Eventually, however, the blond Farrell was cast as the lead in the play The Spider; her predecessor had been fired for dying her hair black. The show eventually moved to New York, launching Farrell on an extremely successful career. After signing with the Warner Brothers studio, Farrell made a number of movies in which she played wisecracking, gold-digging characters. I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang was one of her first major films, but she did not receive the acclaim she would later receive for her portrayal of the quick-witted, fast-talking reporter Torchy Blane (the inspiration for the Lois Lane of the Superman cartoons).
Farrell considered most of her roles rather out-of-character, describing herself as more serious and less "wangling" than her characters. After getting sick while touring in New York, Farrell developed a deep love for the doctor who cured her, Henry Ross: they got married and lived happily for the thirty years until her death. Because Ross was a West Point grad, Farrell is the only actor buried in the academy's cemetery.
Amusingly, Farrell was very fond of her cat, Frankie, who was very short-sighted and would walk around the house bumping into furniture. Accordingly, she took him to an eye doctor, who fitted the cat with glasses: