Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Happy birthday, Doris Singleton!
OTR-television-film actress Doris Singleton is celebrating her 91st natal anniversary today—having been born on this date in 1919 in New York City. The name might not immediately strike a bell but you’ve seen her face—and certainly heard her voice—in any number of movies, TV shows and radio programs from the past. Doris is probably best known among couch potatoes as Caroline Appleby, Lucy Ricardo’s rival and nemesis on the classic sitcom I Love Lucy. Star Lucille Ball tagged Doris’ character with the “Caroline” appellation because she supposedly knew someone by that name—though in the first episode Doris appeared in, “The Club Election,” the character’s first name is “Lillian.”
Singleton’s birth name was Dorothea Singleton, and early in her show business career she sang with the Art Jarrett Orchestra and danced (for three seasons) with the New York City Ballet. But it was her distinctive voice that made her a radio favorite, and she eked out an incredible career emoting over the ether, working alongside such greats as Alan Young, George Burns & Gracie Allen, Bob Hope, Jack Benny (she often played Mary Livingstone’s maid, Pauline), Ed Gardner (as one of the many “Miss Duffy’s” on Duffy’s Tavern) and (Bob) Sweeney & (Hal) March. Her other radio work includes appearances on The Adventures of Philip Marlowe, Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator, Broadway's My Beat, The CBS Radio Workshop, December Bride (on which she played Ruth Henshaw, the role played by Francis Rafferty in the TV version), Let George Do It, The Lux Radio Theatre, Meet Millie, My Little Margie, The NBC University Theater, Rocky Jordan, Stars Over Hollywood, Suspense, That's Rich, The Whistler, Young Love and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. Like so many other radio veterans, she also appeared occasionally on such programs as The Sears Radio Theater, the 1979 program that gamely attempted to bring back radio drama and comedy to a new generation of listeners.
It was while appearing on a broadcast of My Favorite Husband that Doris struck up a friendship with Lucille Ball, who kept her in mind when I Love Lucy came around—and she would also guest star on the comedienne’s The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy. Singleton also landed regular roles on TV’s The Great Gildersleeve and My Three Sons—and played Susie, the sympathetic next-door neighbor to the Lucy-like Angel Smith in the short-lived sitcom Angel (1960-61), starring Annie Farge. Among the other TV series Doris guested on were such TDOY favorites as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Peoples’ Choice, Perry Mason, The Danny Thomas Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Pete and Gladys, Checkmate, The Twilight Zone, The Fugitive and Hogan’s Heroes.
As of this post, Doris is one of only three recurring cast members from I Love Lucy still living—the other two being OTR veteran Shirley Mitchell (best known as The Great Gildersleeve’s “Leila Ransom”—and who is scheduled to be at the Friends of Old-Time Radio convention in Newark, NJ this year Oct. 21-24) and Peggy Rea (The Waltons, The Dukes of Hazzard, Grace Under Fire). Singleton, who wed veteran OTR and TV comedy scribe Charlie Issacs in 1941 and was married to him until his death in 2002, is most deserving of a birthday shout-out from her friends at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.