User Reviews (20)

Add a Review

  • Warning: Spoilers
    ....that's Glenda Farrell!! Who would have thought, seeing her in "Little Caesar", that only a few years later she would be wise cracking with the best (hey! she was the best!!) in a series of snappy Warners comedies - even when they weren't that snappy she was out there giving her best!! When she was given the role of Torchy Blane in "Smart Blonde" she was determined to make her characterization real and not an exaggerated comedy type. So she started to observe women reporters and found them "young, intelligent and refined" and succeeded in bringing those qualities to her role.

    After getting the scoop about a sporting takeover by "Tiny" Torgenson, Torchy Blane, ace reporter for "The Morning Herald" is an eyewitness to his murder!!! Also at the train station is songbird Dolly Ireland (Winifred Shaw) who is trying to keep a belligerent bodyguard, Chuck, from causing a scene. They are both connected with Mularky (Addison Richards), the gentleman who is in the middle of selling his sporting interests to Torgenson. Dolly is a singer at his nightclub, who was once in love with him before he took up with a Boston society dame and Chuck is worried because he thinks that if Mularky sells his sporting interests he will be out of a job.

    Keeping the story snappy is the fast and quick witted banter between Torchy and the "light of her life" Lt. Steve McBride (Barton Maclaine who, as William Everson commented "why should he talk when shouting will do"). They have a great screen chemistry, Maclaine was born for these gruff comic roles. Mularky initially comes across as a man who just wants to retire with his high society bride but becomes increasingly agitated as the movie progresses - can he be protecting someone?? and who is Marcia's very protective brother, who never seems to leave her side??? Time will tell.

    This is a very fast paced reporter Vs detective movie (no need to say who wins) and comes in at just under an hour. An almost unrecognisable Jane Wyman appears as Dixie, the hat check girl.
  • Good start to the B series about the fast-talking, gutsy, and snoopy lady reporter, a forerunner to Lois Lane. It has a brisk pace and a fun cast of characters. This first entry deals with the murder of a guy who just bought a popular nightclub. Reporter Torchy Blane (Glenda Farrell) and her detective boyfriend Steve McBride (Barton MacLane) set out to solve the case, together and in spite of each other.

    Farrell and MacLane are both terrific in parts well-suited to their particular talents. Jane Wyman, who would later play the role of Torchy herself, has a small part here as a gabby hatcheck girl. Good support from Addison Richards, Tom Kennedy, Wini Shaw, Robert Paige, Joseph Crehan, and Charlotte Wynters (the future Mrs. Barton MacLane). If you're a fan of B's from back in the day, or just a fan of the great Glenda Farrell, you should find a lot to like here.
  • Dynamite comes in small packages. Which describes both short "B" second feature Smart Blonde and its cute, perky star Glenda Farrel as Torchy Blane. Initial entry in the highly successful Torchy Blane series, Smart Blonde runs on open throttle for its entire 59 minutes. It is smart, tough, breezy, lightning paced, with funny, snappy dialog delivered incredibly fast. This picture is nothing if not fast-talking. Glenda Farrell reportedly could speak 390 words per minute, and she demonstrates it throughout. But co-star Barton MacLane, who plays her tough cop boy friend Steve McBride, may actually have surpassed her in the motor mouth department in a couple of scenes. Most of the other Runyonesque characters in this entertaining mystery do likewise. If all the dialog in this movie had been delivered at a normal cadence, the running time would have been at least twenty minutes longer. This picture along with other Warner Brothers gangster movies of the 1930's makes you wonder if the studio had a course in fast talking for its stock players.

    Stock players were exactly what Farrell and MacLane were. Usually in supporting parts, she the hard-boiled broad, he the burly, loud-mouthed gangster or cop. But the Torchy series gave both a chance to use their special talents in leading roles, and both made the best of it. The pair had crackling chemistry together, with cozy affectionate interludes only occasionally breaking their constant rat-a-tat wise-cracking. Torchy is a smart girl reporter who solves the cases Steve isn't sharp enough to dope out on his own. At least that's the way she sees it.

    Farrell and MacLane get solid support from a crew of other Warner Brothers stock players, especially Addison Richards as a shady, but on-the-level night club/race track operator around whom the murder mystery swirls, Wini Shaw as the beautiful singer who loves him, and Charlotte Wynters as the high class dame he loves. This role as a tough, but likable borderline hoodlum was a real change of pace for Richards. In 400 movie and television appearances from the 1930' to the 1960's the tall, lanky actor rarely played other than judges, district attorneys, doctors, high ranking army officers, and other dignified types. MacLane may have showed good chemistry with the pretty, vivacious Farrell, but it was Charlotte Wynters who became Mrs. Barton MacLane about a year after Smart Blonde's release.

    Smart Blonde is a delightful, stimulating little mystery potboiler, full of plot twists, intrigues, and explosive bursts of action. Characterization is colorful and well developed. As a big studio "B" picture, the sets and cinematography are nearly as good as in one of Warner Brothers' top productions. Director Frank McDonald, a life-long "B" picture specialist, keeps all on target throughout. To compress all that happens in the story into less than an hour running time, even considering the machine gun dialog delivery, should rate as a masterpiece of film editing for Frank MaGee. Acting was first rate all around but especially from the two likable leads.

    An enduring example of how the big studios of Old Hollywood could turn out good looking, entertaining pictures when only half-way trying.
  • Glenda Farrell originates the role of Torchy Blain, a fast-talking wise-cracking reporter who will do anything for a scoop, including using her amiable lieutenant boyfriend to sneak into crime scenes, steal clues from the police, and even bully suspects into making false statements to find the real culprit. Farrell has a filmography a mile long, usually playing a second-fiddle gold diggers and hard-luck girls, so it's nice to see this forgotten actress take the lead in a role that is smart and funny. Lasting only an hour, SMART BLONDE is one of those "B" movies that was shown before the main feature, so don't expect deep characters or an intricate mystery, but Farrell tears through the script at lightning speed, trading quips and unraveling a murder cover-up. Barton MacLane as her lieutenant boyfriend McBride is a sturdy and likable foil -- for once the cops aren't entirely stupid. Despite some shamefully racist moments, the Torchy Blane series of films are overall very satisfying and fun. They should be remembered in the same pre-war vein as HIS GIRL Friday, where a woman could be every bit as smart and career-driven as a man. Oddly enough, Farrell played an identical character in the horror classic MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM (1933) but lost top billing to Fay Wray.
  • It was nice seeing Barton MacClane as the good guy. Glenda Farrell and Ginger Rogers are look alikes. At first sight I though it was Ginger. Also got a kick out of seeing a very young Jane Wyman as Dixie. The mystery was a bit contrived but I'd see the movie again.
  • hbenthow13 January 2010
    Different people rate how good a movie is based on different criteria. I myself rate various different movies as being good or bad for various different reasons. I quite simply do not believe that one type of film should be judged by the standards of another. And although I like a meaningful film with a message as much as the next guy, I do not consider "pure entertainment" movies inferior. And if one succeeds very well at its intended task, in this case, entertaining, as well as being well-made in the various departments, such as acting, cinematography, etc, I will consider it as good or even great. And this movie is both very enjoyable and well-made. (And thus, in my eyes, great in its genre and intention). Glenda Farrell is perfect as Torchy Blane, a smart, sassy, wisecrackin' reporter always on the lookout for another scoop. Her sweetheart is Steve McBride(Barton Maclane), a tough flatfoot who is seldom right and a bit cranky, but all considered, he's a good egg.

    This is also a must-see for Superman fans, as Lois Lane was based on Torchy. Although the name Lois Lane was taken from Lola Lane, one of the two actresses who took over the part of Torchy, Jerry Siegel confirmed that the character was based on Torchy as played by Glenda Farrell. Smart Blonde is a mystery, but it's not the most challenging case you're likely to see, although is does keep you guessing. The real reason to watch this is Torchy herself. She is beautiful, smart, hilarious, and has a certain energy that you have to see to understand. She is one of a kind. Glenda Farrell was a great actress. She wasn't the Oscar-winning type, but she knew how to light up the screen with her presence like few others. She is one of the greatest scene-stealers of all time.

    Jane Wyman (who played Torchy in one of the later films, with mediocre results) is cute and funny in a small role as hat-check girl. This is also the first in a series of nine Torchy Blane movies made by Warner Brothers in the 1930s. Although seven (including this one) star Glenda Farrell and Barton Maclane as Torchy and Steve, in two she was replaced by other actresses, one being Jane Wyman, the other Lola Lane. These two both did disappointing jobs. Wyman tried her best, but it felt forced and didn't work well. Lola Lane was downright horrible in the role. Glenda Farrell was born for the part, and no one else could play it well. Overall, this is a hilarious, very entertaining comedy with a fairly interesting mystery. If you ever get the chance to see this or any of the other Glenda Farrell Torchy Blane movies, I highly recommend that you do. They are very good lighthearted, hilarious, feel-good movies that are ten times better than most comedies being made today.
  • Smart Blonde is the first film of the Torchy Blane series with Glenda Farrell as former showgirl turned reporter with a real keen sense of a scoop. She works the police beat where she constantly runs up against her boyfriend, homicide cop Barton MacLane.

    Depending on how you view things, Torchy's a help or a hindrance. But in this case she was literally on top of the story. Seconds after being interviewed by her, nightclub impresario Joseph Crehan is shot down in Union Station.

    Crehan was going to buy a nightclub owned by Addison Richards who was getting out of the business and getting ready to marry Charlotte Wynters and go into the real estate business with her and her brother Robert Paige, leaving his club singer Wini Shaw all in distress. Another one in distress is Max Wagner, Richards's gunsill because there's not much call for his line of work in real estate.

    One murder later of course Torchy's put it all together for MacLane and gets her paper the scoop. But the plot does take an interesting twist or two, it's not who you think it is.

    Jane Wyman has a small supporting role as a hatcheck girl with a tendency to gossip which aids Farrell in her story. This was of course at the beginning of Wyman's career which included a film as Torchy Blane herself when Farrell quit the series.

    Smart Blonde proves how popular the Torchy Blane series was at Warner Brothers and why it was so well received in the late Thirties.
  • A taxi races along beside a moving train. The passenger leans forward: "Driver, let me off at the next crossing, will you?" She hops out, takes a few running steps, then leaps aboard the very last car as the train rolls by. –That's our first glimpse of Torchy Blane, ace reporter.

    This snappy opening is a good introduction to our heroine: fast talking, quick witted, and pretty much fearless. Boarding a moving train is typical of Torchy's style—she simply wants to snag an interview with an incoming businessman before his arrival in town, so she hops the train he's on. Sure enough, she gets the interview…and gets herself a mystery along with her scoop when the man is murdered a few hours later.

    Glenda Farrell is just about perfect as Torchy—sweet smile, rapid fire delivery, irrepressible charm. Also on the case is Barton McLane as Torchy's boyfriend, Lieutenant Steve McBride. Torchy appreciates his manliness ("All he needs is a leopard skin"), but she is consistently a step or two ahead of him in the investigation—which fact he grudgingly admires but finds annoying as well.

    Tom Kennedy is wonderfully goofy as an assisting cop named Gahagan who loves life and composes poetry ("I love the night!" he exclaims, more or less at random). And a young Jane Wyman is hilarious in a small role as a hat check girl who, among other adventures, comes home from a party with a St. Bernard: "I wish I knew where I got that dog," she muses.

    A nice plot keeps us guessing and ties up neatly; likable characters and lively dialog add up to a very entertaining quickie.

    My favorite exchange comes when Torchy is trying to talk her way into a murder scene. (She's there well ahead of Steve, naturally.) "I'm from the Herald," she argues to the cop guarding the door, "I'm Torchy Blane." His deadpan response: "I don't care if you're Flaming Youth, you can't go in there."
  • This 1937 "Torchy Blane" film, "Smart Blonde" has Torchy Blane (Glenda Farrell) trying to find out who killed an entrepreneur who just purchased a night club and some gambling establishments. Torchy is a witness to the murder. Later on, one of the suspects, the dead man's bodyguard, is also found dead. Torchy and her some time boyfriend, Lt. McBride (Barton MacLane), as usual, are at odds as far as who the killer is.

    There were quite a few of these films, this being the first, starring character actress Farrell, with MacLane as McBride. The two have great chemistry. These films were always lively and the real story always seemed to be about Torchy and McBride's relationship rather than any actual mystery, though the mysteries certainly were present.

    Fast-talking, smart Torchy is an independent woman along the lines of Hildy in "His Girl Friday" and the Torchy Blane series was the first (I think) to star a woman; the Maisie series began in 1939.

    Always entertaining.
  • Mike-76419 December 2004
    Tiny Torgenson had just purchased the Million Club and various gambling/sporting enterprises from Fitz Mularkey (who has decided to quit the racket due to his upcoming marriage to Marcia Friel), but Torgenson is immediately killed arriving in New York. Morning Herald reporter Torchy Blane, who was with Torgenson when he was killed, goes with her boyfriend, Lt. Steve McBride, to the Million Club to tell Mularkey of what happened. Mularkey, being very good friends with Torgenson, decides he'll catch the murderer before the police get him, but McBride advises him to do otherwise. Torchy suspects Chuck Cannon (Mularkey's bodyguard) of the murder since Mularkey won't have much use for him after the racket, but McBride suspects one of the other purchasers of the Mularkey's interests. McBride's leads end up nowhere and he goes after Cannon, as does Mularkey. Cannon is later found murdered, and evidence leads McBride to think Mularkey is the killer. Torchy has other ideas however and tries to convince McBride. Okay entry in the series, yet based on this film you wouldn't think 8 more films would follow. Much of the film does seem like its parodying the blue collar-gangster films typical of Warner Brothers in the 30s. Farrell and MacLane have great chemistry together, which shows throughout. The script did seem like it was repeating itself and aiming at clichés typical of the movie mystery/newspaper reporter/stubborn cop/racketeers. Rating, based on B mysteries, 6.
  • Entertaining entry in Warner Bros. "Torchy Blane" series. In fact, it's very entertaining, with all the usual trimmings of the series and with a good, solid mystery to boot. The best murder mysteries are the ones that keep you guessing right up to the end, and this one delivers.

    There is the usual back story, the relationship between Torchy (Glenda Farrell), the reporter/ sleuth, and Det. Steve McBride (Barton MacLane); are they an item or not? The role of Torchy is tailor-made for Glenda Farrell, the prototypical wisecracking blonde of 30's movies, and she doesn't disappoint.

    For Golden Age movie fans, there is another wisecracking blonde in the supporting cast who is tough to recognize - none other than Jane Wyman, who most of us remember as a brunette. Maltin says this is the only entry in the series taken from material from its author, Frederick Nebel, which could account for the better storyline than most of the other entries.
  • The movie doesn't work that well as a mystery, so I think the viewer should just think of it as a romantic comedy since MacLane and Farrell succeed so brilliantly at elevating the material and they have such good on screen chemistry.

    Also, considering that while Torchy has real affection for MacBride, she doesn't hesitate to let him know when she thinks he's being ridiculous (Dixie to Torchy "Ain't he masterful?" Torchy "Yeah, all he needs is a leopard skin!")and he's not the center of her life.She was years ahead of her time so I think she was a good role model.

    Maybe Torchy is what Nancy Drew would be if she ever written as an adult.
  • Glenda Farrell was just getting into hollywood as the talkies were starting. This is the first of the many "Torchy Blane" reporter films. The film begins with Torchy running to jump onto a fast moving train, so we know she's tough as nails! when a promoter is gunned down in front of her, she is determined to figure out who is responsible. sidekick role for Jane Wyman as Dixie. and of course, Tom Kennedy as the bumbling police officer Gahagan, a role he would play in many Torchy films. like most of these, it's okay. an early example of a competent female working hard to get to the truth years before it was fashionable. Farrell started with Warner Brothers, but when that contract was up, she moved around to the various studios. Directed by Frank McDonald. made TONS of films with Gene Autrey.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Noted for his celerity, Frank McDonald once let me into his secret. The players were the key, he said. "Take Torchy Blane. When Brynie (Bryan Foy, a supervisor in Warners' 'B' unit) offered me the assignment, I insisted he hire Glenda Farrell for the lead. Nobody could spout lines at a faster clip than Glenda. In fact, she still holds the world's record. In "Torchy Gets Her Man", which Bill Beaudine directed, Glenda rattles off a four hundred-word speech in forty seconds. Nobody could beat Glenda. I took the precaution, though, of surrounding her with some equally clear-mouthed players, even if they weren't quite as fast. Barton MacLane was always well up in his lines and he could speed through an otherwise boring continuity scene like an express train."

    Glenda Farrell saw Torchy as a challenge. "She gave me a chance to break a Hollywood stereotype," Glenda explained to me. "Until Torchy arrived on the scene, most women reporters were portrayed as either sour old maids, masculine-looking feminists, or twittery young girls who couldn't wait to be rescued from tabloid drudgery by some bright young man. But Torchy Blane was a real girl. I made her bright, attractive, intelligent, daring and single- minded, able to hold her own. Sure, she loved McBride, but she had her own career and wasn't about to settle for keeping house and raising kids while he brought home the bacon. By making Torchy true to life, I tried to create a character practically unique in movies."

    Glenda Farrell (her real name) was born in Enid, Oklahoma in 1904. From early childhood, she wanted to be an actress. After training in stock, she arrived on Broadway in the 1920s and scored a hit in several successful plays. Hollywood beckoned in 1929. All told, she made 122 movies, but only the Gold Digger series are still aired today. She invented the tough, wisecracking, knowing, but undefeatable Hollywood blonde, inspiring scores of imitators. Despite her constant movie work, she still managed the occasional Broadway and television play, winning the 1963 Emmy for best supporting actress.

    The creator of Torchy Blane, of her lover/rival Detective Lieutenant Steve McBride (MacLane), of his poetically not-so-helpful assistant Gahagan (Tom Kennedy) was Frederick Nebel, whose short story, "No Hard Feelings", served as the pilot for the entire nine- picture series.

    Typical of pulp stories, "No Hard Feelings" has a somewhat complicated plot line which, due to the speed of the film version, requires viewers to keep on their toes. Director McDonald adds to the sense of urgency by inventing so many bits of business for his players that the screen often seems like a maze of movement. The terrific support cast includes Wini Shaw, Charlotte Wynters (the real-life Mrs. Barton MacLane), Jane Wyman (in her first screen billing), and ex-gangster Al Hill, out of character as a cab- driver.

    Smart Blonde generated such immediately favorable response from critics and public, it was quickly followed by "Fly-Away Baby" (1937).
  • This is the first of nine Torchy Blane films. Glenda Farrell plays Torchy and Barton MacLane plays her fiancé, the police lieutenant. In an almost unrecognizable supporting role, you have a young Jane Wyman--look carefully, it really is her. This is ironic, as in the last Torchy Blane film (TORCHY BLANE...PLAYING WITH DYNAMITE), Wyman herself played the role of Blane. In total, Farrell played the lead in seven of the nine films--with Lola Lane playing Torchy in one of the films in the middle of the series.

    The film begins with Torchy rushing to meet a train so she can interview Tim Torgensen who just agreed to buy the business empire of Fitz Mularkey. However, just after they leave the train, Torgensen is shot and killed. Who did it is uncertain, but it happens right before Torchy's eyes. Naturally she calls her newspaper with the story, but in a pattern to be repeated in future films of the series, she helps her fiancé investigate the crime.

    Look quickly at the railway station. That's Wayne Morris behind the desk doing a tiny bit part just before he became a Warner Brothers star.

    Overall, the film is very typical of B-detective films of the era. While not nearly as interesting as the Charlie Chan or Saint films, it's pretty good for fans of the genre. For others, it's a pleasant little time-passer.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    From an era when even the actual name of the detective working on a murder case could make newspaper headlines, comes one of cinema's earliest female amateur sleuths, Torchy Blane. Torchy is not just an independent working woman who is good at her job, she also has a mind (and a hunch) for crime-solving on the side; her persistent snooping annoys, but also aids, her tough cop boyfriend. In "Smart Blonde", they both investigate the shooting of a wealthy investor outside a train station. There is nothing out of (or above) the ordinary in the film's direction or supporting cast (though Tom Kennedy is quite funny as a poetry-loving comic relief cop), but the story is pretty good, and Glenda Farrell is beautiful and energetic as Torchy; you can't take her eyes off her. ** out of 4.
  • "Smart Blonde,' an above-average entry in the very popular "Torchy Blaine" B-film series about the feisty girl reporter who inspired the Lois Lane character, may be guilty of the same subconscious prejudice that pervaded many of the films of the Thirties.

    Although it is otherwise a wonderfully entertaining low-budget mystery, there is an isolated scene where tough guy cop Steve McBride, Torchy's boyfriend, insists that she remain in a locked car after he leaves her because they're in a "rat-hole" of a neighborhood. Glenda Farrell's Torchy is an especially aggressive and brassy professional in the typical fashion of other 1930s Warner heroines like Joan Blondell and Bette Davis, and she usually is confidently resourceful enough to strike out on her own in pursuit of a story in any circumstance.

    Four individuals are then shown in the street of that "rat-hole" neighborhood The first is an African-American aimlessly loitering by leaning against the wall of the building where Steve enters. The second is an Orthodox Jewish-American with beard, glasses, and hat walking past the door. The third is a Chinese-American who walks past Torchy in her car and suspiciously eyes her. The fourth is in the far background and not clearly identifiable as a ethnic type.

    "Smart Blonde" was nothing more pretentious than any standard, assembly line programmer of the period. The "rat-hole" neighborhood was meant to suggest an area that the usually plucky and independent Torchy should be wary of. Although it's doubtful that any overt racism was intended, it's notable that the signifiers of the bad neighborhood are three readily identifiable minority types.

    Director Frank MacDonald was a workmanlike studio journeyman who told stories as quickly and efficiently as possible. The source material was one of the Kennedy and McBride stories by Frederick Lewis Nebel and went through six different Warner staff writers, emerging as assembly line product.

    Kennedy, the reporter half of the crime-fighting duo, was a male alcoholic in the original stories, so the problems of presenting drunks heroically under the newly-implemented motion picture code was easily solved by transforming him into the sober, female Torchy Blaine, whose only vice was a good sirloin steak. That change eliminated the problem while maintaining tensions in the relationship.

    It should be noted that pulp crime fiction writer Nebel(under the name Brett Halliday) was also the creator of another popular screen detective, Michael Shayne, portrayed by Lloyd Nolan in seven films for Fox in the Forties. Given the alterations of both characters by the studios only confirmed Nebel's contempt of Hollywood.
  • This is an enjoyable little comedy/mystery in the Torchy Blane series that starred GLENDA FARRELL and BARTON MacLAINE on the trail of a killer involved in a nightclub mystery.

    Farrell is a fast-talking newspaper reporter smitten by her policeman boyfriend MacLaine. The breezy byplay between the reporter gal and her boyfriend is snappy enough to keep the plot moving briskly towards a solution of the murder. JANE WYMAN pops up as a flighty hatcheck girl who has almost no bearing on the plot.

    Interesting to spot ROBERT PAIGE in an early role before Universal groomed him for a bid toward stardom opposite stars like Deanna Durbin (in "Can't Help Singing").

    Passes the time but strictly a programmer.
  • cherold24 April 2017
    After watching the profoundly mediocre Torchy Blane in Chinatown I decided that I wouldn't bother watching any more movies in the Torchy series. But when I saw this on TCM, I thought, well, it's the first movie in the series so perhaps it's a bit better. After all, it inspired a series.

    Maybe it is better - I didn't watch enough of it to be sure - but it's certainly not very good. There is a clunky amateurishness about the film and its performers that puts it below a big percentage of B movies. It's more of a C movie.

    Still, if I hadn't already had a poor impression of Torchy I might have given the film more than 20 minutes. Maybe it gets better after that.
  • Smart Blonde (1937)

    ** (out of 4)

    The first of nine films in the series has reporter Torchy Blane (Glenda Farrell) and boyfriend Steve McBride (Barton MacLane) investigating the murder of a millionaire who was set to buy some property at a discounted price. The two set out to find who killed the man but also why the seller took his bid, which was much lower than what others had offered. This here is pretty much average for the various murder/mystery series that were out during this era. Of course, the big difference here is that the lead character is a female even though in the original stories the character was a male. For the most part I found this film to be entertaining enough, although there's no doubt that the studio didn't exactly attach one of their best writers to the film. I say that because the story here is without question the weakest bit because there's nothing really here that we haven't seen in much better movies and nothing here really jumps off the screen. The murder investigation has a few interesting bits but not enough to really make the film better. There's no question that Farrell deserves a lot of credit for what entertainment there is because of her fast-talking one-liners that manage to be fun. Her chemistry with MacLane also adds some nice charm. Film buffs will be able to spot Jane Wyman in a quick bit. SMART BLONDE isn't exactly smart but it's entertaining enough for fans of the genre.