Penny Singleton

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Penny Singleton
Penny Singleton in 1938
Mariana Dorothy McNulty

(1908-09-15)September 15, 1908
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedNovember 12, 2003(2003-11-12) (aged 95)
Resting placeSan Fernando Mission Cemetery, Mission Hills, Los Angeles
OccupationActress, labor leader
Years active1925–1990
Laurence Scroggs Singleton
(m. 1937; div. 1939)

Robert Sparks
(m. 1941; died 1963)
ChildrenDorothy, Susan[1]

Penny Singleton (born Mariana Dorothy McNulty, September 15, 1908[2] – 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 1962–1963.

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.

Early life[edit]

Singleton was born in Philadelphia to Bernard J. "Benny" McNulty and Mary Dorothy McNulty,[3] She began performing professionally as a child, and only completed sixth grade in her schooling.[4]


Penny Singleton as Blondie and Arthur Lake as Dagwood Bumstead, from a 1944 publicity photograph: A smiling white woman with blonde curls and a striped pinafore apron; a smiling white man wearing a bow tie; a small dog posed between their shoulders; and a microphone in front of them, labeled "Blue"
Penny Singleton as Blondie and Arthur Lake as Dagwood Bumstead, from a 1944 publicity photograph

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.[3]

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.[5][6][7]

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.[8] She provided the voice of Jane Jetson in the 1962–63 animated series, The Jetsons.[9]

Labor activism[edit]

Singleton was active in union affairs, as a vocal member of the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA).[10] She was elected president of the AGVA in 1958–1959,[11] and again in 1969–1970.[3] Her union membership was suspended in 1962,[12] when she was accused of slandering some of the union's officers, and she countersued.[13] 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.[14] "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.[15]

Singleton was reinstated as a union member in 1963, after the dispute reached a legal settlement.[11][16] In 1967, she led a successful month-long strike by the Radio City Rockettes for better working conditions.[3] During her presidency, she led negotiations with Disney, during a variety artists' strike at Disneyland in 1970.[17][18]

Personal life and legacy[edit]

Singleton married Laurence Scroggs Singleton, a dentist, in 1937; they divorced in 1939, with her keeping the "Singleton" surname as part of her stage name the rest of her life. She was married to Robert C. Sparks, a Marine Corps officer and film producer, from 1941 until his death in 1963.[19][20] Singleton had two daughters, Dorothy and Susan.[9] She was a Roman Catholic[21] and a Democrat who supported Adlai Stevenson in the 1952 presidential election.[22]

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.[23] The star for radio is located at 6811 Hollywood Boulevard, and her film star is at 6547 Hollywood Boulevard.[23]


On November 12, 2003, Singleton died at the age of 95 of respiratory failure, in Sherman Oaks, California.[9][3]



Sourced from TV Guide[24]

Short subjects[edit]

  • Belle of the Night (1930)[25]
  • Campus Cinderella (1938)[26]
  • Screen Snapshots Series 19, No. 1 (1939)[citation needed]

Television credits[edit]

Stage work[edit]

Theme parks[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ a b c d e Luther, Claudia (November 14, 2003). "Penny Singleton, 95; Actress Played Blondie in 28 Movies, on Radio". The Los Angeles Times. p. 106. Retrieved August 29, 2019 – via
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "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.
  7. ^ "Radio Television for Week Ending June 26". Altoona Tribune. June 20, 1950. p. 13. Retrieved August 29, 2019 – via
  8. ^ Douglas B. Green, Singing In The Saddle, 2002/Vanderbilt Univ. Press & Country Music Foundation Press. Pg. 210.
  9. ^ a b c "Penny Singleton Dies at 95; Played Blondie in Film Series". The New York Times. The Associated Press. November 15, 2003. p. C16.
  10. ^ Wilson, Earl (December 31, 1968). "It Happened Last Night". Courier-Post. p. 21. Retrieved August 29, 2019 – via
  11. ^ a b c Thomas, Bob (March 16, 1964). "Penny Singleton -- AGVA Racket Buster". The Evening Times. p. 6. Retrieved August 29, 2019 – via
  12. ^ "Vaudeville: 5 Year Suspension for Penny". Variety. 227: 49, 52. June 6, 1962 – via ProQuest.
  13. ^ "Penny Singleton Files Suit In Reply to A.G.V.A. Aide". The New York Times. August 30, 1962. p. 28.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ "Required to be B-Girls, Phila. Singer Testifies". Philadelphia Daily News. June 12, 1962. p. 1. Retrieved August 29, 2019 – via
  16. ^ "Suit of Penny Singleton Against A.G.V.A. Dismissed". The New York Times. November 13, 1963. p. 38.
  17. ^ Wong, Herman (August 19, 1970). "No Progress Reported in Disneyland Strike". The Los Angeles Times. p. 5. Retrieved August 29, 2019 – via
  18. ^ "Artists Guild Puts Pickets at Disneyland". The South Bend Tribune. August 10, 1970. p. 3. Retrieved August 29, 2019 – via
  19. ^ "Penny Singleton a Mother". The New York Times. October 10, 1942. p. 11 – via ProQuest.
  20. ^ Vallance, Tom (November 15, 2003). "Penny Singleton". The Independent. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
  21. ^ Morning News, January 10, 1948, Who Was Who in America (Vol. 2)
  22. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers
  23. ^ a b "Penny Singleton". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Archived from the original on August 29, 2019. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  24. ^ "Penny Singleton: Credits". TV Guide. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  25. ^ Bradley, Edwin M. (June 14, 2015). The First Hollywood Sound Shorts, 1926–1931. McFarland. p. 246. ISBN 978-1-4766-0684-2.
  26. ^ Lentz, Harris M. III (October 24, 2008). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2003: Film, Television, Radio, Theatre, Dance, Music, Cartoons and Pop Culture. McFarland. p. 372. ISBN 978-0-7864-5208-8.
  27. ^ "Murder, She Wrote : Perfect Foil (1986): Cast and Crew". AllMovie. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  28. ^ a b Dietz, Dan (April 10, 2019). The Complete Book of 1920s Broadway Musicals. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 249, 304. ISBN 978-1-5381-1282-3.
  29. ^ Dietz, Dan (March 29, 2018). The Complete Book of 1930s Broadway Musicals. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 207. ISBN 978-1-5381-0277-0.
  30. ^ "Call Me Madam Will Open Tonight". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. August 10, 1959. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  31. ^ Scherling, Carol Lynn. Blonde Goes to Hollywood: The Blondie Comic Strip in Films, Radio & Television. BearManor Media. p. 325.
  32. ^ Gilbert, Ruth (August 23, 1971). "In and Around Town: Theater". New York Magazine.
  33. ^ Green, Kay (1996). Broadway Musicals, Show by Show. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 47. ISBN 9780793577507.

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