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Penny Singleton

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Biography
Filmography
Photos
Quotes


Birth Name:  Mariana Dorothy Agnes Letitia McNulty
Born:  September 15, 1908 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Died:  November 12, 2003 in Sherman Oaks, California
Cause of Death:  Complications of a Stroke



Biography:  Penny Singleton was born Mariana Dorothy Agnes Letitia McNulty (Wow!  What a name!).  Her father was an Irish Philadelphia newspaperman named Benny McNulty.  On a side note, Benny McNulty was related to Jim Farley, Franklin Roosevelt's campaign manager and later Postmaster General.

    As a child, Mariana (who went by first name Dorothy), sang songs at a silent movie theatre.  After the sixth grade she joined a touring vaudeville act called "The Kiddie Kabaret".  She married a dentist named Lawrence Scogga Singleton in 1937 and took his last name.  Dorothy changed her first name to Penny because she saved large amounts of penny coins.  Thus, "Penny Singleton" was born, in a manner of speaking.  Before she became credited in films as Penny Singleton, she was listed in the credits as Dorothy McNulty.  A really great Dorothy McNulty appearance to see is "After the Thin Man" from 1936 where she plays a tough nightclub dancer.  She sings and dances in this film, which is also a treat.  In this film, she is not the wholesome American housewife figure we came to expect in the "Blondie" films.  In the second of the Thin Man movies, her character is quite a trampy bimbo.  Also in this film, and in others before she became Blondie, Penny Singleton is a brunette.  Penny was born a brunette, and bleached her hair blonde specifically for the Blondie role.  She kept that hair color for most of the rest of her life.

    Dorothy (Penny) also acted/sang/danced in the 1938 movie Humphrey Bogart regarded as his worst ever, "Swing Your Lady".  But later that year, she was cast as Blondie alongside Arthur Lake as Dagwood and movie history was made.  This is still the longest-running film series in terms of number of films made in a period of time; 28 Blondie films were made in 12 years.  Penny Singleton later divorced Dr. Lawrence Singleton in 1939, but kept his name for the rest of her life.  Together they had one daughter.  She married Robert Sparks in 1941 and remained married to him until his death on July 22, 1963.  They had one child together, too.  Penny never remarried again.

    Playing a popular comic strip character for 12 years tends to get a girl typecast, so after the film series ended in 1950 film work slowed down for Penny.  She did continue stage acting, but her next REALLY popular role came with the TV cartoon series "The Jetsons" in which she was the voice of Jane Jetson.  Penny did a lot of things outside of the movies, and was quite a humanitarian.  In 1966, Penny led the first strike of the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes and gained improved working conditions.  In 1969, she was elected president of AGVA (American Guild of Variety Artists).  In 1974, she received an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from St. John's University.  All this, plus she was the first woman president of an AFL-CIO union.  As you can tell, Penny kept herself plenty busy after Blondie...probably even more so than when she was making those films.

    On a final note, I started the Blondie movies' internet prescence in 2000.  I've been fortunate to have received e-mails from some of Penny Singleton's relatives.  One thing I always wanted to know is if she knew there was a website devoted to her or what she thought of it.  I was hoping to meet with her or talk with her someday.  Of course, that can never happen.  On November 12, 2003, Penny Singleton died due to complications of a stroke.  She was 95 years old.  Thank you and I hope you've enjoyed reading this biography of one of the movies' greatest leading ladies!

Penny Singleton Quotes:

    "God bless Chic Young!"  Penny said this referring to the creator of the Blondie comic strip.  His creation led to her success in films.

    "They threw parts at me that Claire Trevor didn't want."  Answering a question on how she broke into the movie business.  Claire Trevor was an actress that played every type of movie bad girl imaginable back in the day.

    "Women are really leaders.  A lot of them don't even know they are leaders, but they are."

Filmography:  In progress.

Photos:

Go to "Penny Singleton Gallery" Page 1