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