Glenda Farrell
Glenda Farrell The Road to Reno.jpg
Publicity photo of Farrell in 1938
Born(1904-06-30)June 30, 1904
DiedMay 1, 1971(1971-05-01) (aged 66)
New York City, U.S.
Resting placeWest Point Cemetery
OccupationActress
Years active1928–1970
Spouse(s)
(m. 1921; div. 1929)

Dr. Henry Ross
(m. 1941)
ChildrenTommy Farrell

Glenda Farrell (June 30, 1904 – May 1, 1971)[1] was an American actress. Farrell personified the smart and sassy, wisecracking blonde of the Classical Hollywood films. Farrell's career spanned more than 50 years, appearing in numerous Broadway plays, films and television series. She won an Emmy Award in 1963 for Outstanding Supporting Actress for her performance as Martha Morrison in the medical drama television series Ben Casey.[2]

Farrell began acting on stage as a child and continued with various theatre companies and on Broadway before signing with Warner Bros. A signature 1930s Warner Bros. star, Farrell appeared in films such as Little Caesar (1931), I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932), Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) and Lady for a Day (1933). Starting with Smart Blonde (1937), Farrell played Torchy Blane, a daring female reporter, in a series of popular films which later was credited by comic book writer Jerry Siegel as the inspiration for the DC Comics reporter Lois Lane. After leaving Warner Bros. in 1939, Farrell remained active in film, television and theatre throughout the rest of her career.

Early life

Farrell was born in Enid, Oklahoma. Her father, Charles Farrell, was a horse trader of Irish and Cherokee descent. Farrell's mother, Wilhelmina "Minnie" of German descent, was the driving force behind her daughter's theatre career. Farrell had two brothers, Dick and Gene.[3][4] After her family moved to Wichita, Kansas, Farrell began acting on stage with a theatrical company at age seven, playing the role of Little Eva in the play Uncle Tom's Cabin. Farrell's mother had never achieved her desire of being an actress, encouraged and supported her daughter's acting interests.[4] When her family moved to San Diego, California, a teenage Farrell joined the Virginia Brissac Stock Company. Farrell made the third honor roll in Motion Picture Magazine's "Fame and Fortune Contest". Her picture and biography were featured in the magazine's April 1919 issue, which also stated that Farrell had some experience in the chorus, vaudeville, and camp entertainments.[5] Farrell received a formal education at the Mount Carmel Catholic Academy.[3]

Career

1928–1939: Stage and films

Farrell in Man's Castle (1933)
Farrell in Man's Castle (1933)

In 1928, Farrell was cast as the lead actress in the play The Spider and made her film debut in a minor role in Lucky Boy. Farrell moved to New York City in 1929, where she replaced Erin O'Brien-Moore as Marion Hardy in Aurania Rouverol's play Skidding. The play later served as the basis for the Andy Hardy film series. By April 1929, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that she had played the role 355 times. Farrell appeared in several other plays, including Divided Honors, Recapture, and Love, Honor and Betray with George Brent, Alice Brady, and Clark Gable.

In 1930, she starred in the comedy short film The Lucky Break with Harry Fox and in July 1930, Film Daily announced that Farrell had been cast as the female lead, Olga Stassoff, in director Mervyn LeRoy's gangster film Little Caesar. The movie was Farrell's first major film role, co-starring Edward G. Robinson and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Afterwards, she returned to Broadway and starred in On the Spot at the Forrest Theater. At the time, Farrell conceded that motion pictures offered immense salaries but felt the theatre was the foundation of the actor's profession.[5] She appeared in several more plays.

In 1932, Farrell starred in the hit Broadway play Life Begins, an episodic drama set entirely in the maternity ward in a hospital. Farrell received rave reviews and notices for her performance as Florette Darien, the professionally sullen chorus girl. Farrell was asked to recreate the role in Warner Bros.' film adaptation of Life Begins later that year. She was also given a seven years contract with the Warner Bros. film studio. Farrell did not return to the stage until 1939.

Farrell in Hollywood Hotel (1937)
Farrell in Hollywood Hotel (1937)

Farrell appeared in over 30 films in her first five years with Warner Bros., sometimes working on three pictures that were shooting at the same time and managed to transition from one role to another.[1] She co-starred in the Academy-Award nominated films I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) with Paul Muni and Lady for a Day (1933) by director Frank Capra. She also appeared in films such as Girl Missing (1933), Little Big Shot (1935), the musical Go into Your Dance (1935) and the comedies Nobody's Fool (1936) and High Tension (1936).

Farrell was close friends with fellow Warner Bros. actress and frequent co-star Joan Blondell.[6] They were paired as a comedy duo throughout the early 1930s in a series of five Warner Bros. movies: Havana Widows (1933), Kansas City Princess (1934), Traveling Saleslady (1935), We're in the Money (1935) and Miss Pacific Fleet (1935). Farrell and Blondell appeared together in a total of nine films.

Farrell and Barton MacLane as Torchy Blane and Steve McBride
Farrell and Barton MacLane as Torchy Blane and Steve McBride

In 1937, Farrell began starring as Torchy Blane, a fast-talking, wisecracking newspaper reporter.[7] Warner Bros. had started to develop a film adaptation of "MacBride and Kennedy" stories by detective novelist Frederick Nebel. For the film version, Kennedy is changed to a woman named "Torchy" Blane and is in love with MacBride's character. Director Frank MacDonald immediately knew whom he wanted for the role of Torchy. Farrell had already proved that she could play hard-boiled reporters in Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) and Hi, Nellie! (1934) and was quickly cast with Barton MacLane playing detective Steve McBride in the first film Smart Blonde (1937).

Smart Blonde was a surprise hit and became a popular second feature with moviegoers. Farrell continued to play Torchy in seven films opposite MacLane between 1937 and 1939. The Torchy series took Farrell's popularity to a new level. She was beloved by the moviegoing public and received a huge amount of fan mail for the series. Farrell based her portrayal of the Torchy character on real-life female journalists of the time, stating in her 1969 Time interview: "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 [newswomen] who visited Hollywood and watched them work on visits to New York City. They were generally young, intelligent, refined, and attractive. By making Torchy true to life, I tried to create a character practically unique in movies."[3]

Along with starring in the Torchy Blane series, Farrell appeared in several other films, including Dance Charlie Dance (1937), Exposed (1938) and Prison Break (1938). She also performed in the radio series Vanity and Playhouse in 1937 and Manhattan Latin with Humphrey Bogart in 1938.

Farrell in the 1938 film Exposed with Otto Kruger
Farrell in the 1938 film Exposed with Otto Kruger

Farrell was elected to a one-year term as the honorary mayor of North Hollywood in 1937, beating her competition Bing Crosby and Lewis Stone by a three-to-one margin. Even though it began as a Warner Bros. publicity stunt, Farrell took the job seriously, attending functions, presentations, and ceremonies. She was also put in charge when the North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced that it wanted to put sewers along Ventura Highway and started the groundwork for that project.[3]

In 1939, Farrell left Warner Bros. when her contract expired. Several factors resulted in her decision, including feeling Warner Bros. was typecasting her as a newspaper reporter, a pay raise reneged on by Jack Warner, and a desire to return to the theatre. Farrell later told syndicated columnist Bob Thomas in 1952: "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."

1939–1969: Television, stage, and films

Farrell in 1962 with Chill Wills in the television series Frontier Circus
Farrell in 1962 with Chill Wills in the television series Frontier Circus

In July 1939, Farrell starred in the lead role in the play Anna Christie at the Westport Country Playhouse and followed that with a summer stock production of S. N. Behrman's play Brief Moment. She co-starred with Lyle Talbot and Alan Dinehart in the long-running play Separate Rooms at Broadway's Plymouth Theater for a successful 613-performance run throughout 1940 and 1941. She appeared in the Broadway plays The Overtons in 1945 and Home is the Hero by Walter Macken in 1954.

Farrell returned to motion pictures in 1941, starring in Mervyn LeRoy's film noir, Johnny Eager. Throughout the 40s, 50s, and 60s, Farrell continued to appear in numerous films: including the Academy Award-nominated film The Talk of the Town (1942), A Night for Crime (1943), the Western Apache War Smoke (1952) and the crime drama Girls in the Night (1953). She starred in the 1959 film adaptation of the Broadway play Middle of the Night with Fredric March and Kim Novak. Farrell co-starred with her son Tommy Farrell in two comedy films in 1964: Kissin' Cousins with Elvis Presley and Jerry Lewis in The Disorderly Orderly.

Farrell made her television debut in 1949 in the anthology series The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre. She appeared in over 40 television series between 1950 and 1969, including Kraft Theatre, Studio One in Hollywood, The United States Steel Hour, Bonanza and Bewitched. In 1963, Farrell guest-starred in the ABC medical drama series Ben Casey as Martha Morrison in the two-part episode "A Cardinal Act of Mercy". She won the Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding performance in a supporting role by an actress.[2]

Farrell briefly retired in 1968 but soon decided to return to acting. Farrell's final work in her long career was the Broadway play Forty Carats. She was appearing in Forty Carats at the Morosco Theatre until ill health forced her to leave the play a few months later. Farrell was eventually diagnosed with lung cancer.[3]

Personal life

Farrell and her husband Dr. Henry Ross in 1942
Farrell and her husband Dr. Henry Ross in 1942

In 1920, Farrell was hired to do a dance routine at a Navy benefit ball in San Diego. There she met her first husband, Thomas Richards.[8] They were married from 1921 to 1929. Their son, actor Tommy Farrell, was born in 1921. Farrell was engaged to Jack Durant of the comedy duo "Mitchell and Durant" in 1931 but never married him.[9] She later dated screenwriter Robert Riskin and actor Jack Randall.

In 1941, Farrell married Dr. Henry Ross, a Major and Army flight surgeon. The couple met during a performance of the play Separate Rooms after Farrell sprained her ankle and was treated backstage by Ross.[3][10] Ross was a staff surgeon at New York's Polyclinic Hospital and West Point graduate, who later served as chief of the public health section on General Eisenhower's staff.[11] Farrell and Ross remained married until her death 30 years later. Throughout her life, Farrell was a devout Catholic.[12]

Death

In 1971, Farrell died from lung cancer, aged 66, at her home in New York City and was interred in the West Point Cemetery in West Point, New York.[13][14] When Ross, who did not remarry, died in 1991, he was buried with her.[11]

Legacy

Comic book writer Jerry Siegel credits Farrell's portrayal of Torchy Blane as the inspiration for the fictional Daily Planet reporter and Superman's love interest, Lois Lane.[15] Siegel also named June Farrell, one of the characters in his Funnyman comic book series, after Farrell.

On February 8, 1960, Farrell received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to motion pictures at 6524 Hollywood Boulevard.[16]

Writer and director Garson Kanin said in the 1971 New York Times article: "There are players who create characters; some of the great ones, a single character. More rare are those who, like Glenda, created a type. She invented and developed that made‐tough, uncompromising, knowing, wisecracking, undefeatable blonde. Whether she was the Girl Friend of the star, a cynical secretary, a salesgirl, a worldweary wife, a madam, homesteader, or schoolteacher she was always, relentlessly The Type. She was widely imitated, and lived long enough to see her imitators imitated."[12]

In 1977, Farrell's husband, Dr Henry Ross, donated 38 acres of land to the Putnam County Land Trust, establishing the Glenda Farrell–Henry Ross Preserve.

Films

Year Title Role Notes
1928 Lucky Boy Uncredited
1930 The Lucky Break Short
1931 Little Caesar Olga Stassoff
1932 Scandal for Sale Stella Uncredited
Life Begins Florette Darien
Three on a Match Mrs. Black
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang Marie Woods
The Match King Babe
1933 Mystery of the Wax Museum Florence Dempsey
Grand Slam Blondie
Girl Missing Kay Curtis
The Keyhole Dot
How to Break 90 #2: Position and Back Swing Golfer's Wife Short, uncredited
Gambling Ship Jeanne Sands
Mary Stevens, M.D. Glenda Carroll
Lady for a Day Missouri Martin
Bureau of Missing Persons Belle Howard Saunders
Havana Widows Sadie Appleby
Man's Castle Fay La Rue
1934 The Big Shakedown Lily "Lil" Duran
Hi Nellie! Gerry Krale
Dark Hazard Valerie "Val" Wilson
I've Got Your Number Bonnie
Heat Lightning Mrs. Tifton
Merry Wives of Reno Bunny Fitch
The Personality Kid Joan McCarty
Kansas City Princess Marie Callahan
The Secret Bride Hazel Normandie
1935 Gold Diggers of 1935 Betty Hawes
Traveling Saleslady Claudette
Go into Your Dance Molly Howard
In Caliente Clara
We're in the Money Dixie Tilton
Little Big Shot Jean
Miss Pacific Fleet Mae O'Brien
1936 Snowed Under Daisy Lowell
The Law in Her Hands Dorothy "Dot" Davis
Nobody's Fool Ruby Miller
High Tension Edith McNeil
Here Comes Carter Verna Kennedy
Gold Diggers of 1937 Genevieve Larkin
1937 Smart Blonde Torchy Blane
Fly-Away Baby
Dance Charlie Dance Fanny Morgan
You Live and Learn Mamie Wallis
Sunday Night at the Trocadero Herself Short
Breakfast for Two Carol Wallace
The Adventurous Blonde Torchy Blane
Hollywood Hotel Jonesy
1938 Blondes at Work Torchy Blane
Stolen Heaven Rita
Prison Break Jean Fenderson
The Road to Reno Sylvia Shane
Exposed Click Stewart
Torchy Gets Her Man Torchy Blane
1939 Torchy Blane in Chinatown
Torchy Runs for Mayor
1941 Johnny Eager Mae Blythe
1942 Twin Beds Sonya Cherupin
The Talk of the Town Regina Bush
1943 City Without Men Billie LaRue
A Night for Crime Susan Cooper
Klondike Kate Molly
1944 Ever Since Venus Babs Cartwright
1947 Heading for Heaven Nora Elkins
1948 I Love Trouble Hazel Bixby
Mary Lou Winnie Winford
Lulu Belle Molly Benson
1952 Apache War Smoke Fanny Webson
1953 Girls in the Night Alice Haynes
1954 Secret of the Incas Mrs. Winston
Susan Slept Here Maude Snodgrass
1955 The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing Mrs. Nesbit
1959 Middle of the Night Mrs. Mueller
1964 Kissin' Cousins Ma Tatum
The Disorderly Orderly Dr. Jean Howard
1970 Tiger by the Tail Sarah Harvey (final film role)

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1949 The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre Episode: "The Mirror and the Manicure"
1949-58 Studio One in Hollywood Various Episode: "June Moon"
Episode: "Miss Turner's Decision"
Episode: "The Other Place"
Episode: "The Edge of Truth"
1950 The Silver Theatre Episode: "Gaudy Lady"
1951 Prudential Family Playhouse Effie Flound Episode: "Ruggles of Red Gap"
Faith Baldwin Romance Theatre Episode: "Fountain of Youth"
Starlight Theatre Dorine Episode: "The Come-Back"
1952 Personal Appearance Theater Christopher Cross Episode: "Adventure of Christopher Cross"
1952-53 Armstrong Circle Theatre Serena Price Episode: "The Darkroom"
Episode: "The Straight and Narrow"
1953 Tales of Tomorrow Episode: "The Build-Box"
1955 Justice Episode: "House of Hatred"
The Elgin Hour Mrs. Dane Episode: "Crime in the Streets"
Goodyear Playhouse Mrs. Davis Episode: "The Expendable House"
1956 Front Row Center May Cooper Episode: "Uncle Barney"
The Alcoa Hour Eloise Schroeder Episode: "Doll Face"
The Kaiser Aluminum Hour Episode: "Cracker Money"
1956-57 Kraft Theatre Alma Wilkes / Stella Harvey / Momma Episode: "Home Is the Hero"
Episode: "The Man on Roller Skates"
Episode: "The Last Showdown"
Episode: "The Old Ticker"
Episode: "Polka"
1957 The 20th Century-Fox Hour Mae Swasey Episode: "The Marriage Broker"
The Sheriff of Cochise Sarah Avery Episode: "Federal Witness"
1958 Matinee Theatre Episode: "The Hickory Heart"
Cimarron City Maggie Arkins Episode: "A Respectable Girl"
1959 The Further Adventures of Ellery Queen Episode: "Confession of Murder"
General Electric Theater Mrs. Brady Episode: "Night Club"
The Bells of St. Mary's Television film
Buick-Electra Playhouse Episode: "The Killers"
Wagon Train Belle MacAbee Episode: "The Jess MacAbee Story"
1960 Play of the Week Rose Frobisher Episode: "A Palm Tree in a Rose Garden"
The Islanders Mrs. Dan King Episode: "The Widow from Richmond"
1960-63 The United States Steel Hour Various Episode: "Queen of the Orange Bowl"
Episode: "Summer Rhapsody"
Episode: "The Woman Across the Hall
Episode: "The Inner Panic"
Episode: "Moment of Rage"
1961 Our American Heritage Martha Bulloch Roosevelt Episode: "The Invincible Teddy"
A String of Beads Television film
Westinghouse Playhouse Laura Episode: "A Tale of Two Mothers"
Special for Women: The Glamour Trap Beauty Operator Television film
1962 Frontier Circus Ma Jukes Episode: "Mighty Like Rogues"
The Defenders Edna Holley Episode: "The Naked Heiress"
Route 66 Laverne Episode: "Man Out of Time"
1963 Ben Casey Martha Morrison Episode: "A Cardinal Act of Mercy" part 1
Episode: "A Cardinal Act of Mercy" part 2
Won the Emmy Award for outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role by an Actress
Rawhide Elizabeth Farragut Episode: "Incident at Farragut Pass"
Dr. Kildare Vera Dennis Episode: "The Exploiters"
The Fugitive Maggie Lambert Episode: "Fatso"
1964 Bonanza Lulabelle "Looney" Watkins Episode: "The Pure Truth"
The Bing Crosby Show Aunt Lulu Episode: "The Liberated Woman"
1968 Felony Squad Jeanette Anderson Episode: "The Deadly Innocents"
1969 Bewitched Hortense Rockeford Episode: "The Battle of Burning Oak"

References

  1. ^ a b "Hollywood Star Walk: Glenda Farrell". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "1963 - 15th Emmy Awards". Emmy Awards. Retrieved September 29, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Bubbeo, Daniel (15 October 2001). "Glenda Farrell: The Gimme Girl". The Women of Warner Brothers: The Lives and Careers of 15 Leading Ladies, with Filmographies for Each. McFarland & Company. pp. 74, 79–80, 82. ISBN 0786411376.
  4. ^ a b Nollen, Scott (2014). Glenda Farrell: Hollywood's Hardboiled Dame. Baltimore: Midnight Marquee Press, Inc. pp. 13–17. ISBN 9781936168477.
  5. ^ a b Aliperti, Cliff (September 10, 2013). "Glenda Farrell Biography and 1930s Hollywood Heyday". Immortal Ephemera. Retrieved March 13, 2016.
  6. ^ "My Pal Glenda". Hollywood Magazine. January 1936. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
  7. ^ Backer, Ron (August 25, 2012). Mystery Movie Series of 1930s Hollywood - Torchy Blane: The Investigative Reporter. McFarland. p. 258. ISBN 978-0786469758.
  8. ^ Van Neste, Dan. "Glenda Farrell: Diamond in the Rough". Classic Images. May 1998. Issue 275.
  9. ^ "Los Angeles Actress To Wed In June", Los Angeles Times, March 11, 1931, p. 11.
  10. ^ "Glenda To Wed", The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Indiana. February 6, 1941, p. 5.
  11. ^ a b "Dr. Henry Ross, 89, Eisenhower's Chief Of Health in War". The New York Times. June 28, 1991. Retrieved April 14, 2009.
  12. ^ a b Garson Kanin, "Glenda Farrell 1904-1971", The New York Times, May 16, 1971, p. 14. (Retrieved 2017-05-04.)
  13. ^ "Actress Glenda Farrell Dies in N.Y. at Age 66", European Stars and Stripes, May 3, 1971, p. 6.
  14. ^ Garson Kanin, "Glenda Farrell 1904-1971", The New York Times, May 16, 1971, p. 14. (Retrieved 2017-05-04.)
  15. ^ Siegel, Joanne. "The True Inspiration for Lois Lane". Superman Home Page. Retrieved July 19, 2015.
  16. ^ "Glenda Farrell". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved March 13, 2016.