Joseph Singleton, a Single Sensation

Joseph Edward Singleton

Joseph Edward Singleton

Whos Who in the Film World, 1914

Joseph E. Singleton, Whos Who in the Film World, 1914


Joseph Edward Singleton was a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ an author, lecturer, world-traveler, a man who enjoyed walking[1], riding and swimming[2] (he was known as, The Australian Globe Trotter[3]), stage and film-actor, playwright, poet.[4] His parents were born in either England or Ireland[5] and then they moved to Australia, where Joseph was born in Melbourne, on July 9, 1878.[6] As with many of those who choose the acting life, Singleton had a floating birthdate, seen on differing official documents of the United States, with the following years making multiple appearances:  1877, 1878, 1879, 1880 and 1881. He was a tallish man at 6’ 1”, a 195 pound-medium build, blue eyes and brown hair; [7] Singleton, in early Hollywood, was considered the most handsome of actors.[8] He worked in moving-pictures from 1912 through 1925, with more than eighty credits to his résumé. His first appearance on screen was in The Tarantula, 1913; other notable films for Mr. Singleton: Reggie Mixes In, 1916, A Girl of the Timber Claims, 1917, Treasure Island and The Toll Gate, both in 1920.

Truly, Joseph Singleton was a man of the world, having visited, Russia, China, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, France, Germany, England and of course had walked his land of birth Australia.[9]  But his beginnings were not focused on acting; his first love was ranching, saying that he “never dreamed of anything else until the ‘bug’ got him!”[10]

In Australia, Singleton made his mark early, in variety shows, appearing with the Zeehan Brass Band (Zeehan, Tasmania, near the west coast), singing solos in 1899, with such ballads as, As a Mother Would Cherish Her Baby, and While London Sleeps.[11]

Zeehand and Dundas Herald, September 5, 1899

Zeehand and Dundas Herald, September 5, 1899


1901 found Mr. Singleton in the duties of a theatrical agent in Rockhampton, Australia;[12] he amassed quite the touring-company résumé, Down Under, appearing with George Musgrave (owner-manager of the Princess Theater in Melbourne[13]), J. C. Williamson, the Bland Holt Company, the Coulter Dramatic Company (1904)[14] and the William Anderson touring company. [15] In England, Singleton performed with Robert Courtnage of Drury Lane, of London.[16]

Exactly when Singleton arrived in the States is difficult to ascertain, but as early as late 1905, and no later than the spring of 1907 is the narrowest window available. In the summer of 1909 Singleton took up a wager and challenge from the Atlanta Journal, to walk from Atlanta to New York City, with no coat and no money; taking the weather as it came. Money was earned by the lectures that Singleton gave along the way recounting his many travels and particularly his walks. He and his traveling companions Charles Minter and C. I. Crockett left Broad Street in Atlanta on July 20, 1909 with their destination being Broadway in New York. Even with the schedule of walking six days a week and resting Sundays, trouble set in for Singleton and for Crockett, as both became ill, and physicians ordered the pair to stop in early September;.[17] Mr. Minter continued with the venture.

In 1910 Singleton made a temporary home as a lodger in Savannah, Georgia, there listed as a performer in the theater; Georgia appears to have been his home at least for a few years. His stage career was not well publicized, with few mentions by the press in the United States; he did find work as a part of The American Stock Company,[18] touring the mid-west and east.[19] Vaudeville saw a Joseph E. Singleton & Company tour, in 1912, with the playlet, Stage Struck.[20]

At some point Singleton made his way to New York (the heart and pulse of live theater) a mention is made in several ads for, The Miracle of Life, an October, 1915, release, referring to Singleton as a Broadway Favorite.[21] When this was I cannot tell what productions did he appear in? Full darkness is between us and Mr. Singleton’s history on Broadway.

O Where, O Where Did Joseph Singleton’s Scenarios Go?

An entire section of Mr. Singleton’s Hollywood work is missing from modern lists, his early employment was as a scenarist and the following are the films we know of: The Skull of Life, He Drew the Line, The Cross Roads, (1912 for Vitagraph); The Booster and The Perfect Woman;[22] excepting, The Cross Roads, the titles are to me untraceable, with no adverts located.

Singleton Snipped From Silver Screen History:

The Stolen Idol, featuring Margarita Fischer and Robert Leonard, directed by Otis Turner, which was released in June of 1913, is another lost credit for Mr. Singleton, this time in front of the camera.[23] December of 1914 saw the opening of, The Last Egyptian, directed by J. Farrell MacDonald, based a novel by L. Frank Baum, and adapted by the same for the screen. MacDonald co-starred with Vivian Reed and Singleton is left out in the cold with respect to credit for appearing in this film.[24]

In late 1914 the first four of a proposed series of twelve Mona Darkfeather two-reelers were finished for the California Feature Film Company, and the first, The Witch of the Sierras, was an early November opening,[25] The Skull Worshippers, with a Thanksgiving premier,[26] The Romance of a Red Princess, was also set for a Turkey Day release (through Sawyer, Inc.) on November 28, 1914, with, Her College Experience (originally titled: The Adventures of an Indian Maiden in the City and at College), scheduled for January of 1915.[27] Each was directed by Frank Montgomery (husband of Darkfeather) and the scenarios penned by Daniel F. Whitcomb. Others in front of the camera in the short-subjects were Raymond Nye, William Ryno, William H. Carroll, J. K. Messick and Anna Messick. The movies were filmed in the canyons north of Glendale and several hundred Native American extras were used for the productions.[28] I have been unable to find any evidence of actual release for either, The Romance of a Red Princess, or, Witch of the Sierras, in regards to advertising. Not only are Romance of a Red Princess, Witch of the Sierras and, The Skull Worshippers missing from Mr. Singleton’s work-history, but they are not listed on Mona Darkfeather’s modern résumé and the same goes for her husband, Frank Montgomery.

All About Singleton:

He married his first wife, Isabella, who was born in Carlton, Minnesota, around 1912 and the couple had three children, daughter, Thelma F. and twins Genevieve E. and Clifford J… We will assume that Isabella died sometime between 1920 and 1929, for Singleton married his second wife Ellen and the children were living with the couple in 1930.

Embarrassed Singleton:

In the summer of 1913 it was announced that Singleton and actress Iva Shepard were engaged to be married but that turned out to be a practical joke by some very merry publicist at Universal.[29] This was especially unkind to Singleton, since his first child Thelma had recently been born to him and his first wife Isabella.


By C. S. Williams


[1] Gaffney Ledger (Gaffney, South Carolina) July 30, 1909

[2] Motion Picture Studio Directory, 1916

[3] Gaffney Ledger (Gaffney, South Carolina) July 30, 1909

[4] Marion Star (Marion, Ohio) June 14, 1913 (this was a Universal Studio publicity release, which was also seen on

June 14, 1913, in two Hollywood trade magazines: Motography and Motion Picture News and also in the New

York Clipper

[5] This confusion comes from Singleton’s own statements in the US Federal Censuses of 1910 and 1920 as well as

his Naturalization Declaration of Intention

[6] Naturalization Declaration of Intention

[7] Motion Picture Studio Directory, 1916

[8] Motion Picture News, September 26, 1914

[9] Gaffney Ledger (Gaffney, South Carolina) July 30, 1909

[10] Eau Claire Leader (Eau Claire, Wisconsin) June 7, 1919

[11] Zeehan and Dundas Herald (Zeehan, Tasmania, Australia September 5, 1899)

[12] Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia) November 28, 1901

[13] The Argus (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) September 4, 1903

[14] Alexandra and Yea Standard (Alexandra, Victoria, Australia) August 12, 1904

Traralgon Record (Traralgon, Victoria, Australia( Friday, April 8, 1904

Riverine Herald (Echuca, Victoria, Moama, New South Wales, Australia) Wednesday, September 14, 1904

Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia) Saturday, December 24, 1904; Barrier Miner

[15] The Register (Adelaide, South Australia, Australia) Monday, May 8, 1905

[16] Who’s Who in the Film World, edited and compiled by Fred C. Justice and Tom R. Smith, Film World Publishing

Company, Los Angeles, 1914

[17] Gaffney Ledger (Gaffney, South Carolina) July 30, 1909

The Dispatch (Lexington, North Carolina) August 4, 1909

Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina) August 6, 1909

Washington Times (Washington, D.C.) September 13, 1909

[18] The Evening Telegram (Elyria, Ohio) January 26, 1912

[19] The New York Dramatic Mirror (New York, New York) Saturday, June 15, 1907

The Daily Times (Beaver, Pennsylvania)  Wednesday, Tuesday, October 6, 1908

[20] New Albany Public Press (New Albany, Indiana) September 24, 1912

[21] Kingston Daily Freeman (Kingston, New York) November 20, 1915

New Castle News (New Castle, Pennsylvania) November 23, 1915

Sandusky Register (Sandusky, Ohio) November 25, 1915

Daily Capital Journal (Salem, Oregon) December 8, 1915

Santa Cruz Evening News (Santa Cruz, California) January 7, 1916

Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Kansas) February 3, 1916

[22] Motion Picture Studio Directory, 1916

[23] Arizona Republican (Phoenix, Arizona) October 3, 1913

[24] Morning Herald (Uniontown, Pennsylvania) January 5, 1915

[25] Motography, October 17, 1914

Moving Picture World, November 7, 1914

[26] Reading Times (Reading, Pennsylvania) November 25, 1914

[27] Motion Picture News, October 24, 1914

[28] Motion Picture News, October 24, 1914

[29] Motion Picture World, August 16, 1913


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