Plot: Torchy Blane (Jane Wyman) has a knack for uncovering big stories and even a trip to traffic court yields a scoop, as in the courtroom, Torchy recognizes Jackie (Sheila Bromley), the girlfriend of a notorious criminal. Jackie’s beau is Denver Eddie (Eddie Marr) and with a substantial reward for his capture, Torchy sees a chance to put her investigative skills to the test. After Jackie is sentenced to jail on a shoplifting charge, Torchy arranges to be locked up as well and of course, she plans to befriend the crook’s girl and collect information. With help from her beloved Steve (Allen Jenkins), she seeks to put on a jail break of sorts and then lure in Denver Eddie, but will her convoluted plot work or just cause her more drama?
Entertainment Value: This movie would serve as the final farewell for Torchy Blane, though Glenda Farrell and Barton MacLane, the leads in seven of the nine pictures, are absent for this curtain call. I think Playing with Dynamite fares better than the other time the leads were replaced, but it still stands as one of the weaker sequels and that’s a shame. The narrative never really worked for me, the premise seems strange for a Torchy adventure and even at around an hour in length, has a rather slow pace that never picks up steam. I did appreciate the extra time spent to flesh out Gahagan’s backstory, as I think he was such a crucial part of the franchise, but otherwise, this final run is a dull one. I just don’t think Playing with Dynamite ever feels like a Torchy movie, it comes off like a rather generic plot with the known characters tossed in. So while an effort is made at times to make it feel like a Torchy tale, I never connected with the main narrative and aside from Gahagan’s side thread, found little entertainment here. But if you’re a Torchy Blane fan, you’ll likely want to see this final act, if just to see Gahagan given a nice sendoff.
I wasn’t a fan of the last movie that replaced regular leads Glenda Farrell and Barton MacLane, but this time around, at least the casting choices work a little better than the previous attempt. Jane Wyman seems to connect with the Torchy character a little and that helps a lot, not to mention her natural charisma and presence. Sadly, the movie does little to put her solid performance to good use and Torchy winds up pushed to the side, which is a let down. I think this series thrives when Torchy is the focus and these sequels that make her less of a factor just aren’t as much fun to watch. I’d still rank Farrell as the definitive Torchy Blane, but Wyman does well, at least when the material gives her some chances to shine. Allen Jenkins is an odd choice, as he is so far removed from MacLane, but he is humorous as Steve here. He takes a much different approach, but at least there is some entertainment from his turn. I was sad to see Tom Kennedy’s last effort as Gahagan, one of my favorite characters from the series, but he was in all nine, so plenty to revisit. The cast also includes John Ridgely, Sheila Bromley, Frank Shannon, and George Lloyd.