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GLENDA FARRELL

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JackFavell
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GLENDA FARRELL

Postby JackFavell » June 30th, 2012, 5:51 pm

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I just wanted to open up discussion of Glenda Farrell, underrated actress, who is my top choice for TCM Star of the Month. Call this thread a love letter to Glenda.

Glenda was born in Enid, Oklahoma which I find really funny since to me, she is the epitome of the fast talking NYC street smart reporter. She started in theatre at age 7. There is little information about Glenda on the web, but apparently, she was most happy doing stage work, rather than acting in movies, because she had more control over her performances on stage.

Glenda was born in 1904, and died in 1971. She was 5'3" or 5'4", depending on which info you read, and was married 3 times. Her son Tommy became a B western sidekick actor. Her grandson is TV producer/director Mark Farrell.

My favorite performances from this wonderfully versatile lady include

Mystery of the Wax Museum
Heat Lightning (a double delight, she's paired up with Ruth Donnelly)
Talk of the Town
The Torchy Series
Susan Slept Here


oh what the heck, I can't REALLY make a list of favorites, because ANY time she shows up, it's my favorite. :D

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Re: GLENDA FARRELL

Postby Western Guy » June 30th, 2012, 6:25 pm

Wish that Sybil Jason was still around to post a comment on Miss Farrell. She worked with her in "Little Big Shot" and lovingly shares her comments in her autobiography. Apparently, despite that hardboiled screen image, Miss Farrell was anything but. A sweet, lovely lady, bless her.

Huge fan, Jack. From "Little Caesar" onwards, she was great fun to watch . . . though I do have to confess I really despised her character in "I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang".

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JackFavell
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Re: GLENDA FARRELL

Postby JackFavell » June 30th, 2012, 6:50 pm

It's a testament to her acting that we think she's so vile in that one! :D

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Re: GLENDA FARRELL

Postby Western Guy » June 30th, 2012, 6:58 pm

For sure, Jack. I own the pic on DVD and still hope she might rescind her dirty threat each time I watch it. She plays her part in the Muni film almost the exact opposite as in "Little Caesar" and so darn convincingly.

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Re: GLENDA FARRELL

Postby charliechaplinfan » July 1st, 2012, 9:43 am

I love her too, she's awful in Chain Gang. I'm glad you started a thread on her Wendy, I'm looking forward to what others have to say.
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Re: GLENDA FARRELL

Postby JackFavell » July 1st, 2012, 10:58 am

She's so awful in Chain Gang, but completely believeable. To tell the truth, I am always shocked at her performance in Little Caesar more! She's so leading lady there, and sweet and good. She's wonderful in both, but I prefer the her snappy, and I think the iconic performance in Mystery of the Wax Museum is my favorite.

Two more lovely photos of Glenda Farrell:

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Re: GLENDA FARRELL

Postby Western Guy » July 1st, 2012, 11:32 am

Beautiful portraits, Jack! Thanks for posting.

Good point about Glenda in Little Caesar. But her role in that film contrasted with the awful Marie in Chain Gang really shows her versatility. And she's a hoot in Wax Museum. Definitely one of my faves!!! Find her downright attractive, too.

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Re: GLENDA FARRELL

Postby charliechaplinfan » July 1st, 2012, 11:38 am

She's a striking woman, from an era when some striking looking women were making movies, she stands out. She's lovely.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: GLENDA FARRELL

Postby Lzcutter » July 1st, 2012, 1:38 pm

She is terrific in I Love Trouble. Marco and I were fortunate to see this nifty little thriller at one of Dewey's film festivals last year and we really enjoyed it!

As Hazel Bixby, wisecracking and long-suffering secretary (aren't all movie secretaries long suffering?) to Franchot Tone's private detective, Stuart Bailey, she steals the movie with her tart (not that kind of tart) performance.

If you haven't seen this one, you should!
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Re: GLENDA FARRELL

Postby JackFavell » July 1st, 2012, 5:37 pm

I haven't seen it but I am going on a search for it, Lynn!

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Re: GLENDA FARRELL

Postby intothenitrate » July 1st, 2012, 8:52 pm

I love Glenda Farrell too. She really buoys up anything she's in. She's great in Mary Stevens MD (1933). She plays Kay Francis' nurse and office manager. We get the usual snappy wisecracks, but she also does some heavy lifting dramatically.

Another movie that's interesting to me as a fan is Susan Slept Here (1954). It's a pretty bizarre film that pits Dick Powell (sporting a technicolor mortician's makeover) against Debbie Reynolds, playing a rebellious 17 year old. If anyone has seen it, you know how borderline-creepy it is. Glenda plays a boozy, middle-aged Girl Friday to Powell's grouchy writer. It's a small part, but she's a strong presence.
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Re: GLENDA FARRELL

Postby JackFavell » July 1st, 2012, 9:03 pm

I really love Mary Stevens, M.D., Intothenitrate! I really like the way Farrell can wisecrack with the best of them, but still can switch to serious, straight shooting drama.

I like Susan Slept Here, but I do realize that it's another one of those movies with an older man/younger woman plot that is really twisted. I ignore all the stupid ideas in it and just watch for the performances of the cast who somehow manage to make it work, none better than Glenda.

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Re: GLENDA FARRELL

Postby CineMaven » July 1st, 2012, 9:54 pm

I'm getting curioser...and curioser about Glenda...

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uEX2f4UhT8&feature=results_main&playnext=1&list=PL9AFAB6EA8F23D507[/youtube]

Or you can pick up the rest of it in the Borzage thread.
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Re: GLENDA FARRELL

Postby hbenthow » July 27th, 2012, 7:44 pm

I apologize in advance for the length of this post. I got a little carried away, and didn't quite realize how long it was turning out to be as I was writing it. I'm sorry if it's too long, but I feel that unlike many of the more famous classic stars, the facts of whose lives are more well-known, Glenda Farrell deserves to be written about in more detail, as few people know much about her. The OP described this thread as "a love letter to Glenda", and my post is very much in that spirit. However, if the length of this post makes it poor etiquette, against board rules, or for some other reason should be removed, please inform me.

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Glenda Farrell was born in Enid, Oklahoma on June 30, 1901 (as confirmed by both the 1910 and 1920 censuses, and later by the Social Security Administration when she was issued SSN 573-03-9877). Like many actresses of the time, she shaved a few years off her real age, resulting in her date of birth almost always being listed as June 30, 1904.

Her mother, Wilhemina "Minnie" Farrell, had always aspired to be an actress, and failing to become one, lived her dreams through her daughter. When Glenda was still very young, the Farrells moved to Wichita, Kansas, where she made her stage debut as Little Eva in Uncle Tom's Cabin and received an education at the Mount Carmel Catholic Academy (She remained a devout Catholic for her entire life). The family later moved to San Diego, California, where she joined the Virginia Brissac players.

In 1920, Glenda met Thomas Richards, a young WWI veteran, at a Navy benefit ball. The two instantly fell in love. As Thomas Richards was poor and without a job (he was discharged from the Navy not long after they met), Wilhemina Farrell would drive him away whenever he came to the Farrell's house. Nevertheless, Glenda and Thomas would often meet at a local candy shop. When Glenda took a train to Hollywood for a screen test, Thomas secretly came with her, and they were married during the trip. When the newlyweds returned, they moved in with Glenda's parents, until they could make enough money to move. They soon left, and traveled from town to town, performing in their vaudeville act.

After a while, Glenda became pregnant, which eventually made it impossible for her to continue dancing in the vaudeville act. As a result, she took two jobs, but there still wasn't enough money, so they moved back in with the Farrells. In 1921, the baby, Tommy, was born. Sadly, their once-blissful marriage soon started to deteriorate. Thomas Richards, partially because of his war wounds, and partially because of financial woes, became an alcoholic. When he was drunk, he would sometimes become violent, and he often would disappear, sometimes for entire months. Glenda tried to keep the marriage together, but as he got worse and worse, there was eventually no choice but to divorce him, which she did in 1929. In 1932, her son Tommy had his last name officially changed from Richards to Farrell. Despite the divorce, she bore no grudges against Thomas Richards, and even managed to help him get a job working as a film editor.

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Glenda and Tommy Farrell.

In 1928, Glenda went to New York (leaving Tommy in Wilhemina's care) and began her Broadway career. Due to her critically-praised performance in the play On the Spot, Warner Brothers hired her to act in Little Caesar. Afterwards, she returned to Broadway. When she was offered a deal from another theater, she managed to bargain with the one she was working for, and her name was put up in lights. Wilhemina Farrell had once told her, "Don't give up the stage until your name is in lights. When your name gets on a marquee, my work will be done." The very night Glenda Farrell's name first went up in lights, Wilhemina Farrell died.

In 1932, she signed a five-year Warner Brothers contract. Jack Warner quickly put her to work, often in as many as three movies at once. Her work payed off, and she quickly acquired much popularity, and before long had earned enough money to buy a house for herself and Tommy in the San Fernando Valley, and another nearby house for her father.

Among Glenda Farrell's early 1930s Warner Brothers movies were a number of movies in which she and Joan Blondell costarred, usually as a pair of gold-diggers. They were friends off-screen as well, so much so that Joan Blondell wrote a tribute called My Friend Glenda. Among the things she wrote:

"Glenda is at all times very natural. She isn't one bit camera conscious ... Her movements are always quick and her speech spontaneous. When she goes into a scene she never follows the script to the sacrifice of her naturalness ... She is the fastest thinker I've ever seen ... Working with Glenda is splendid for me, but hardly fair to her ... Glenda and I do the same type of role which means that she must share her honors with me. With most girls such a state of affairs just wouldn't work, they would want their honors all to themselves. Not so with Glenda. In fact, she goes to the other extreme to build me up in my comedy."

"No one would be able to enjoy a case of the blues with Glenda around. She would start to console you and before you realized it, you'd be laughing ... She just can't help but be funny ... Glenda is forever doing thoughtful things for others and seems instinctively to know just what to do and when to do it ... God bless Glenda."

Despite the hardboiled characters Glenda Farrell often played, she was a "softie" in real life. She was generous to a fault, so much so that she owned three vacuum cleaners and several sets of encyclopedias because she couldn't say no to salespeople. She once said, "Really, I'm not the least bit like the roles I play. In movies I'm usually cast as a wisecracking, golddigging dame, you know. But actually I never wisecrack ... And as for golddigging, I've never been able to wangle a thing. Everything I've ever had, I've worked for and paid myself."

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Original caption: March 01, 1935 - The cat is "Frankie,"​ house pet of Glenda Farrell, screen star, and is shown here with his mistress, and his glasses, the first ever fitted for a feline. Glenda felt so sorry for the animal which was continually bumping into furniture all over the house, that she scoured Hollywood until she found an optician who obliged her, and Frankie.


The story of how His Girl Friday came to be is a well-known one. Howard Hawks was adapting the famed stage play The Front Page, but changed the male reporter in the play, Hildy Johnson, into a woman, and added a formerly non-existent love story between the two leads. What's not as commonly known is that almost the exact same thing happened several years earlier. In 1936, Warner Brothers began to develop an adaption of the MacBride and Kennedy stories by Frederick Nebel. For the movie version, the male reporter Kennedy is changed to a female reporter named Torchy Blane, who is now in love with Steve McBride.

Director Frank MacDonald immediately knew who he wanted for the role of Torchy Blane: Glenda Farrell. She was quickly casted in Smart Blonde, the first Torchy Blane movie. Torchy Blane was a special role for her. She took the role as something of a challenge, and sought to differentiate Torchy from other screen sob-sisters of the era:

"They were caricatures of newspaperwomen as I knew them. So before I undertook to do the first Torchy, I determined
to create a real human being - and not an exaggerated comedy type. I met those who visited Hollywood, and watched them work on visits to New York City. They were generally young, intelligent, refined and attractive. Until Torchy arrived on the scene, most women reporters were portrayed as either sour old maids, masculine-looking feminists or twittery young girls who couldn’t wait to be rescued from tabloid drudgery by some bright young man. But Torchy Blane was a real girl. I made her bright, attractive, intelligent, daring and single-minded, able to hold her own. Sure, she loved McBride, but she had her own career and wasn’t about to settle for keeping house and raising kids while he brought home the bacon. By making Torchy true to life, I tried to create a character practically unique in movies.”


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#5 in a series of 48 "My Favorite Part" Gallaher tobacco cards. On the front of each card was a photograph of a popular star, and on the back, the star's concisely written answer to a query as to which movie role was his or her favorite.


Smart Blonde was a surprise hit, and took Glenda Farrell's popularity to a new level, and she went on to star in several more Torchy Blane movies. In Torchy Gets Her Man, she famously made an almost 400-word speech in a mere forty seconds. When her Warner Brothers contract expired, she and Barton MacLane were replaced with Lola Lane and Paul Kelly, with less than desirable results. Audiences didn't like the recasting decision, so Warner Brothers managed to get Glenda Farrell back, and made three more Farrell/MacLane Torchy Blane movies. The last Farrell/MacLane Torchy Blane movie, Torchy Runs for Mayor, is very reminiscent of the real-life 1937 event in which Glenda was elected honorary Mayor of North Hollywood (beating her competition, Bing Crosby and Lewis Stone, 3 to 1).

In the ninth Torchy Blane movie, Torchy Blane...Playing with Dynamite, Glenda Farrell was replaced with Jane Wyman (who had previously played a bit part in Smart Blonde), and Barton MacLane with Alan Jenkins. Jane Wyman gave a better performance than Lola Lane, even attempting to copy Glenda Farrell's style down to the fingertips. However, try as she might, her performance didn't measure up to Glenda's. Audiences again disliked the casting change, and Playing With Dynamite became the last Torchy Blane movie. A leftover Torchy Blane script was adapted into Private Detective, also starring Jane Wyman.

Among the many fans of the Torchy Blane movies was a young aspiring comic book writer named Jerry Siegel, who along with Joe Shuster, was creating a soon to be legendary creation called Superman. He liked Glenda Farrell's portrayal of Torchy Blane so much that he based a character named Lois Lane on her. Due to the fact that he took the name Lois Lane from Lola Lane, who also portrayed the character, it is often mistakenly believed that it was Lola Lane's portrayal that inspired him to create the character. But this is not the case; only the name came from Lola Lane. In a letter to the New York Times, he wrote:

Thank you for saying "Happy Birthday" to Superman [SHOW BUSINESS, March 14]. Joe Shuster and I, the co-creators of
Superman appreciate it. My wife Joanne was Joe's original art model for Superman's girlfriend Lois Lane back in the 1930s. Our
heroine was, of course, a working girl whose priority was grabbing scoops. What inspired me in the creation was Glenda Farrell,
the movie star who portrayed Torchy Blane, a gutsy, beautiful headline-hunting reporter, in a series of exciting motion pictures.
Because the name of the actress Lola Lane (who also played Torchy) appealed to me, I called my character Lois Lane. Strangely,
the characterization of Lois is amazingly like the real-life personality of my lovely wife.
Jerry Siegel
Los Angeles


His wife, Joanne Carter Siegel, when asked if Lois was based on Rosalind Russell's portrayal of Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday, responded: "He got the inspiration for Lois Lane from a movie star before Rosalind Russell. Her name was Glenda Farrell and she played a girl reporter, very fast-talking, and she always got the story."

Starting in 1939, Glenda starting primarily acting on stage again, but occasionally took movie roles. She preferred stage acting to movie acting. She explained it thusly: "There's something more satisfying about working in a play. You get that immediate response from the audience, and you feel that your performance is your own. In pictures you get frustrated because you feel you have no power over what you're doing." During one performance in the play Separate Rooms, she sprained her ankle backstage. A stagehand went and asked if there was a doctor in the house. There was. His name was Dr. Henry Ross, and he and Glenda immediately hit it off. After she made several follow-up visits to his doctor's office, they began dating, and were married on January 19, 1941. This was Glenda Farrell's second and last marriage. The couple remained happily married until her death thirty years later.

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Glenda Farrell and Dr. Henry Ross.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Glenda Farrell appeared in a few movies, and a number of television shows. On May 26, 1963, she won an Emmy for her performance in the Ben Casey two-parter A Cardinal Act of Mercy. She also appeared in the Elvis Presley movie Kissin' Cousins , as did her son Tommy, who later reminisced that Elvis treated Glenda as if she was his mother. Interestingly, there was to be a scene in Kissin' Cousins where Glenda flips Elvis off of a porch, but she broke her neck (fortunately not badly) doing the scene. She had to wear a neck brace for the duration of the filming, and only took it off for a few minutes at a time when she had to do a take.

In the late 1960s, she decided to try retiring and spending more time at home, but grew hopelessly bored. She returned to the stage in the play 40 Carats, and received rave reviews for her performance. Unfortunately, she became ill after only a few weeks, and was diagnosed with lung cancer. She died on May 1, 1971 in her Manhattan apartment. Her cause of death was cruelly ironic. You see, she never smoked. Tommy Farrell explained:

"She never smoked a day in her life. When she did a picture with Paul Muni, Hi Nellie, they had her smoking. But they
built prop cigarettes with just a little tobacco on the end. You couldn't inhale because they were full of cardboard in between. It would
only burn for a little while. When they would do a short scene, they would have to cut and give her another cigarette because she
wouldn't take any smoke in her mouth."


Glenda Farrell herself had once quipped that her character in Hi, Nellie was one of her hardest roles, saying, "The character was always sitting at a typewriter with a cigarette dangling from her mouth, and I can't type and I don't smoke."


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Glenda Farrell's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


It's sad that Glenda Farrell is almost forgotten these days. She was a great actress, and by all accounts, a very nice person. She injected life and boundless energy into each of her performances. I've seen a lot of great actors and actresses, but very few have endeared themselves to me as much as Glenda Farrell. There's something about her that could only be described as magical.
Last edited by hbenthow on July 11th, 2013, 3:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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JackFavell
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Re: GLENDA FARRELL

Postby JackFavell » July 28th, 2012, 7:53 am

Oh my gosh, hbenthow! This is fantastic! Thank you so much for this wealth of information!

Don't worry about the length... it's totally fine. The more info, the better! I'm just so thrilled to find out more about her. I actually haven't read the whole post yet, I'm on my way out to my husband's work related picnic (My screen name is a tribute to George Sanders, though I'm a girl), but I'll be back to talk about Glenda tonight or tomorrow. Thanks again! It's wonderful to find so much hidden history! :D :D :D :D :D :D


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