Broadway legend Carol Channing (97) dies

2019-01-15 15:45
carol channing

New York - Carol Channing, the lanky, ebullient musical comedy star who delighted American audiences over almost 5000 performances as the scheming Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly on Broadway and beyond, has died. She was 97.

Publicist B. Harlan Boll said Channing died of natural causes at 12:31 on Tuesday in Rancho Mirage, California. Boll says she had twice suffered strokes in the last year.

Besides Hello, Dolly, Channing starred in other Broadway shows, but none with equal magnetism. She often appeared on television and in nightclubs, for a time partnering with George Burns in Las Vegas and a national tour.

Her outsised personality seemed too much for the screen, and she made only a few movies, notably The First Traveling Saleslady with Ginger Rogers and Thoroughly Modern Millie with Julie Andrews.

Over the years, Channing continued as Dolly in national tours, the last in 1996, when she was in her 70s. Tom Shales of The Washington Post called her "the ninth wonder of the world."

She was born 31 Januray 1921, in Seattle, where her father, George Channing, was a newspaper editor.

At the age of 7, Channing decided she wanted to become an entertainer. She credited her father with encouraging her: "He told me you can dedicate your life at 7 or 97. And the people who do that are happier people."

Others who have played the role include Pearl Bailey, Phillis Diller, Betty Grable, Ethel Merman, Martha Raye, Ginger Rogers and Barbra Streisand, who played Dolly in a 1969 film version directed by Gene Kelly. Bette Midler won a Tony Award in the role in 2017.

Channing had two early marriages that ended in divorce — to novelist Theodore Naidish and pro footballer Alexander Carson, father of her only child, Channing. Her son became a successful political cartoonist.

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