Watching 1939: Torchy Runs for Mayor (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult. 

1939 film:  Torchy Runs for Mayor (1939)

Release date:  May 13, 1939

Cast:  Glenda Farrell, Barton MacLane, Tom Kennedy, John Miljan, Frank Shannon, Charles Richman, Joe Downing, John Miljan, Irving Bacon, John Ridgely (uncredited)

Studio:  Warner Bros.

Director:  Ray McCarey

Reporter Torchy Blane (Farrell) is writing stories about the corruption of Mayor Saunders (Richman) and how he takes money from crime bosses. To make Torchy stop, the mayor threatens to pull his advertising from her newspaper, which forces Torchy’s editors to stop publishing her stories. Torchy asks papers all over town to publish her stories and is rejected until one small paper accepts. After publishing the article, the editor of the paper is killed, and Torchy’s police officer boyfriend Steve (MacLane) investigates, and Torchy meddles. To get back at Torchy for butting into his case, Steve writes Torchy’s name in as a mayor candidate – which she embraces.

1939 Notes:
• The last time Glenda Farrell played Torchy Blane. The two 1939 Torchy Blane films are the only two films Farrell starred in this year.
• Second to last of the nine Torchy Blane films. The last film was “Torchy Blane.. Playing with Dynamite” (1939), which starred Jane Wyman
• Three of the Torchy films were released in 1939: Torchy Blane in China Town, Torchy Blane Runs for Mayor, Torchy Blane…Playing with Dynamite
• Tom Kennedy was in 10 films released in 1939
• Barton MacLane was in six films released in 1939

Other trivia: 
• One of nine Torchy Blane films. The series started in 1937 and ended in 1939. Jane Wyman and Lola Lane played Torchy Blane in one film each. Glenda Farrell originated the role and played Torchy seven times.

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
Glenda Farrell is famous for her Warner Bros. roles as fast-talking dames and was generally cast in comedic roles.

But Farrell was best known for her roles as the sleuthing female reporter, Torchy Blane. Blane was featured in nine films, and Farrell starred in seven of the films.

Torchy Blane may seem like a low-budget B series, but it paved the way for other fast-talking female reporters like Louis Lane and Hildy Johnson in “His Girl Friday.”

I revisited this film, which I own in my Warner Archive Torchy Blane set, and had a great deal of fun watching it. I love the Torchy Blane series because, as a former reporter, I love her bold actions and fast talk. This is one of my favorite DVD sets.

“Torchy Runs for Mayor” may not be as good as the first Torchy films, but it still has the same snappy flavor and delivers a punch of entertainment in only 60 minutes.

However, by the time “Torchy Runs for Mayor” was released in theaters in 1939, critics were weary of the Torchy Blane stories. But this film is important in its own right: 1939 was the last year audiences watched the adventures of Torchy Blane.

It was also the last time Glenda Farrell would have a leading role in a film for several years.

While 1939 marked the beginning of careers (like Lana Turner, Hedy Lamarr, William Holden), 1939 marked the end of stellar roles for Farrell. She would co-star in top-notch films like “Johnny Eager” and “The Talk of the Town,” but she played supporting characters. Farrell acted in films and television until 1970, even appearing with Elvis in Kissin’ Cousins (1964). But none of the roles that followed “Torchy Runs for Mayor” ever captured that fast-talking wit she had in her earlier Warner Bros. films.

While I enjoy this film, it also makes me sad that it was the beginning of the decline (in quality roles, not the quantity of projects) for Glenda Farrell.

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