Scene-stealer Glenda Farrell is Turner Classic Movies’ "Summer Under the Stars" star today, August 29, 2013. A reliable — and very busy — Warner Bros. contract player in the ’30s, the sharp, energetic, fast-talking blonde actress was featured in more than fifty films at the studio from 1931 to 1939. Note: This particular Glenda Farrell has nothing in common with the One Tree Hill character played by Amber Wallace in the television series. The Glenda Farrell / One Tree Hill name connection seems to have been a mere coincidence. (Photo: Glenda Farrell as Torchy Blane in Smart Blonde.)
Back to Warners’ Glenda Farrell: TCM is currently showing Torchy Runs for Mayor (1939), one of the seven B movies starring Farrell as intrepid reporter Torchy Blane. Major suspense: Will Torchy win the election? She should. No city would ever go bankrupt with Torchy at the helm.
Glenda Farrell: Key supporting roles in ’Mystery of the Wax Museum,’ ’I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang’
Next is another Torchy Blane movie, Smart Blonde (1936), followed by Michael Curtiz’s unscary but fun 1933 horror classic Mystery of the Wax Museum, shot in the two-color Technicolor process. Long before Vincent Price and House of Wax there was Lionel Atwill as a (mad)man obsessed with the wax figures in his museum. A frequent occurrence in her movies of the ’30s, Fay Wray screams, screams some more, and then faints. Few actresses could look that pretty with their mouths open that wide. In Mystery of the Wax Museum, Glenda Farrell has an entertaining supporting role as a Torchy Blane-esque reporter.
Next in line is another 1933 Warners’ classic, one that reportedly led to changes in the law: Mervyn LeRoy’s Best Picture Academy Award nominee I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1933). In this socially conscious drama, one of the many released by the studio in the early-to-mid-’30s, Best Actor nominee Paul Muni plays a World War I veteran who also happens to be, what else, a fugitive from a chain gang. The problem is that once in a chain gang, always in a chain gang unless you keep on running and hiding and living in the shadows.
The Good: I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang doesn’t offer a facile happy ending; it shows that societies eager to send young men to war don’t give a damn once they return from the front. The Bad: I’m sorry, but Paul Muni deserved a long chain gang sentence for murdering the film’s dialogue with his overacting. As for Glenda Farrell, she has a memorable supporting role as a scheming blackmailer. Screenplay by Brown Holmes and Howard J. Green.
More Glenda Farrell movies
Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935) provided Glenda Farrell with one of her most entertaining movie roles at Warners, as another scheming character, this time a hotel stenographer. Farrell steals the show from the film’s nominal leads, crooner Dick Powell and pretty Gloria Stuart — decades before she (as Kate Winslet), in a very unladylike manner, allowed Leonardo DiCaprio to freeze to death so she could stay afloat and have a chance at survival in James Cameron’s Titanic. Besides Glenda Farrell, the Gold Diggers of 1935 highlights are the Busby Berkeley musical numbers, especially the super-elaborate Oscar-winning classic "Lullaby of Broadway."
TCM wraps up Glenda Farrell Day with what may well be the best movie of her career: George Stevens’ Best Picture Academy Award nominated mix of madcap comedy and serious drama, The Talk of the Town (1942). The film’s trio of stars — political activist and escaped convict Cary Grant, prissy schoolteacher Jean Arthur, and goateed law professor Ronald Colman — is simply outstanding; and so is Farrell in a relatively small supporting role. Screenplay by Dale Van Every, Irwin Shaw, and Sidney Buchman from a story by Sidney Harmon. This Columbia Pictures release is not to be missed.
Glenda Farrell movies: TCM schedule (PT) on August 29
3:00 AM LITTLE CAESAR (1930). Dir: Mervyn LeRoy. Cast: Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Glenda Farrell, Sidney Blackmer, William Collier Jr., Ralph Ince, Stanley Fields, George E. Stone, Thomas E. Jackson, Ernie Adams, Lucille La Verne, Noel Madison. BW-78 mins.
4:30 AM I’VE GOT YOUR NUMBER (1934). Director: Ray Enright. Cast: Joan Blondell, Pat O’Brien, Allen Jenkins, Glenda Farrell. BW-69 mins.
6:00 AM THE PERSONALITY KID (1934). Director: Alan Crosland. Cast: Pat O’Brien, Glenda Farrell, Claire Dodd. BW-68 mins.
7:15 AM KANSAS CITY PRINCESS (1934). Director: William Keighley. Cast: Joan Blondell, Glenda Farrell, Robert Armstrong. BW-64 mins.
8:30 AM SNOWED UNDER (1936). Director: Raymond Enright. Cast: George Brent, Genevieve Tobin, Glenda Farrell. BW-64 mins.
9:45 AM FLY AWAY BABY (1937). Director: Frank McDonald. Cast: Glenda Farrell, Barton MacLane, Gordon Oliver. BW-60 mins.
11:00 AM ADVENTUROUS BLONDE (1937). Director: Frank MacDonald. Cast: Glenda Farrell, Barton MacLane, Anne Nagel. BW-61 mins.
12:15 PM BLONDES AT WORK (1938). Director: Frank McDonald. Cast: Glenda Farrell, Barton MacLane, Tom Kennedy. BW-64 mins.
1:30 PM TORCHY GETS HER MAN (1938). Director: William Beaudine. Cast: Glenda Farrell, Barton MacLane, Tom Kennedy. BW-63 mins.
2:45 PM TORCHY BLANE IN CHINATOWN (1938). Director: William Beaudine. Cast: Glenda Farrell, Barton MacLane, Tom Kennedy. BW-58 mins.
3:45 PM TORCHY RUNS FOR MAYOR (1939). Director: Ray McCarey. Cast: Glenda Farrell, Barton MacLane, Tom Kennedy. BW-60 mins.
5:00 PM SMART BLONDE (1936). Director: Frank McDonald. Cast: Glenda Farrell, Barton MacLane, Winifred Shaw. BW-59 mins.
6:15 PM MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM (1933). Director: Michael Curtiz. Cast: Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Glenda Farrell. C-77 mins.
7:45 PM I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG (1932). Director: Mervyn Le Roy. Cast: Paul Muni, Glenda Farrell, Helen Vinson. BW-93 mins.
9:30 PM GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935 (1935). Director: Busby Berkeley. Cast: Dick Powell, Adolphe Menjou, Gloria Stuart, Glenda Farrell, Alice Brady, Hugh Herbert, Glenda Farrell, Frank McHugh, Joseph Cawthorn, Grant Mitchell, Dorothy Dare, Wini Shaw, Arthur Aylesworth, George Beranger, Walter Brennan, Dan Brodie, E.E. Clive, Franklyn Farnum, Virginia Grey, Dennis O’Keefe, John Quillan, Leo White. BW-95 mins.
11:15 PM GOLD DIGGERS OF 1937 (1936). Director: Lloyd Bacon. Cast: Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Glenda Farrell. BW-101 mins.
1:00 AM THE TALK OF THE TOWN (1942). Director: George Stevens. Cast: Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Ronald Colman, Glenda Farrell, Edgar Buchanan, Charles Dingle, Emma Dunn, Rex Ingram, Leonid Kinskey, Tom Tyler, Don Beddoe, Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Brooks, Gino Corrado, Clyde Fillmore, Edward Hearn, Clarence Muse, Lee Phelps, Dewey Robinson, Dan Seymour, Jack Shea. BW-117 mins.
Glenda Farrell movie schedule via the TCM website. Glenda Farrell Torchy Blane Smart Blonde photo via Doctor Macro.