American actress Glenda Farrell, like so many other performers born around the turn of the century, made her stage debut in a production of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Her first adult professional job was with Virginia Brissac's stock company in San Diego, after which she worked up and down the California coast until leaving for Broadway in the late 1920s. Farrell's performance in the stage play Skidding established her reputation, and in 1929 she was wooed to Hollywood along with many other stage actors in the wake of the "talkie" revolution. Uncharacteristically cast as the ingenue in Little Caesar (1930), Farrell would thereafter be cast in the fast-talking, "hard-boiled dame" roles that suited her best.
Though her characters had a tough veneer, Farrell was sensitive enough to insist upon script changes if the lines and bits of business became too rough and unsympathetic; still, she seemed to revel in the occasional villainess, notably her acid performance as Paul Muni's mercenary paramour in I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang(1932). In 1937, Farrell was assigned by Warner Bros. to portray dauntless news reporter Torchy Blaine in a series of brisk "B" pictures. She was gratified by the positive fan mail she received for Torchy, and justifiably proud of her ability to spout out 390 words per minute in the role, but Farrell decided to leave Warners and free-lance after five "Torchy Blaines." The actress's character roles in the 1940s and 1950s may have been smaller than before, but she always gave 100 percent to her craft. Farrell moved into television with ease, appearing on virtually every major dramatic weekly series and ultimately winning an Emmy for her work on the two-part Ben Casey episode of 1963, "A Cardinal Act of Mercy." Farrell's exit from movies was the 1964 Jerry Lewis farce The Disorderly Orderly, an assignment she plunged into with all the enthusiasm and sheer professionalism that she'd brought to the rest of her screen career.