Thursday, February 18, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Smart Blonde (1937)

After watching FUGITIVE IN THE SKY (1937) earlier this week, I had the yen for another Warner Bros. "B" movie, so I pulled out the Warner Archive's nine-film Torchy Blane Collection.  

SMART BLONDE (1937) was the first film in the series and my introduction to newspaper reporter Torchy Blane (Glenda Farrell) and her boyfriend, Police Detective Steve McBride (Barton MacLane).  

Torchy is a gung-ho gal who thinks nothing of jumping on a moving train to get an exclusive interview, in this case with Tiny Torgenson (Joseph Crehan), who is on his way to Los Angeles to purchase a nightclub from Fitz Mularkey (Addison Richards).

Torgenson is gunned down in front of Torchy as they leave the train station in L.A., and she and Steve get to work on solving the murder.  

The screenplay by Kenneth Gamet and Don Ryan was based on a detective story by Frederick Nebel about a cop and a reporter, who were both male characters.  Just as the newspaper play and film THE FRONT PAGE (1931) later changed out a male lead for a female character in HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940), Warner Bros. turned the reporter into a woman.  And in this case the character of Torchy was so successful that she is credited as the inspiration for Lois Lane in SUPERMAN.

Torchy and Steve are already an item as the movie begins, which lets us jump right into the story and their relationship, which is simultaneously competitive and affectionate.  They argue with one another -- Torchy speed-talks, while Steve is loud -- but they clearly enjoy it, and Steve's bluster masks a softy underneath.

The mystery is fairly easy to follow, not always a given in these types of films, and while it's not great cinema, it's an entertaining and energetic 59 minutes which left me interested in watching the next movie in the set, FLY AWAY BABY (1937).  I expect to do so soon!

The cast of characters includes Charlotte Wynters (billed Winters) as Mularkey's fiancee; Wynters would marry MacLane in 1939, a marriage that lasted three decades, until MacLane's passing in 1969.

Also of note is Jane Wyman as a hatcheck girl; her scene with a St. Bernard dog is amusing.  Wyman would herself play Torchy in the final film in the series, TORCHY BLANE...PLAYING WITH DYNAMITE (1939), opposite Allen Jenkins as Steve.  Torchy and Steve were also played by Lola Lane and  Paul Kelly in a single movie midway through Farrell and MacLane's seven-film run as the characters.

The large cast also includes Wini Shaw, Tom Kennedy, Craig Reynolds, Carlyle Moore Jr., and Robert Paige (CAN'T HELP SINGING).

SMART BLONDE was directed by Frank McDonald and filmed in black and white by Warren Lynch.

The Warner Archive DVD is a nice-looking print with no extras.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I still want to be Torchy Blane when I grow up.

5:30 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Love that! :) I'm looking forward to getting to know her better in the rest of the movies.

Best wishes,

2:09 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

I envy you; getting to watch them for the first time.

2:32 PM  
Blogger dfordoom said...

Smart Blonde is a very neat little B-movie. I love the interactions between Torchy and McBride and I love the way Glenda Farrell makes Torchy pushy whilst still being so likeable.

6:45 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm looking forward to watching the series, Dave!

DforDoom, thanks for your thoughts on the series. I'll be noting that about Farrell's performance as I watch going forward.

Best wishes,

9:41 PM  

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