Penny Singleton

Active - 1930 - 1990  |   Born - Sep 15, 1908   |   Died - Nov 12, 2003   |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

The daughter of a journalist and the niece of former U.S. Postmaster General James Farley, Penny Singleton spent a good portion of her childhood singing "illustrated" songs at Philadelphia movie theaters. After briefly attending Columbia University, Singleton -- billed under her given name, Dorothy McNulty -- made her Broadway debut as the energy-charged soubrette in the popular 1927 musical Good News. She repeated this vivacious performance in the 1930 film version, then settled into "other woman" and gold digger parts, the best of which was in 1936's After the Thin Man. Upon her marriage to dentist Lawrence Singleton, Singleton changed her professional name. When Shirley Deane was unable to play the title role in Columbia's 1938 filmization of Chic Young's comic strip Blondie, Singleton dyed her hair blonde to qualify for the part. She ended up starring in 28 Blondie B-pictures between 1928 and 1950, with Arthur Lake co-starring as hubby Dagwood Bumstead. During this period, she married for the second time to Blondie producer Robert Sparks. When Blondie folded, Singleton returned to the nightclub singing and dancing work that she'd been doing in the mid-'30s. As an officer in the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA), Singleton lobbied for better and more equitable treatment of professional chorus dancers, a stance that earned her several powerful enemies in management (and the Mob). Inactive as a performer for several years, Singleton returned to acting in the early '60s, playing a supporting part in The Best Man (1964) and providing the voice of Jane Jetson on the prime-time animated TV series The Jetsons. Penny Singleton later revived her Jane Jetson characterization for several theatrical and made-for-TV animated features, and also appeared in a cameo role on the weekly Angela Lansbury series Murder She Wrote.

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