Starring: Glenda Farrell, Barton MacLane, Thomas E. Jackson, Tom Kennedy, Frank Shannon, Rosella Towne, and Donald Briggs
Director: Frank McDonald
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars
Crime reporter Torchy Blane (Farrell) gets extra creative (and even more ethically dubious) in her pursuit of scoops once her fiance, homicide detective fiance Steve McBride (MacLane), is ordered by his superior (Shannon) to stop favoring her over other reporters.
"Blondes at Work" is the fourth entry in the Torchy Blane series, and it's the best one so far. The script is well-crafted; the dialogue is sharp, all the characters are intelligently written with no one taking brainless actions just so the plot can move forward, and even minor characters get their moments to shine. Every performance in the film is top-notch, with series regulars Glenda Farrell, Barton MacLane, Tom Kennedy, and Frank Shannon giving particularly impressive performances. Thomas E. Jackson, who spent the 1930s and 1940s playing police detectives is a nice addition to the cast as Steve's right-hand man and the unfortunate person charged with keeping Torchy on a leash and out of investigation.
Speaking of the investigation, unlike the previous films, the murder mystery here is entirely secondary plotwise to the interaction among characters while Steve and his detectives try to navigate an increasingly ugly public relations and political situation that's being stirred up by Torchy's aggressive pursuit of a story the police department is trying to freeze her out of. Although she actually harms their ability to close their case more than once, I never felt that her behavior was out of line or unrealistic in the context of the lighthearted pulp-fiction universe the characters live in. I felt that way at several points during the previous film in this series, "Torchy Blane, the Adventurous Blonde", so that's another testament to the quality of the script. I did wonder if she would have any friends at the end of it all, given how she treated them--with poor, trusting Gahagen (Steve's less-than-brilliant driver, played by Tom Kennedy) getting the worst of it. Even that thought, however, was addressed neatly within the story... Torchy ended up paying a price for crossing the many lines she crossed in a way that gave her friends an opportunity to admit that maybe she went too far and for her friends to forgive her.
The only complaint I have about this highly entertaining film is that the murder mystery that both Steve and Torchy were investigating was ultimately resolved off-screen. It works within the context of the film, but it was still a little disappointing. (The resolution isn't a surprise, which is something else that makes the script praiseworthy; the basic solution to the "whodunnit" is out in the open the whole time.)
If you have an hour to kill, watching "Blondes at Work" is a fine way to do it.