Connect with us
[bsa_pro_ad_space id=12]

Top Story CP

Effervescent ‘Hello, Dolly!’ icon Carol Channing mourned

Published

9 minute read

NEW YORK — Carol Channing, the lanky, ebullient musical comedy star who delighted American audiences over 5,000 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 a.m. 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 outsized 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.”

Messages of love and appreciation lit up Twitter early Tuesday, with the League of Professional Theatre Women saying Channing “was a gift of inspiration to so many.” Fans who saw her work also took to social media, calling her a “firecracker” and saying she was “matchmaking for the angels now.”

Veteran actress Bernadette Peters said Channing “was show business and love personified” and Margaret Cho said “you will forever be missed.” Viola Davis mourned: “You had a great run! Rest well.”

Channing was not the immediate choice to play Dolly, a matchmaker who receives her toughest challenge yet when a rich grump seeks a suitable wife. The show, which features a rousing score by Jerry Herman that’s bursting with joy and tunes like “Put On Your Sunday Clothes,” ”Before the Parade Passes By” and “It Only Takes a Moment,” is a musical version of Thornton Wilder’s play “The Matchmaker.”

Theater producer David Merrick told her: “I don’t want that silly grin with all those teeth that go back to your ears.” Even though director Gower Champion had worked on her first Broadway hit, “Lend an Ear,” he had doubts about Channing’s casting.

She wowed them in an audition and was hired on the spot. At opening night on Jan. 16, 1964, when Channing appeared at the top of the stairs in a red gown with feathers in her hair and walked down the red carpet to the Harmonia Gardens restaurant, the New York audience went crazy. The critics followed suit. “Hello, Dolly!” collected 10 Tony Awards, including one for Channing as best actress in a musical.

Channing was born Jan. 31, 1921, in Seattle, where her father, George Channing, was a newspaper editor. When his only child was 3 months old, he moved to San Francisco and worked as a writer for The Christian Science Monitor and as a lecturer. He later became editor-in-chief of Christian Science publications.

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.”

While majoring in drama and dance at Bennington College in Vermont, she was sent off to get experience in her chosen field. She found a job in a New York revue. The show lasted only two weeks, but a New Yorker magazine critic commented, “You will hear more about a satiric chanteuse named Carol Channing.” She said later: “That was it. I said goodbye to trigonometry, zoology and English literature.”

For several years she worked as an understudy, bit player and nightclub impressionist, taking jobs as a model, receptionist and sales clerk during lean times. Landing in Los Angeles, she auditioned for Marge Champion, wife and dance partner of Gower Champion who was putting together a revue, “Lend an Ear.” Marge Champion recalled: “She certainly was awkward and odd-looking, but her warmth and wholesomeness came through.”

Channing was the hit of “Lend an Ear” in a small Hollywood theatre, and she captivated audiences and critics when the show moved to New York. As the innocent gold digger in the musical “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” her stardom was assured. One reviewer reported she “hurls across the footlights in broad strokes of pantomime and bold, certain, exquisitely comical gestures.” The show’s hit song, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” became her signature number.

Over and over again she returned to the surefire “Hello, Dolly!,” which earned her $5 million on one tour. She considered Dolly Levi “a role as deep as Lady Macbeth,” but added that “the essence of her character was her unquenchable thirst for life.” That description fit Carol Channing, who attributed her sunny optimism to her lifelong faith in Christian Science.

Others who have played the role include Pearl Bailey, Phyllis 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 and a current national tour stars Betty Buckley.

The tour of “Hello, Dolly!” said Tuesday it would honour Channing at its current stop in California. “We are deeply saddened by the passing of the one and only Carol Channing. She was a ‘Dolly’ for the ages, and a true icon of the American theatre. Betty Buckley and the cast will dedicate tonight’s performance in San Diego to her memory.”

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.

In 1956 she married a television producer, Charles Lowe, who seemed like the perfect mate for a major star. He adopted Channing’s son and supervised every aspect of her business affairs and appearances. He reportedly viewed every one of her performances from out front, leading the applause.

After 41 years of marriage, she sued for divorce in 1998, alleging that he misappropriated her funds and humiliated her in public. She remarked that they only had sex twice in four decades.

“The only thing about control freak victims is that they don’t know who they are,” she told The Washington Post. “It’s taken me 77 years to figure that out. I was miserable. I was unhappy. And I didn’t realize it wasn’t my fault. But I’m going to survive. I’m going to live. I’m free.”

Lowe died after a stroke in 1999. Channing moved to Rancho Mirage near Palm Springs, California, in 2000 to write her memoirs. She called the book “Just Lucky, I Guess.”

Channing remarried in 2003 to Harry Kullijian, her childhood sweetheart from 70 years before. He died in 2011.

In her book, Channing recounted an early story from her childhood that showed a budding audience-pleasing performer. She wrote that she came home from kindergarten and noted that all the little girls hit the little boys.

Her parents asked: “Do you?”

She responded: “Oh no, I pet them.”

___

Associated Press writer Shawn Marsh in Trenton, New Jersey, contributed to this report.

___

Follow Mark Kennedy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press






Storytelling is in our DNA. We provide credible, compelling multimedia storytelling and services in English and French to help captivate your digital, broadcast and print audiences. As Canada’s national news agency for 100 years, we give Canadians an unbiased news source, driven by truth, accuracy and timeliness.

Follow Author

Top Story CP

CP NewsAlert: Struggling Detroit Lions fire head coach, GM

Published on

DETROIT — The struggling Detroit Lions have fired head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn.

The move comes two days after Detroit dropped a 41-25 decision to Houston.

The loss left Detroit (4-7) last in the NFC North.

Patricia was in his third season as Detroit’s head coach.

More coming.

The Canadian Press

Continue Reading

Top Story CP

Trudeau expects most Canadians could be vaccinated by September 2021

Published on

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed back against critics of his government’s COVID-19 vaccination plan with assurances most Canadians would be inoculated by September 2021, with a former NATO commander leading distribution.

Trudeau announced Friday that Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin will lead the nation’s vaccine distribution efforts, overseeing logistics that include cold storage requirements, data sharing, and reaching Indigenous communities.

He also acknowledged the public’s eagerness to know when those efforts might begin, but said what matters most is the “finish line.”

Trudeau said most citizens are expected to be vaccinated by September 2021, and it was important to make sure this was done as safely as possible.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo has suggested he hoped to see most Canadians vaccinated by the end of next year, but this is the most specific the Liberal government has been.

Njoo later said the Prime Minister’s prediction is “in the same ballpark” as previous rollout plans, and said September was a good target to work towards.

Trudeau said that plan positions Canada well, despite criticism the country may not start vaccinations as early as the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom.

“The fact that the doctors highlighted that if all goes according to plan, we should be able to have the majority of Canadians vaccinated by next September, puts us in very good stead,” Trudeau insisted.

“We’re going to continue to do everything we can to deliver for Canadians, listening to experts working with top people to make sure that we’re doing this, right, and quickly and safely for all Canadians.”

Ottawa has finalized agreements with five vaccine makers and is in advanced negotiations with two more.

The deals would secure 194 million doses with the option to buy another 220 million, said Arianne Reza, the assistant deputy minister with Public Services and Procurement Canada.

The news follows more alarming daily COVID-19 case numbers from Ontario, which reported a record 1,855 new cases, and 20 more deaths on Friday.

Quebec reported 1,269 new COVID-19 infections and 38 more deaths linked to the virus, including nine that occurred in the past 24 hours.

Nunavut announced four new cases of COVID-19.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Continue Reading

november, 2020

No Events

Trending

X