Where did the baby name Torchy come from in 1939?

The character Torchy Blane
Torchy Blane

In 1939, the name Torchy made its one and only appearance in the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1941: unlisted
  • 1940: unlisted
  • 1939: 8 baby girls named Torchy [debut]
  • 1938: unlisted
  • 1937: unlisted

Two years later, variant spelling Torchie did the same thing.

Where did these two one-hit wonders come from?

My guess is fast-talking fictional newspaper reporter Torchy Blane, the heroine of nine low-budget movies released in the late ’30s with titles like Torchy Gets Her Man (1938), Torchy Blane in Chinatown (1939) and Torchy Runs for Mayor (1939). All of the films “followed the same formula — the nimble-minded, intuitive Torchy (who never bothered to take notes when she interviewed a person) would end up solving a crime way before her lunkhead boyfriend, police Det. Steve McBride.”

Ironically, Torchy Blane’s real first name wasn’t Torchy. According to two of the films, her first name was actually Theresa.

Most of the time the Torchy was played by actress Glenda Farrell, though twice she was played by other actresses (Lola Lane and Jane Wyman, respectively).

And that reminds me — did you know that Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel was inspired by Torchy Blane to create the character Lois Lane? He’s how he puts it:

Our heroine was of course a working girl whose priority was grabbing big scoops. What inspired me in the creation was Glenda Farrell, the movie star who portrayed Torchy Blane. Because of the name Lola Lane, who also played Torchy, appealed to me, I called my character Lois Lane.

P.S. Speaking of Glenda Farrell…she was behind the Glenda trend that lasted from 1933 (she appeared in a whopping 11 movies that year) until the middle of the century.


Update, 10/2017: I may have discovered an even better explanation for Torchy! In 1939, the soap opera Guiding Light introduced a new character named Torchy Reynolds. (This was back when the soap was radio-only.) Torchy, a former showgirl from San Francisco, was part of the story until 1942. Her time on the show (1939-1942) matches up better with the 1939 and 1941 single-year appearances of Torchy and Torchie than the film series (1937-1939) does. What do you think?

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