Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Late Great Carol Channing

Carol Channing, star of Broadway, film, and television died yesterday, January 15 2019, at the age of 97. She will always be remembered as Dolly Levi in the original Broadway production of Hello, Dolly!.

Carol Channing was born on January 31 1921 in Seattle, Washington. Her father was a city editor at The Seattle Star and moved the family to San Francisco when Miss Channing was only two weeks old. She attended Bennington College in Vermont, where she majored in drama. She made her professional debut on stage in 1941 in No for an Answer in New York City. She made her Broadway debut in Let's Face It! in 1943. Miss Channing would appear several more times on Broadway, in the productions Proof Thro' the Night (1942), Lend an Ear (1948), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949), Wonderful Town (1953), The Vamp (1955), Show Girl (1961), Hello, Dolly! (1964), Four on a Garden (1971), Lorelei (1974), and two revivals of Hello, Dolly!.

While Carol Channing did not make many movies, her appearances on film would be significant. She made her film debut in Paid in Full in 1950. She then appeared in such films as The First Travelling Saleslady (1956), Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), and Skidoo (1968). She did voice work on the animated films Shinbone Alley (1970), Happily Ever After (1990), and Thumbelina (1994).

Carol Channing appeared frequently on television. She guest starred on Omnibus, Playhouse 90, The Red Skelton Show, The George Burns Show, Laugh-In, The Love Boat, Burke's Law, The Drew Carey Show, Touched by an Angel, and Style & Substance. She did voice work on several animated television shows, including Where's Waldo?, The Addams Family, and Family Guy. She was a frequent guest on variety shows, talk shows, and game shows, including such shows as The Colgate Comedy Hour, The Spike Jones Show, The Rosemary Clooney Show, The Perry Como Show, The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, Tonight Starring Jack Paar, The Gary Moore Show, The Andy Williams Show, Password, I've Got a Secret, What's My Line?, The Joey Bishop Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The David Frost Show, The Carol Burnett Show, Flip, The Dean Martin Show, The Hollywood Squares, Dinah!, The Mike Douglas Show, and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

Quite simply, Carol Channing was a force of nature. Vibrant, vivacious, and larger than life, few performers could deliver a song the way she could. There was no one like Miss Channing. She was utterly singular. She originated the role of Lorelei Lee in Gentleman Prefer Blondes on Broadway and she made the role of Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! so much her own that it is hard picturing anyone else in the role (the 1969 film adaptation with Barbara Streisand is proof of that). She sparkled as the eccentric Muzzy Van Hossmere in Thoroughly Modern Millie. Even when Miss Channing was not performing on stage or on film, she was very entertaining. A gifted conversationalist with an excellent sense of humour and perfect comedic timing, it was no wonder she was in so much demand on variety shows, talk shows, and game shows from the Fifties to the Eighties. Carol Channing was utterly unique, not simply for her appearance or for her voice, but because few ever had her talent or her enthusiasm for entertaining.

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