FLY AWAY GIRL. Warner Brothers, 1937. Glenda Farrell, Barton MacLane, Gordon Oliver, Hugh O’Connell, Tom Kennedy.

   It must have been Glenda Farrell Day sometime last year at Turner Classic Movies, or at a minimum, Torchy Blane Day, since I’ve just discovered that I taped a complete sequence of the Torchy films that day, all eight of them. I watched a few of them last year, decided I didn’t want to overdose on them, put them aside – and promptly forgot about them until a couple of days ago when I came across them again.


   This one’s number two in the series, in case you’re counting. I can’t exactly tell you what the appeal is with these movies, since the mystery plots are kind of sappy and so are the characters, to tell you the truth. It’s been a while since I watched the first one, Smart Blonde (1937), so I’d rather you didn’t quote me on this, but I have the feeling that the detective element was the strongest in that one, before the comedy became more and more significant. Since it’s also the only one that was based on a Frederick Nebel pulp fiction story, I think I’m safe enough in saying so.

   Torchy Blane is an ace newspaper reporter, and she must have been quite a model for plenty of young girls in the late 30s and early 40s, because she is an ace, female or not. Her boy friend (or fiancé, more or less) is Lt. Steve McBride (Barton MacLane), who has an ordinary mind for police work and who (therefore) is no match for Torchy. You might consider him lunk-headed, but I think that is why Tom Kennedy is in these movies, as Sgt. Orville Gahagan, a poor poetry-spouting sap who lives for nothing more to use the siren whenever he’s whisking McBride off to the next scene of the crime. Gahagan makes McBride look positively Holmesian in comparison.

   The plot in this particular episode in their lives centers around the murder of diamond merchant in his office, but Torchy’s choice for the killer, a reporter with a rich father, seems to have an iron-clad alibi. When her candidate for a killer takes an around-the-world tour as a newspaper stunt, Torchy talks her editor into allowing her to tag along, hence the title.

   Actually, I do know what the appeal is for these movies. It’s Torchy herself, or rather Glenda Farrell who plays her: fast-talking and fast-thinking, brassy without being bold, funny and wisecracking, but her mind on only one thing, her story. The photo of her that you see above didn’t come from this movie. I couldn’t find any, I’m sorry to say, but I thought this publicity still would do fairly well in its place.