Before Lois Lane there was Torchy Blane

by torchy blane

She’s a fast talking blond who breaks every rule of reporting.
As a journalist, I should be appalled by Torchy Blane, but I really want to be her. She is the perfect mix of my profession and classic film love.
From 1937 to 1939, Torchy Blane solved crimes and caused trouble for her police detective boyfriend in nine films.

Glenda Farrell as Torchy Blane- my role model.

Glenda Farrell as Torchy Blane- my role model.

She also was part of the inspiration for Superman’s reporter girlfriend Lois Lane.
In a 1988 Time magazine article, creators of the Superman comics Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel credited Glenda Farrell’s performance as Torchy Blane with their creation of Lois Lane.
“My wife Joanne was Joe’s original art model for Superman’s girlfriend in the 1930s,” Siegel is quoted from the interview in the book The Women of Warner Brothers. “Our heroine was of course a working girl whose priority was grabbing big scoops. What inspired me in the creation was Glenda Farrell, the movie star who portrayed Torchy Blane. Because of the name Lola Lane, who also played Torchy, appealed to me, I called my character Lois Lane.”
Produced by Warner Brothers Studios, the Torchy Blane series was one of many Hollywood B-movie series of the 1930s and 1940s, others include Maisie, Dr. Kildare, Boston Blackie, The Falcon and the Lone Wolf.
Actress Glenda Farrell played Torchy in seven of the films while Jane Wyman and Lola Lane each played the role once.
Torchy Blane titles include:
Torchy Blane…Playing with Dynamite (1939)
Torchy Runs for Mayor (1939)
Torchy Blane in Chinatown (1939)
Torchy Gets Her Man (1938)
Torchy Blane in Panama (1938)
Blondes at Work (1938)
The Adventurous Blonde (1937)
Fly Away Baby (1937)
Smart Blonde (1937)
Though the other actresses play the part well, Farrell leaves a lasting impression. Her comedic timing, brassiness and nonchalant way about her brings Torchy to life. Her performances were complete with 400 word speeches given in 40 seconds that talked her out of trouble.
In many of the films, Torchy is causing more trouble than she is writing stories and meeting deadlines.
Each film has a mystery to solve, and before Torchy’s detective boyfriend Steve McBride can take finger prints, Torchy is one step ahead.
Her job is really more of an amateur detective than a reporter.
“Maybe you know who bumped him off,” Steve says in “Smart Blonde” (1937).
“Not off hand, but with a little time and something to eat, maybe I can help you,” says Torchy.
Our heroine usually solves the crime, leaving the police force and her detective boyfriend looking slightly foolish.

Torchy does some of her own sleuthing

Torchy does some of her own sleuthing

In today’s world of journalism, Torchy’s means of sleuthing and reporting are ethically questionable:
-Hiding in a trashcan to eaves drop
-Bugging rooms with microphones
-Snooping through rooms
-Talking with questionable sources
It’s amazing she even has a job at a publication.
At the end of each film, Steve McBride promises a steak dinner and marriage but at the start of the next film, there have yet to be any wedding bells.
Though the films were made for low budget entertainment, the New York Times in the 1930s gave the movies poor reviews, dubbing Torchy a “demon reporter.” They also wrote “we have a murder mystery solved by an endless succession of door-opening and shuttings, taxi-hailings, jumping in and out of automobiles and riding up and down elevators,” quoted in Howard Good’s book “Girl Reporter: Gender, Journalism and Movies.”
It’s possible that the Times mainly scoffed because the main character was a female star reporter, Good wrote.

Torchy and her detective boyfriend Steve McBride played by Barton MacLane.

Torchy and her detective boyfriend Steve McBride played by Barton MacLane.

Dressed in professional suits, Farrell modeled Torchy after female reporters she knew and tried to make her believable.
“Before I undertook Torchy, I determined to create a real human being, not an exaggerated comedy type,” she said in a 1969 Times interview, quoted in the book The Women of Warner Brothers. “I met those newswomen who visited Hollywood. They were generally young, intelligent, refined and attractive. By making Torchy true to life, I tried to make a character practically unique in movies.”
Reporters could argue that Torchy Blane scripts are not representative of the newspaper industry.
However, as a contemporary female reporter, I love Torchy. I even asked my editors if I could change my byline to Torchy Pickens…but was denied.
Her sass, beauty and energy is endearing, even if she breaks every media law there is.

This is part of the Summer Under the Stars blogathon by ScribeHard and Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence. 

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Musical Monday: “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg” (1964)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
“Les Parapluies de Cherbourg” or “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” — Musical #285

umbrellas

Director:
Jacques Demy

Starring: 
Catherine Deneuve, Nino Casteluovo, Anne Vernon, Marc Michel

Plot:
Told in three part, the movie begins in 1957 and ends in 1964.
Performed much like an opera where all the French dialogue is sung, 17-year-old Geneviève (Deneuve) is in love with 20-year-old Guy (Casteluovo) who works as a mechanic.  Geneviève’s helps her mother (Vernon)  run an umbrella shop in Cherbourg, France. Her mother objects to them getting married because they are too young. Guy is drafted to fight for two years in the Algerian War.
While he is gone, Geneviève finds she is pregnant with his child. Her mother works to convince Geneviève to forget about Guy and to marry a more wealthy jewel dealer, Roland Cassard (Michel).

Highlights:
-Different from American musicals, there is no dancing and no show stopper song. If the lines were not all sung, it would be just a normal drama.
-The color is very candy-coated and gorgeous. Costumes of the actors match the brightly colored paint, wallpaper and decor.

Vernon and Deneuve (as Genvieve). Deneuve's dress matches the bright wallpaper

Vernon and Deneuve (as Genvieve). Deneuve’s dress matches the bright wallpaper

-The scene where Roland and Geneviève sit across from each other at the dinner table. As they speak to one each other, they look straight into the camera and speak.

Roland (Marc Michel) looks straight at the camera as he looks across the table as Genvieve

Roland (Marc Michel) looks straight at the camera as he looks across the table as Genvieve

-Pregnant Geneviève in a white wedding gown, looking very unhappy.

Roland and Genvieve's unhappy wedding

Roland and Genvieve’s unhappy wedding

-The 1960s fashions are gorgeous and as colorful as the backdrop.
-The heart wrenching ending that leaves so many questions

Trivia:
-Grand Prize Winner at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival
-Every actor in the all singing, opera-like film was dubbed:
Danielle Licari: Geneviève Emery
José Bartel: Guy Foucher
Christiane Legrand: Madame Emery
Georges Blaness: Roland Cassard
Claudine Meunier: Madeleine
Claire Leclerc: Aunt Élise
-“Umbrellas of Cherbourg” follows the Jacques Demy film “Lola” (1961). The character Roland Cassard is in “Lola” and in “Umbrellas” sings about a woman he once loved named Lola and how she broke his heart.
-The film is divided into three parts from 1957 to 1964: The Departure, The Absence, The Return
-An English stage version was adapted in 1979.
-Nominated for four Academy Awards in 1966 including: Best Music, Original Score for “I Will Wait for You;” Best Music, Score; Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment; Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen

Notable Songs:
-Each scene and scenario has it’s own song. The tunes are a mix of jazz to ballads.
-The most popular song from the film is “I Will Wait for You” sung by Geneviève and Guy before he leaves on the train to join the military.

My Review:
“Les Parapluies de Cherbourg” is one of my favorite musicals-up there with my all-time favorite “West Side Story” (1961). I love the gorgeous candy-coated color, the costumes and the heart wrenching sadness.
But most of all, I love the innovative all-singing French dialogue. Some lines are poetic while others are as simple as “Eat a little fruit” or “Have you had dinner?”
The story line is simplistic but doesn’t have the normal happy ending that an American 1950s or 1960s musical may have. Don’t let the subtitles and all singing throw you off, you won’t regret giving this musical a chance.

A few scenes to share to show the beautiful coloring”

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First appearance of Catherine Deneuve in the film- looking out the umbrella shop for Guy

The two sing the title song "I Will Wait for You" the day we find out Guy is drafted

The two sing the title song “I Will Wait for You” the day we find out Guy is drafted

umbrellas3

Guy and Genevieve embrace after finding out he will be drafted

umbrellas9

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Genevieve is pregnant with Guy’s child and Carnival is going on outside.

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Pregnant Genevieve sadly follows her mother’s wishes of marrying a rich man

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The young lover, both married, meet again after five years.

Check back next week for Musical Monday.

This is part of the Summer Under the Stars blogathon for Catherine Deneuve Day.

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Doris Day: From Hollywood party to leading role

romance on the high seasGeorgia Garrett is a fast talking, cigarette smoking, flirtatious night club singer–and she is the character played by Doris Day in her very first film “Romance on the High Seas” (1948).

While other actresses worked their way up to stardom through bit parts and uncredited roles, Day starred in her first movie.

And she continued starring in all 41 of her films from 1948 to 1968.

In the film, newly married Elvira Kent (Janis Paige) and Michael Kent (Don DeFore) worry that the other spouse is having an affair.

Georgia, a broke singer in a sleazy nightclub, frequents the travel agency and plans trips she never goes on and gets passport photos taken each time. Elvira meets Georgia in the travel agency while booking her trip to South America.

“But you have already had seven passport photos taken,” one travel agent says.

“But never as a blond,” Georgia coyly says.

Day as Georgia Garrett in the travel agency

Day as Georgia Garrett in the travel agency

On their third wedding anniversary, the Kents have to cancel a third anniversary trip due to business.  Michael tells Elvira to go without him.

Suspecting that Michael is going to fool around with his pretty new secretary, Elvira sends Georgia on the cruise in her place so she can stay behind and spy on her husband.

Also afraid that his wife is going to fool around on the cruise without him, Michael sends private detective Peter Virgil (Jack Carson) on the cruise to look after his wife.

Paige as Elvira instructing Day as Garrett

Paige as Elvira instructing Day as Garrett

Georgia, while posing as Elvira Kent, falls for Peter, and Peter thinks he is going to lose his job.

Romance on the High Seas” isn’t Doris Day’s most well-known film, but it’s my favorite.

While in the 1950s and 1960s Day was known for her squeaky clean, virginal persona, but her character in “Romance” has some sass.

Day started her career as a girl singer in 1939 for big band leaders such as Les Brown and Bob Crosby, brother of Bing Crosby.

By 1945, she had her first hit with “Sentimental Journey” which resonated with soldiers fighting over seas. More hits followed such as “My Dreams are Getting Better all the Time.”

“In a sense, ‘Sentimental Journey’ became the serviceman’s theme song,” Day wrote in her autobiography, “Doris Day: Her Own Story.

Before heading back East after a visit to Los Angeles, Day was convinced to attend a party at the home of Jule Styne, an American songwriter.

When everyone started performing songs at the party, Day began to get uneasy.

Day as a nightclub singer singing "I'm in Love"

Day as a nightclub singer singing “I’m in Love”

“These people loved singing for each other but I am painfully shy at parties, and particularly shy about performing impromptu,” she wrote.

Day was also going through a divorce at the time with child actress Virginia Weidler’s older brother, George.

She was asked to sing and was convinced to sing the chorus of “Embraceable You.”

The Gershwin tune landed Day her first film role, as the star of a musical comedy.

Styne wrote the score to the Warner Brothers film “Romance on the High Seas.” Judy Garland was originally slated to play Georgia Garrett, but the deal fell through.

Then Betty Hutton was set for the film, but she got pregnant and couldn’t be in the film, according to Day’s autobiography.

“Acting in films had never so much crossed my mind. I was a singer…” she wrote. “They kept telling me how lucky I was to be testing for the lead in a major musical and how many girls would die to be in my shoes, but I was sitting glumly looking out the window, only half listening.”

Her look was made to resemble Betty Hutton and she was encouraged to sing in Hutton’s signature energetic style during the test.

“But when we shot the scene, I did it my own way,” she wrote. “I instinctively understood something then that was to sustain with me through all the years that followed-to thine own self be true. Don’t imitate.”

Jack Carson and Doris Day meet on board the ship

Jack Carson and Doris Day meet on board the ship

Through being herself, Day gives a hilarious performance in the sparklingly musical, comedy which included one of her top hit songs, “It’s Magic.”

After the film became a hit, Day’s option was picked up for more Warner films. However, she wasn’t pleased with the movie. She dressed very casually and didn’t like the ultra glamorous look she had in the film.

Though Day wasn’t pleased with her first film appearance, “Romance on the High Seas” is my favorite Doris Day film—and I have seen all but two of her movies.

Along with the main cast of Jack Carson, Day, Don DeFore and Janis Paige—the movie has top notch character actors. Supporting actors include S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, Oscar Levant and Eric Blore.

Paige and Day would later star with each other again in “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” (1960). Carson starred with Day in her next two films “It’s a Great Feeling” (1949) and “My Dream Is Yours” (1949).

“Romance on the High Seas” has it all: glamorous wardrobes, sparkling color, hilarious jokes and quality songs written by Sammy Kahn and Jules Styne.

Though Day is best known for her bedroom farce films such as “Pillow Talk” (1959) with Universal, her early Warner Brothers films are some of her best.

Fresh faced films, sunny and shining with Day’s smile.

This is part of the Summer Under the Stars blogathon. Check here for other posts on Doris Day.

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Classic Movies in Music Videos: Give Me All Your Luvin’ by Madonna

This is August’s edition of Comet Over Hollywood’s classic film references in music videos.

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death on August 5, 1962.  Turner Classic Movies is dedicating today to Marilyn Monroe with a whole day of her film’s during their 10th annual Summer Under the Stars Salute.

As we all know, everyone and their mother has imitated Marilyn Monroe in some shape or form. Comet has even already spotlighted two music videos where Lana Del Rey and Madonna both paid tribute to the 1950s sex symbol.

Well 27 years after Madonna dressed up like Marilyn in “Material Girl,” the singer paid tribute to her again in her 2012 single “Give Me All Your Luvin’.”

But Madonna isn’t the only one in the video who donned short blond curls and a sexy white dress. Her two famous back-up singers in the song, MIA and Nicki Minaj also dress up like Monroe.

The Marilyn moment happens at 2:08 to 2:54 minutes into the video:

Check out other posts on Marilyn Monroe during the TCM Summer Under the Stars blogathon at http://scribehardonfilm.wordpress.com/ and http://sittinonabackyardfence.com/ for the month long classic film celebration!

Check back in September for another classic film reference in music videos!

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