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Movie Critique – Smart Blonde (Torchy Blane #1)

Stars: 4 / 5

Recommendation: Fast-talking smart sleuth teams up with her amiable lieutenant boyfriend, does everything she can for a scoop; and comes out smarter than others in the plot. The short film does pack a punch in comedy, drama and mystery.

Smart Blonde is a 1937 American mystery film, the first of the nine films in the Torchy Blane series by Warner Bros. Pictures Inc. Glenda Farrell starred as Torchy Blane in the series. This film was directed by Frank McDonald, produced by Jack L. Warner and Hal B. Wallis. Screenplay provided by Kenneth Gamet and Don Ryan. 

The film is based on the 1938 short story No Hard Feelings by Frederick Nebel published in the Black Mask magazine in February of 1938. In the original series the detective duo are two men - McBride and Kennedy. Kennedy, a drunken reporter was changed to fast-talking and smart female, Torchy Blane. She becomes a female reporter who teams up with her boyfriend Steve McBride in solving mysteries and crimes.

In this film, Torchy and her boyfriend Steve are embroiled in the mystery of the killing of an investor, Tiny Torgenson (portrayed by Joseph Crehan). And Torchy becomes a witness to Tiny's murder. She teams up with her boyfriend Steve (portrayed by Barton MacLane) in solving the case. Several suspects turn up at every turn of the reel for Torchy and Steve making their life difficult to weed through them. 

Farrell and MacLane starred as Torchy and Steve in the seven of the nine films made in the series. Again I remember MacLane from several of his roles in the original Perry Mason TV show which came a good 22 years after this film was released. I also remember seeing him in the 1948 American western adventure film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre; the 1941 American horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; the 1941 American film noir The Maltese Falcon; and many other films that I have watched in the past year. 

As for Farrell, this is the first time I am watching her film. She fits the Torchy Blane's persona very well. I can see Farrell to be the same wild spirited with a strong spine, smart, sassy, and fast-talking in any situation turning it to her benefit. I mean it in a good way. 

This film was later adapted to a 1941 American comedy mystery A Shot in the Dark starring William Lundigan, Nan Wynn and Ricardo Cortez.

The opening credits continue with the primary actors live-action headshot with their names and their character's names printed. 

The film comes with a song that kind of emulates Torchy, titled "Why Do I Have to Sing a Torch Song", written and composed by M. K. Jerome and Jack Scholl. It is sung by Wini Shaw, American actress, dancer and singer, at a night club. Wini portrays the role of Dolly Ireland in the film. 

Fast-talking smart sleuth teams up with her amiable lieutenant boyfriend, does everything she can for a scoop; and comes out smarter than others in the plot. The short film does pack a punch in comedy, drama and mystery.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. Tom Kennedy, as Gahaga the dumb cop in this film, is the only character who has appeared in all of the nine Torchy Blane films.

b. Desk Sergeant (portrayed by George Guhl) is seen reading a detective fiction magazine titled Ace Detective in the film. It is a 1930s pulp comic book. 

c. One of the goons, Pickney Sax (portrayed by George Lloyd) is also seen reading a detective fiction magazine, titled All Fact Detective, which is another pulp comic book from the 30s and 40s. 

d. Notice Jane Wyman as Dixie, the Hat Check Girl, in her very first credited role. Before she becomes a famous and successful actress, she also acts as Torchy Blane in the ninth and final installment in the series, the 1939 American drama film Playing with Dynamite. Frankly I couldn’t recognize Jane Wyman at all. She looks totally different from her later roles.

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. In the opening scene, we are shown an article written by Torchy Blane. But her name ends with a period, which is normally not how a real reporter would print their name for their stories.


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