be the last film in the series.
In 1948, Wyman nominated for four Academy Awards, including one for Best Actress for her appearance in Jean Negulesco’s Johnny Belinda. She later appeared in films such as 1950s Stage Fright, 1953s So Big and 1955s All That Heaven Allows.
While Wyman married to four different men throughout her life. Her most famous marriage was to future US President Ronald Reagan in 1940. Their marriage, however, ended in divorce in 1949.
Wyman died at the age of 90 on September 10, 2007, at her home in Rancho Mirage, California. She reportedly died in her sleep of natural causes.
As we touched on earlier, Lane’s professional name served as the inspiration for the character Lois Lane in Jerry Siegel’s Superman comic book series.
Lola was born Dorothy Mullican in Indianola, Iowa, in 1906. She was always a bit of a rebel, and small-town life wasn’t very condusive to her aspirations of making it big in the entertainment industry.
After working for a short time at an ice cream factory and playing the piano accompaniment for silent films at a local movie theater, Lane set out to Des Moines to study music.
She got expelled for her rebellious ways and tendency to cut classes, After spending two years at Simpson Conservatory,
After her sister Leota Lane was discovered by vaudevillian Gus Edwards, Loa joined her sister in New York City, where Leota was set to perform. Both girls ended up landing gigs in the Greenwich Village Follies on Broadway. And this led to Lola securing a $450-a-week vaudeville contract.
For the next two decades, Lola enjoyed a rich and fulfilling career on Broadway and in film. In 1939, she garnered critical acclaim for her role in the film Marked Woman. The following year she played Torchy Blane in the film Torchy Blane in Panama.
Her last two significant film roles were in Gangs of Chicago and Zanzibar – both of which hit theaters in 1940.
Lola officially retired from the screen in 1946.
After converting to Catholicism in 1961, Lane devoted the remainder of her life to providing religious training to mentally challenged people. In 1967, Pope Pius X awarded her a medal for these efforts.
Lane was married five times throughout her life, although by the time of her death, she was married to an aircraft executive named Robert Hanlon.
Lane died of natural causes in her home in Santa Barbara on the 11th of June, 1981, at the age of 75.
So, we’re just about out of time, but we’d love to hear from you.
Did you know that Torchy Blane actress Lola Lane inspired comic book creator Jerry Siegel when coming up with a name for Superman’s girlfriend and that the Torchy Blane film series featured one of the first Hollywood portrayals of a strong, independent, career-minded woman on the big screen?
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