Blondie: A Look Back At The Actors of the Film Series

Let’s go back to the beginning. The first real Blondie movie was made in 1938. (The name “Blondie” appears in various forms from Blondie of the Follies in 1932 to Bye Bye Blondie in 2010, neither of which had anything to do with our Blondie). The character started as a comic strip drawn by Chic Young in 1930. Her name was Blondie Boopadoop until 1933 when she married Dagwood Bumstead.

This feels really silly to write, but it is all true.

Enter Penny Singleton (1908 – 2003). She is the quintessential Blondie, and Arthur Lake (1905 – 1987) was perfect as Dagwood. Penny wasn’t really a blonde, but she remained that way after she got the role.  (She was still blonde when I met her in the 1980s).  They made 28 Blondie films from 1938 to 1950.  Let’s look at the rest.

Husband-and-wife actors Kathleen  and Gene Lockhart are both in Blondie. They worked together some 21 times. As I mentioned before, they are the parents of June Lockhart, famous for Lassie on TV. The three of them worked together on one film, A Christmas Carol in 1938.

Child actor Larry Simms (b. 1934) played Baby Dumpling in the Blondie series. He was also in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), and a few other films. Unfortunately, there isn’t much information online about him. However, 28 of his 36 films were from the Blondie series.

Jonathan Hale (1891 – 1966) played Mr. Dithers, Dagwood’s boss. He has 244 roles listed on IMDb starting in movies in 1934 before moving into TV, with his last listed role on Kraft Suspense Theater in 1965.  He was in in 1936 with Rosina Lawrence. While he was making the Blondie series he also had a recurring role in the Saint series. He was a hard worker, making over 80 films throughout the 1940s.

The fun part about doing my blog is looking at a name you know nothing about and checking out their filmography. For example,  Mr. Beazley, the mailman was played by Irving Bacon (1893 – 1965). He is another gold mine to be explored. Bacon started making films in 1923 with the Keystone Studio and Mack Sennett. He made the switch to talkies and eventually to television.  IMDb lists 515 roles to his credit.  Yes, 515!  He was in a dozen or so Blondie films, but look for him also in nine Frank Capra feature films. I recognize his face, but I doubt I ever heard his name.

Movies of this era are rich with the best in Bit Actors!

Allen Hefner has been interested in movies since an early age, attending the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA for every Saturday Matinee during his youth, when 50 cents bought you a two-reeler (usually The Three Stooges or Laurel and Hardy), a few cartoons, and a feature film. As a member of The Sons of the Desert,he was privileged to enjoy the company of many film buffs, and to meet many stars of the past. Write to him anytime at bitactors@gmail.com and visit Bit Part Actors.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kenneth.m.henderson Kenneth Henderson

    Blondie should be restored to its original graphics & put on DVD in acceptable copies. As a King Features property maybe Warners could have a go at this sometime?

  • Christine Harrison

    It’s also worth noting that Penny Singleton went on to work for the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA), campaigning for better pay and working conditions for performers. At one point, she even led the Rockettes in a strike against Radio City Music Hall. She was obviously no dumb blonde in real life!

  • Allen Hefner

    Penny was a wonderful person to know. She did a lot to obtain royalty payments for performers, and she seemed to enjoy her life as an actress and advocate. My guess is that the compensation for doing the voice of Jane Jetson would have been slight, unless she secured royalties.

  • GPASQUA

    Penny Singleton is also featured on the MGM/WB DVD of the film “Good News”.

    She was in the 1930 film version and sings the title song and “The Varsity Drag” Since the 1930′s version is missing the last reel it hasn’t been put on DVD, but Penny’s numbers are on the 1947 Color remake DVD (June Alyson/Peter Lawford) her name was diffent then – and she’s not blonde – but it is Penny

  • GPASQUA

    Penny plays “Flo” (as Dorothy McNulty)

  • CE Carter

    I’m still a fan of the Blondie movies. Some are available on DVD. A number of decades ago when I saw actor Nicholas Pryor in the TV mini series Washington Behind Closed Doors with Jason Robards and Cliff Robertson I thought Pryor would be an excellent choice for Dagwood Bumstead if the Blondie movies were remade.

  • William Flax

    I always liked Penny Singleton as an actress; so please do not take this as disparaging her in any way; but you have failed to acknowledge the excellent talent of the dog who played Daisy. She also appeared in some other movies of the era–although it is too long ago for me to remember which ones, but she really was quite talented.

  • David Ecklein

    I agree with Kenneth Henderson that the “Blondie” films should be restored and reissued in their entirety. They are not only quite amusing, but also document a little late 30s and early 40s white-collar home life. And the intros should be restored – there are cheap versions of some that have a ludicrous and grating fifties TV introduction tacked on.

  • Kay Calhoun

    Please never remake these! These were made reflecting the times and ethos of the day they were made, one that is like hieroglyphics to most today, they’d ruin it putting today’s sensibilities (or lack thereof) into it. Leave these gems alone, just please put them into a great transfer on dvds/blu-ray :)

  • Ted E. Limpert

    Jonathan Hale was a good performer. He had an unusually distinctive, resonant voice for a character actor. I always wondered why he quit playing Mr. Dithers long before the series ended. Jerome Cowan replaced him as Dagwood’s new boss. I must be one of the few people who enjoyed Patricia Harty as the TV Blondie and Will Hutchens as Dagwood. Jim Backus played Mr. Dithers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kenneth.m.henderson Kenneth Henderson

    Blondie on TV was on NBC in 1957 with Arthur Lake recreating his role as Dagwood. There were some differences in names of screen Blondie characters to the comic books.There was a full series although some episodes are unnumbered. I saw them all at the time in Australia as a Saturday morning show along with Peter Lawford’s series or the Ann Sothern Show or even Gale Storm. It varied as episodes available were run. Pamela Britton played Blondie.

    CBS tried to revive the show in 1968 with 13 episodes. Patricia Harty played Blonde. I may have seen this show.

    Dorothy McNulty(Penny Singleton) songs in the first, I think, Thin Man film at MGM. In Good News(1930) she is very energetic to say the least & I guess it would not be too hard to see her in this roles as Blondie. That Good News is not on DVD might change as Warners have released Jack Benny’s Chasing Rainbows(1930)which is totally missing two numbers that were in 2-strip Technicolor & the black & white versions have not been found either if they did exist in any print shipped out. But with Good News, I believe the soundtrack does exist & someone was selling this with stills in place of the visuals. I have the surviving Good News musical numbers on Laserdisc in the Dawn of Sound sets MGM-UA put out back in the 1990s(there were 3-sets, compiled by the man responsible for the programming of the Warner Archive Collection series).

    Penny/Dorothy’s brother, was the inventor of the Teleprompter system used in TV stations around the world. A lot better than some guy holding up large sheets of paper with lines done with a marker pen.

  • Carol Stendahl

    I think my uncle, Don Beddoe, played the mailman in some of those movies.

    • http://www.facebook.com/clayton.self.1232 Clayton Self

      Don Beddoe was the neighbor not the mailman…:)

  • Allen Hefner

    IMDb credits four different Blondie Bumsteads. Penny Singleton, Pamela Britton (1957 TV), Patricia Harty (1968-69 TV), and Loni Anderson in an animated pair of 30 minute shows in the late 1980s.

    Daisy the Dog has 42 titles on IMDb, starting with Blondie in 1938 and continuing for 13 years. Her last role was in a 1951 B-Western called Badman’s Gold.

  • Lois Bral

    I met Penney Singleton in the 1980′s at Caesar’s Palace in las Vegas. She was with another actor I believe was E. G. Marshall. I said to Penney “You are Penny Singleton aren’t you and she said “Yes”. I asked about Arthur Lake and she said he was doing well. I have a feeling that not many recognized her. I am a movie buff and saw all the Dagwood Movies.

  • Caren Christensen

    I remember the Blondie movies fondly. The various characters: Baby Dumpling, Daisy, Mr. Dithers (the first one was best), the mailman and Cookie(?) the baby. Each character was an important part of the fabric that made the “Blondie” mo- vies. Remember the catchy theme tune? It always appealed to me and I can sing it, every word, to this day. You could NEVER duplicate these early movies. There would be foul language and sex added that would alter the innocense and charm and then it would not be “Blondie” at all. With the arrival of Cookie,Baby Dumpling wanted another name so his did not sound so childish. I can not remember that name?

    • rmwayne

      I think that’s when they started calling Baby Dumpling, Alexander. And you’re so right about the foul language and sex if they made Blondie movies today. It’s gotten to the point where it’s ridiculous. The powers that be in Hollywood nowadays act as if no movie or any TV show for that matter can be filmed without the characters acting like foul mouthed trash.

    • Daisy

      His name was Alexander, same as in the comic strip.

  • Amy Keys

    I HAVE & LOVE ALL 28 BLONDIE MOVIES THAT I HAVE ON 9 DVDs. They are wonderful! I very much admired Penny & Arthur & ALL the actors involved for their acting talents in these wonderful classic comedies that are still fun to watch!
    @ Caren Christensen on 10/14/10: Baby Dumpling’s name was changed to Alexander.
    AND YES, Daisy was extremely talented! She was a he for those who didn’t notice that… but it doesn’t matter in the least to me! My dog, Nina (pitbull) watches the movies with me (very intently)… and everytime Daisy comes on (and/or the puppies), she barks and jumps up and down, and then stops and watches Daisy recover the Newspaper every single time! She seems to want to go outside a lot when our mailman arrives everyday now in his truck!! LOL I even got her to sit up & beg like Daisy & Elmer do, by telling her to “Do it like Daisy does”.
    I am so glad to have some light-hearted classic comedies that are just wonderful! If Penny & Arthur were still alive, I would love to be able to meet them one day! It takes me back to my childhood too watching them. I love them just the way they are in B&W, and the quality on the DVDs is great, I don’t see any problem with it at all! I wouldn’t change a thing about them!!! The only thing I wish is that they made MORE of the movies at the time!!!

  • Dana Thompson

    I still sing that song, I loved watching this on Saturdays when I was a kid, what a great show, loved Blondie, lovable feet both flat, that’s what my Dagwood is

  • Bruce Reber

    I loved watching the “Blondie” movies when they ran on my local TV station Saturdays (WDCA channel 20 Washington, DC Metro area) in the early 70′s. Blondie (Penny Singleton) was the scatterbrained housewife and Dagwood (Arthur Lake) her bumbling husband. Through all the hilarity and pandemonium you could sense they had a true love for each other. It was fun watching them deal with the problems of everyday family life, and especially when Blondie would get Dagwood into trouble with his blowhard boss, Mr. Dithers, when one of her crazy schemes didn’t work out. The comic strip by Chic Young is still running in many newspapers, and there were two short-lived “Blondie” TV series – the first in 1957 and again in 1968. How about showing the “Blondie” movies again TCM? Either on Saturday or Sunday mornings. They’re great entertainment, filled with lots of love and laughs.

  • jan

    I wonder if Irving Bacon is the same guy who played the handyman/driver in ‘Holiday Inn’. Any one know? I agree – I love the Blondie movies. What fun to just sit and have a marathon of them.

  • Richy

    Arthur Lake also played the role on radio. I used to love his vocal double-takes

  • Guest

    I read somewhere that another actress had been selected to play Blondie. The film was to be a one-off project by Columbia. This actress dropped out, Penny Singleton was then auditioned and given the part at the last minute. Wondering if BLONDIE would have become a series with the other woman? Ms. Singleton and Arthur Lake were perfect foils for each other. Plus, Penny Singleton was a singer and a dancer – talents that she used to great advantage in the later BLONDIE films. So, YES, I DO remember Penny Singleton – Blondie, Jane Jetson, and what seems to be a swell kid all the way around. (I wish the DVD’s had the original Columbia credits as opposed to the syndicated television showings…but…that’s small ‘taters.) I dated a girl who looked just like Penny Singleton – but she couldn’t sing or dance very well – and she wasn’t blond (but neither was Ms. Singleton REALLY). Very glad that Dorothy McNulty became Penny Singleton who then became “BLOOONNNNNIIIEEEEEEE”

  • Steve

    I read somewhere that another actress had been selected to play Blondie. The film was to be a one-off project by Columbia. This actress dropped out, Penny Singleton was then auditioned and given the part at the last minute. Wondering if BLONDIE would have become a series with the other woman? Ms. Singleton and Arthur Lake were perfect foils for each other. Plus, Penny Singleton was a singer and a dancer – talents that she used to great advantage in the later BLONDIE films. So, YES, I DO remember Penny Singleton – Blondie, Jane Jetson, and what seems to be a swell kid all the way around. (I wish the DVD’s had the original Columbia credits as opposed to the syndicated television showings…but…that’s small ‘taters.) I dated a girl who looked just like Penny Singleton – but she couldn’t sing or dance very well – and she wasn’t blond (but neither was Ms. Singleton REALLY). Very glad that Dorothy McNulty became Penny Singleton who then became “BLOOONNNNNDDDIIIEEEEEEE”

  • John M

    Arthur Lake actually got caught up in the Black Dahlia case of the 1940s. Details can easily be obtained via a web search. Apparently, he had had a brief relationship (possibly for money) with Elizabeth Short, the murder victim. Lake was questioned by the LAPD regarding her death, but seemingly was never a suspect.

  • Daisy

    These films, as well as the ’57 TV version, were guilty pleasures of mine when I was a little girl. I hated the later version made in the ’60s. I also came to appreciate the comic strip, though I lost track of it years ago. The last thing I remember, Blondie & Cookie were starting up a catering business together, and Dagwood was still carrying on his friendly feud with neighbor, Herb. And I finally figured out what kind of a dog Daisy was – at least in the comic strip. She was a longhaired dachshund – though on TV and in the film series she was something else.