Penny Singleton (1908 – 2003)

Posted in Rewind by - October 21, 2014
Penny Singleton (1908 – 2003)

Lovely, freckly Penny Singleton had tremendous screen presence and, although her career was sporadic she proved early on to be a talented actress, comedienne, singer and dancer. Although she should have had better opportunities, Penny did find everlasting fame playing one of the golden ages favourite housewives.

Born Mariana Dorothy Agnes Letitia McNulty in Philadelphia, on 15th September 1908, Singleton’s screen career began in 1930 when she was billed as Dorothy McNulty. After co-starring in a handful of second features, Penny finally came to prominence when she had a supporting role in a hit comedy-sequel.

Playing spunky nightclub singer Polly Byrnes in the superb mystery ‘After the Thin Man’ (’36), Penny gave a memorable performance singing and dancing her way through this funny and suspenseful murder-mystery. In 1938 and now going by the name of Penny Singleton, she co-starred with Humphrey Bogart in a couple of forgettable features including ‘Swing Your Lady’, which at least provided Penny with more singing and dancing, even performing the title tune. That same year Singleton would find nationwide fame starring as the young housewife Blondie Bumstead in the domestic comedy ‘Blondie’ (’38), based on Chic Young’s hugely popular comic strip. Dying her natural brown hair for the role, singleton went on to play Blondie in 28 features in the next 12 years, before retiring from the screen in 1950.

After a twelve year absence, in 1962 Penny would again find a new audience when she became known to a new generation as the voice of homemaker Jane Jetson, in Hanna-Barbera’s popular animation series ‘The Jetsons’, which ran from 1962 to ’63, and again from the mid 80’s, where Singleton would reprise her role. Penny’s final work came in 1990 with ‘Jetsons: The Movie’, a perhaps unwise attempt to keep the series going, and it bombed at the box office.

Married twice with two children, Penny died in California, aged 95, on November 12th 2003. Penny Singleton may not have had the movie opportunities that befell her peers, but she was thankful for the role that made her famous, and ‘Blondie’ continues to endure, finding new generations of fans in this forever expanding digital age.

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