Tuesday, December 18, 2007

B-Movie Detectives: Part 5

Torchy Blane, a spunky, very pretty girl newspaper reporter, used to be a thin, perpetually drunk guy reporter named Kennedy.

No, no operation of any sort was involved. This was the 1930s and when Warner Brothers bought the rights to Frederick Nebel's hard-boiled detective stories starring Kennedy of the Free Press, the decision was made to change Kennedy's sex AND personality. Kept from the original story was police Lieutenant Steve McBride, now Torchy's love interest.

It's too bad that movies faithfully based on Nebel's entertaining stories were never made--Kennedy is a great character and the stories are well-plotted. But Torchy is smart, spunky, brave, quick with a insult and really pretty--so there's no real room to complain.

Of the nine Torchy Blane movies, seven of them starred cute-as-a-button Glenda Farrell as Torchy. Farrell played the role with a lot of energy and a real sense of fun, bringing life to the stereotypical girl reporter role. In each film, Torchy would get involved in investigating a murder. Her boyfriend, Steve McBride, would head up the official investigation. Sometimes, he and Torchy would work together. Other times, they'd get on each other's nerves; McBride would order Torchy to back off from the case; Torchy would then ignore him and follow up her own leads. And she was usually the one to figure out who did it in the end.

McBride was played by Barton MacLane. MacLane usually showed up in Bogart movies as a gangster or dishonest cop--somebody Bogie would have to shoot or beat up before the movie was over. It's fun to see him as a straightforward good guy.

By going with a female protagonist and casting an actress so appealing in the role, the Torchy Blane movies have a unique energy to them. She might not be as famous as Dick Tracy, but she looks a lot better in a skirt.

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