Friday, March 20, 2015

Torchy Blane in Panama (1938)

There's been a bank robbery and murder during one of those awesome parades where guys dress up for their "Leopard Lodge" and act goofy in the name of whatever it is their lodge does. Gahagan is in the lodge. And he looks great in a leopard suit. McBride, Gahagan and a reporter named Canby follow the thief on a boat heading down to the Panama Canal. But, you can't leave Torchy Blane out of something like this. She parachutes into the ocean and gets picked up by the boat for Canal-related hijinks and a lot of time spend with a stuffed leopard.

Torchy Blane in Panama is #5 in the series. And there is no sign of Glenda Farrell. The story I remember hearing on TCM one morning when they aired one of the films was: Glenda's contract with WB was up. They tried to get her to stay but it didn't work. So, they brought on Lola Lane who was under contract. And, you know what? Lola's a charmer. She's superficially more attractive than Glenda. And she gets around quicker, what with the parachuting. But, she doesn't have the strange quirkiness that Glenda has. For one, she's missing the lisp. And Lola's missing those strange voices and inflections that Glenda would sometimes break into when surrounded by other reporters. Lola feels a little more calculated in her portrayal. Glenda seemed to embody the role.

Torchy #2 talks to McBride #2

Quirks gone, yes. But, Torchy #2 grows on the viewer as the film goes along. She's got all the gung-ho of Torchy #1 and it becomes charming, especially when she's snubbing McBride on the boat. And, I got to say, I really like the outfits she wears. especially the one at the climax. At one point, McBride says something like "There isn't another pair of pants like that in Panama." And he's probably right.

That's an outfit!

There isn't a whole lot of mystery in the movie. The burglar is pretty obvious and revealed fairly early on. He does, however, stuff all the money into the stuffed leopard. And that leopard almost falls off the boat several times. But, someone's always there to help save it. McBride doesn't actually do a whole heck of a lot, which is OK because Paul Kelly is too thin or something. I can't quite peg why he's wrong for the role. He needs more Load behind him to be McBride. And, they've toned down the Torchy/ Steve romance here, which is probably wise. Gahagan spends the movie dressed in leopard skins or showing Panamanian woman something written in Spanish that they laugh at a lot. I thought Gahagan was married? Well, that's Panama for you.

Action Torchy!

Torchy Blane in Panama is charming. As I said, Torchy #2 grows on you as the film goes along. By the end, I would have liked to see Lane take on another one of the series. But, it was not to be. Audiences weren't so thrilled. Torchy #1 and McBride #1 would return for three more adventures. Lola Lane would go on to do many more pictures, quite a few with her gaggle of sisters. Later in 1938, they would star in the Best Picture nominated Four Daughters. That film spawned three more films. I have not seen them so I don't know if Lola cracked wise throughout or not. Important things to remember: 1) her name is very similar to Lois Lane & 2) her birthday is the same as mine, May 21. So, I like her.

Some shots need no caption

If this bunch had returned for the next film, maybe I would have more to say. As it stands, Torchy Blane in Panama is a bit of a cul-de-sac in the series. Charming and entertaining but a cul-de-sac. Things would return to "normal" with Film #6.

 After the Ordeal

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