She Could Rattle Off 400 Words in 40 Seconds
Glenda Farrell, the fast-talking, wisecracking blonde of early Warner Bros. films, was born in Enid, Oklahoma, probably in 1901. Some sources cite 1904, but if the U.S. Census is to be believed, Ms. Farrell's publicity people probably encouraged the misconception.
But what's three years? Whether she started acting at 7 or 10 as (what else?) Little Eva in Uncle Tom's Cabin, Glenda Farrell knew what she wanted and worked very hard to get it. She preferred stage work to movies, but appeared in several silent films in uncredited parts before making a name for herself on Broadway. Her success in theatre led to a contract with Warner Brothers anyway, and Farrell became the studio's go-to gun moll, girl reporter, and smart-aleck best friend; second leads, but sturdy ones. She was often paired with pal Joan Blondell in the early 30s, but also supported the likes of Paul Muni, Edward G. Robinson, and Kay Francis.
She is probably best known as the eponymous star of the Torchy Blane series, an agreeable B series about a plucky reporter who'd do anything to get a story. But Farrell grew tired of being typecast and took fewer roles on the screen, preferring the range of opportunity Broadway offered.
Throughout the 1950s and 60s, Farrell's screen appearances were primarily on television. In 1963 she won an Emmy for her recurring role on Ben Casey, and took the occasional role in film up until 1970, the year before her death. Even though several sources claim that Glenda Farrell was not a smoker -- and even though there's many an excellent photo out there of Glenda Farrell spectacularly posed with a cigarette -- it was lung cancer that took her on May 1, 1971, at age 66 or 70, depending.
She was a joy to watch, particularly in those buddy pictures with Joan Blondell. For a gal who was often shooting three pictures at once in those years, Glenda Farrell seemed to be having an awfully good time.