Glenda Farrell (Glenda Farrell)

Glenda Farrell

Glenda Farrell came to Hollywood towards the end of the silent era. She began her career with a theatrical company at the age of 7. She played the role of Little Eva in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She paused at times to continue her education but appeared with a number of theatrical companies and in several Broadway productions. She was in the cast of Cobra and The Best People with actress Charlotte Treadway, at the Morosco Theater in Los Angeles, California, in 1925. Glenda Farrell was first signed to a long-term contract by First National Pictures in July 1930. She was given the female lead in Little Caesar directed by Mervyn Leroy. Warner Brothers signed her to re-create on film the role she played in Life Begins on Broadway. Farrell worked on parts in twenty movies in her first year with the studio. She came to personify the wise-cracking, hard-boiled, and somewhat dizzy blonde of the early talkies, along with fellow Warner Brothers brassy blonde, Joan Blondell, with whom she would be frequently paired. Her brassy persona was used to great effect in Little Caesar (1931) opposite Edward G. Robinson, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) opposite Paul Muni, Havana Widows (1933) with Blondell,”Mary Stevens, M.D.” (1933) with Kay Francis, Gambling Ship (1933) opposite Cary Grant, Bureau of Missing Persons (1933) opposite Pat O’Brien, Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) opposite Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray, and The Big Shakedown (1934) with Charles Farrell and Bette Davis. She became one of Warner Brothers’ most prolific actresses of the 1930s, solidifying her success with her own film series, as Torchy Blane, “Girl Reporter”. In this role, Farrell was promoted as being able to speak 400 words in 40 seconds. Farrell would portray Torchy Blane in seven films, from 1937 to 1939. (Lola Lane played the role once in 1938, and Jane Wyman took it over for the final Torchy film, in 1939.)

In 1937 she starred opposite Dick Powell and Joan Blondell in the Academy Award nominated Lloyd Bacon and Busby Berkeley directed musical comedy Gold Diggers of 1937. When her Warner Brothers contact expired in 1939 she opted to focus on her stage career once again. She said that working in plays gave her more of a sense of individuality whereas in films, “…you get frustrated because you feel you have no power over what you’re doing.” Glenda Farrell went out of vogue in the 1940s but made a comeback later in life, appearing in Secret of the Incas (1954), the Charlton Heston adventure epic upon which Raiders of the Lost Ark was based a quarter century later, and winning an Emmy Award in 1963, for her work in the television series Ben Casey. She made a guest appearance in a 5th season episode (1964) of the television series Bonanza in the role of Lulabelle ‘Looney’ Watkins, who helped out the character Hoss. She was appearing on Broadway in Forty Carats in 1969 when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She remained with the show until ill health forced her departure in November 1970. Glenda Farrell has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to Motion Pictures, at 6524 Hollywood Boulevard. Glenda Farrell was born to Charles and Wilhelmina “Minnie” Farrell of Irish and German descent in Enid, Oklahoma, and she had two brothers named Richard and Gene. Her son with her first husband Thomas Richards was B-Western “sidekick” actor Tommy Farrell. She dated Hollywood film writer Robert Riskin in the early 1930s and married Jack Durant of the Mitchell and Durant vaudeville team in June 1931. In 1941 Farrell became the wife of Dr. Henry Ross, a West Point graduate and Army physician who served on General Eisenhower’s staff. In 1971, she died from lung cancer, aged 66, at her home in New York City and was interred in the West Point Cemetery, West Point, New York. When Ross, who did not remarry, died in 1991, he was buried with her.

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  • June, 30, 1904
  • USA
  • Enid, Oklahoma


  • May, 01, 1971
  • USA
  • New York, New York

Cause of Death

  • lung cancer


  • United States Military Academy Post Cemetery
  • West Point, New York
  • USA

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