Penny Singleton (born Mariana Dorothy McNulty, September 15, 1908 – November 12, 2003) was an American actress and labor leader. During her 60-year career, Singleton appeared as the comic-strip heroine Blondie Bumstead in a series of 28 motion pictures from 1938 until 1950 and the popular Blondie radio program from 1939 until 1950. Singleton also provided the voice of Jane Jetson in the animated series The Jetsons from 1962 to 1963.
Mariana Dorothy McNulty
September 15, 1908
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||November 12, 2003 (aged 95)|
Sherman Oaks, California, U.S.
|Resting place||San Fernando Mission Cemetery, Mission Hills, Los Angeles|
|Occupation||Actress, labor leader|
Laurence Scroggs Singleton
(m. 1937; div. 1939)
(m. 1941; died 1963)
Behind the scenes, Singleton served two terms as president of the American Guild of Variety Artists, and testified before a Senate subcommittee in 1962 on the union's treatment of women variety workers.
Singleton sang at a silent movie theater, and toured in vaudeville as part of an act called "The Kiddie Kabaret". She sang and danced with Milton Berle, whom she knew since childhood, and actor Gene Raymond, and appeared on Broadway in Jack Benny's The Great Temptations. She also toured in nightclubs and roadshows of plays and musicals.
Singleton appeared as a nightclub singer in After the Thin Man, credited as Dorothy McNulty. She was cast opposite Arthur Lake (as Dagwood) in the feature film Blondie in 1938, based on the comic strip by Chic Young. They repeated their roles on a radio comedy beginning in 1939 and in guest appearances on other radio shows. As Dagwood and Blondie Bumstead, they proved so popular that a succession of 27 sequels was made from 1938 until 1950, with the radio show ending the same year. Singleton's husband Robert Sparks produced 12 of these sequels. Also in 1950, she had her own program, The Penny Singleton Show, on NBC radio.
Singleton held top billing in Go West, Young Lady (1941), over her male co-star, Glenn Ford. Only two other female stars (Dorothy Page and Jane Frazee) were top-billed singing cowgirls at the time. She provided the voice of Jane Jetson in the 1962–63 animated series, The Jetsons.
Singleton was active in union affairs, as a vocal member of the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA). She was elected president of the AGVA in 1958–1959, and again in 1969–1970. Her union membership was suspended in 1962, when she was accused of slandering some of the union's officers, and she countersued. Singleton was reinstated as a union member in 1963, after the dispute reached a legal settlement.
She testified on the exploitation of women in variety work, and the union's shortcomings in representing those workers, before a United States Senate subcommittee in 1962. "I charge here and now that the exotic and strip artists have been abandoned and made outcasts by the very union to which they pay dues for representation and protection," she announced to the subcommittee.
In 1967, she led a successful month-long strike by the Radio City Rockettes for better working conditions. During her presidency, she led negotiations with the Disney on Parade show (NAWAL Productions)during a variety artists' strike in the Disney on Parade (DOP)show 1970. The joint venture show of Walt Disney and NBC, one of the most successful ever of touring Arena shows with tours all over the world. With over 100 cast members she led a slowdown in the performance in Hershey, Pennsylvania, followed by a walkout in Ft. Wayne, Indiana and a settlement the next week in Houston. The issue was purportedly that the 16” support stage used by the dancers was cut from the show to reduce trucking costs. The stage which was laid down on the arena floor without the support caused the dancers to reportedly get “Shinsplints”. The strike was settled and the show went on in Houston.
Personal life and legacyEdit
Singleton married Laurence Scroggs Singleton, a dentist, in 1937; they divorced in 1939 although she kept his surname. She remarried, to Robert C. Sparks, a Marine Corps officer and film producer, in 1941. They remained wed until his death in 1963. Singleton had two daughters, Dorothy and Susan. She was both a lifelong Catholic and Democrat.
For her contributions to both radio and the motion-picture industry, in 1960, Singleton was honored with two stars as she was inducted to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star for radio is located at 6811 Hollywood Boulevard, and her film star is at 6547 Hollywood Boulevard.
- Belle of the Night (1930)
- Good News (1930) - Flo
- Love in the Rough (1930) - Virgie
- Howd' Ya Like That? (1934) - Dancer
- After the Thin Man (1936) - Polly Byrnes
- Vogues of 1938 (1937) - Miss Violet Sims
- Sea Racketeers (1937) - Florence Riley
- Swing Your Lady (1938) - Cookie
- Outside of Paradise (1938) - Colleen Kerrigan
- Men Are Such Fools (1938) - Nancy
- Racket Busters (1938) - Gladys
- Mr. Chump (1938) - Betty Martin
- Boy Meets Girl (1938) - Peggy
- Secrets of an Actress (1938) - Miss Reid
- Garden of the Moon (1938) - Miss Calder
- The Mad Miss Manton (1938) - Frances Glesk
- Hard to Get (1938) - Hattie
- Blondie (1938) - Blondie
- Blondie Meets the Boss (1939) - Blondie
- Blondie Takes a Vacation (1939) - Blondie
- Blondie Brings Up Baby (1939) - Blondie
- Blondie on a Budget (1940) - Blondie
- Blondie Has Servant Trouble (1940) - Blondie
- Blondie Plays Cupid (1940) - Blondie
- Blondie Goes Latin (1941) - Blondie
- Blondie in Society (1941) - Blondie
- Go West, Young Lady (1941) - Belinda Pendergast
- Blondie Goes to College (1942) - Blondie
- Blondie's Blessed Event (1942) - Blondie
- Blondie for Victory (1942) - Blondie
- It's a Great Life (1943) - Blondie
- Footlight Glamour (1943) - Blondie
- Leave It to Blondie (1945) - Blondie
- Life with Blondie (1945) - Blondie
- Young Widow (1946) - Peg Martin
- Blondie's Lucky Day (1946) - Blondie
- Blondie Knows Best (1946) - Blondie
- Blondie's Big Moment (1947) - Blondie
- Blondie's Holiday (1947) - Blondie
- Blondie in the Dough (1947) - Blondie
- Blondie's Anniversary (1947) - Blondie
- Blondie's Reward (1948) - Blondie
- Blondie's Secret (1948) - Blondie
- Blondie's Big Deal (1949) - Blondie
- Blondie Hits the Jackpot (1949) - Blondie
- Blondie's Hero (1950) - Blondie
- Beware of Blondie (1950) - Blondie
- The Best Man (scenes deleted, 1964)
- Jetsons: The Movie (1990) - Jane Jetson (voice)
- Belle of the Night (1930)
- Campus Cinderella (1938)
- Screen Snapshots Series 19, No. 1 (1939)
- Pulitzer Prize Playhouse (1950) - Wilhelmina
- Frances Farmer Presents (1958) - Belinda Pendergast
- The Quick Draw McGraw Show (1959) – The Cattle Battle Rattled – Wife
- The Jetsons (1962–1963, 1985–1987) - Jane Jetson (voice)
- Death Valley Days (1963) - Maggie Franklin
- The Twilight Zone (1964) - "Sounds and Silences"- Mrs. Flemington
- Murder, She Wrote (1986) – "The Perfect Foil" – Aunt Mildred
- Rockin' with Judy Jetson (1988) - Jane Jetson (voice)
- The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones (1989) - Jane Jetson (voice)
- Hanna-Barbera's 50th: A Yabba Dabba Doo Celebration (1989) - Jane Jetson (voice)
- The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera (1990) - Jane Jetson (voice)
- Sky High (1925)
- Sweetheart Time (1926)
- The Great Temptations (1926)
- Good News (1928) (replacement for Zelma O'Neal)
- Hey Nonny Nonny! (1932)
- Call Me Madam (1959)
- Never Too Late (1964)
- No, No, Nanette (1971) (replacement for Ruby Keeler)
- No, No, Nanette (1974)
- Little Me (1983)
- The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera (ride) (1990) – Jane Jetson (voice)
- "Penny Singleton Dies at 95; Played Blondie in Film Series (Published 2003)". Associated Press. November 15, 2003 – via NYTimes.com.
- Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 685. ISBN 9781557835512.
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- Coons, Robbin (October 16, 1937). "In Hollywood: Luck of Penny Singleton Does Not Hold in Movies". Chillicothe Gazette. p. 11. Retrieved August 29, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924–1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 267–268. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4.
- "Radio and Television: Joel McCrea and Penny Singleton to Star on N.B.C. Summer-Evening Shows". The New York Times. May 9, 1950. p. 58 – via ProQuest.
- "Radio Television for Week Ending June 26". Altoona Tribune. June 20, 1950. p. 13. Retrieved August 29, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- Douglas B. Green, Singing In The Saddle, 2002/Vanderbilt Univ. Press & Country Music Foundation Press. Pg. 210.
- "Penny Singleton Dies at 95; Played Blondie in Film Series". The New York Times. The Associated Press. November 15, 2003. p. C16.
- Wilson, Earl (December 31, 1968). "It Happened Last Night". Courier-Post. p. 21. Retrieved August 29, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- Thomas, Bob (March 16, 1964). "Penny Singleton -- AGVA Racket Buster". The Evening Times. p. 6. Retrieved August 29, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Vaudeville: 5 Year Suspension for Penny". Variety. 227: 49, 52. June 6, 1962 – via ProQuest.
- "Penny Singleton Files Suit In Reply to A.G.V.A. Aide". The New York Times. August 30, 1962. p. 28.
- "Suit of Penny Singleton Against A.G.V.A. Dismissed". The New York Times. November 13, 1963. p. 38.
- Phillips, Cabell (June 13, 1962). "Senators Hear of B-Girls' Role; Witness Accuses Artists' Guild: Penny Singleton Says Union Ignores Members' Interests 'Degradation' Charged". The New York Times. p. 27 – via ProQuest.
- "Required to be B-Girls, Phila. Singer Testifies". Philadelphia Daily News. June 12, 1962. p. 1. Retrieved August 29, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- Wong, Herman (August 19, 1970). "No Progress Reported in Disneyland Strike". The Los Angeles Times. p. 5. Retrieved August 29, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Artists Guild Puts Pickets at Disneyland". The South Bend Tribune. August 10, 1970. p. 3. Retrieved August 29, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Penny Singleton a Mother". The New York Times. October 10, 1942. p. 11 – via ProQuest.
- Vallance, Tom (November 15, 2003). "Penny Singleton". The Independent. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
- Morning News, January 10, 1948, Who Was Who in America (Vol. 2)
- Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers
- "Penny Singleton". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Archived from the original on August 29, 2019. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
- "Penny Singleton: Credits". TV Guide. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
- Bradley, Edwin M. (June 14, 2015). The First Hollywood Sound Shorts, 1926–1931. McFarland. p. 246. ISBN 978-1-4766-0684-2.
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- "Murder, She Wrote : Perfect Foil (1986): Cast and Crew". AllMovie. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
- Dietz, Dan (April 10, 2019). The Complete Book of 1920s Broadway Musicals. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 249, 304. ISBN 978-1-5381-1282-3.
- Dietz, Dan (March 29, 2018). The Complete Book of 1930s Broadway Musicals. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 207. ISBN 978-1-5381-0277-0.
- "Call Me Madam Will Open Tonight". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. August 10, 1959. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
- Scherling, Carol Lynn. Blonde Goes to Hollywood: The Blondie Comic Strip in Films, Radio & Television. BearManor Media. p. 325.
- Gilbert, Ruth (August 23, 1971). "In and Around Town: Theater". New York Magazine.
- Green, Kay (1996). Broadway Musicals, Show by Show. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 47. ISBN 9780793577507.