Plot: Torchy Blane (Glenda Farrell) is an ambitious reporter who will do what it takes to get the scoop, but while she usually just reports on the news, her latest assignment put her right in the headlines. She was looking into the recent sale of some gambling establishments, popular and profitable businesses that had been sold at a rate below what the market seemed to suggest. A daring train excursion gets Torchy an interview with the new owner, who reveals that while his offer was perhaps low, the old owner wanted to make sure the businesses were in good hands and be run in the same style as before. But before she can finish up her report, the new owner is shot right in front of her and dies from the injuries. When others close to the business deal start to turn up dead, can Torchy and her police detective boyfriend solve the mystery in time, before the killer targets her?
Entertainment Value: This was the first installment in the Torchy Blane series, which would delight audiences for a total of nine movies, seven of which featured Glenda Farrell in the central role. I had fun with Smart Blonde, as it is light and to the point, but doesn’t skimp on the murder mystery elements and has some great banter between the leads. The narrative is lean and mean, with minimal filler and is smart about the romance thread, as it drops us into an existing courtship, which allows the movie to avoid a lot of romance related cliches. This couple is devoted and has been together long enough to spar with verbal barbs like veterans, which a fresh, developing romance wouldn’t have allowed for. The mystery isn’t overly complex, but doesn’t feel rushed and throws in some nice false leads and twists, more than you might expect, given the short run time. Just short of an hour, Smart Blonde runs tight and keeps things ultra brisk, but as I said, doesn’t rush the narrative or characters. I had a great time with this one, so I would recommend it to fans of murder mysteries, Glenda Farrell, or classic Hollywood in general.
Smart Blonde was Glenda Farrell’s first spin as reporter Torchy Blane, but she seems right at home within the role. She would return to the series again numerous times, with a total of seven performances as the intrepid reporter. Her performance is terrific, as you’d expect from such a talented actress, as she takes an already good script and raises the material even more. I think the writing is quite good in this one, giving Farrell not only a well developed, interesting character to work with, but some sharp dialogue that lets her really shine. I love snappy banter and Farrell aces the back & forth here, ensuring her scenes with Barton MacLane are fun to watch. In addition to evading some of the usual romance cliches, the writing also makes Torchy a smart, ambitious woman, not just a sidekick or love interest. The romance is a prominent part of the story, but she is by no means just a girlfriend or novelty presence, especially in the hands of Farrell, who makes the most of the part. The cast also includes Jane Wyman, Tom Kennedy, Wini Shaw, and Addison Richards.