Who Was Carol Channing?
Carol Channing's earlier roles on Broadway included Proof Thro' the Night and Lend an Ear, but she became well-known after starring in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1949. The performer, known for her smile and raspy voice, won a Tony Award for Hello, Dolly! and a Golden Globe for her role in Thoroughly Modern Millie. She continued to star in stage and screen projects over the decades.
Early Career and Parents
Carol Channing was born on January 31, 1921 in Seattle, Washington. The daughter of a prominent newspaper editor who was very active in the Christian Science movement, Channing attended high school in San Francisco before enrolling at Bennington College in Vermont. She majored in drama and dance for one year before dropping out to try her luck as an actress in New York.
Movies & Broadway
'Gentleman Prefer Blondes'
Channing was an understudy in Broadway's Let's Face It (1941) before joining the cast of Proof Thro' the Night, which debuted on Christmas Day in 1942. With her megawatt wide-eyed grin and raspy voice, Channing made a name for herself years later in 1949 when she starred as Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. It was in this role that she immortalized the anthem "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend."
Though she lost the Lorelei Lee part to Marilyn Monroe in the comedy's 1953 film version, she remained active in nightclub and review appearances throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. She also continued on Broadway with roles in Wonderful Town (1953) and The Vamp (1955).
'Hello, Dolly!,' 'Thoroughly Modern Millie'
Her next Broadway hit did not arrive until 1964, when she played Dolly Gallegher Levi in the blockbuster musical Hello, Dolly!, which ran for several years. She won a Tony Award for her performance, but again forfeited the on-screen role to a young Barbra Streisand. In 1966 Channing starred in the 1966 TV special An Evening With Carol Channing, which earned three Emmy nominations. She later received an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe win for her supporting performance in 1967's Thoroughly Modern Millie. The film starred Julie Andrews, with Channing playing rich party host Muzzy Van Hossmere.
Channing has later starred in both Broadway and touring revivals of Hello, Dolly!, ultimately performing the title role more than 5,000 times. Throughout the decades she has also guest starred in television series and lent her signature voice to animated films, including Shinbone Alley (1971), Happily Ever After (1990) and Thumbelina (1994). She has supplied voices for the animated TV programs Where's Waldo?, The Addams Family and The Magic School Bus as well.
In 1995 Channing was honored at the Tony Awards with a Lifetime Achievement Award. In the new millennium, she published the 2002 autobiography Just Lucky I Guess. Later in the decade she performed in the one-woman show The First Eighty Years Are the Hardest.
Spouses and Son
Wed twice before, Channing was married to TV producer and manager Charles Lowe from 1956 until his death in 1999. She later married her junior high school sweetheart, Harry Kullijian, at the age of 82 in 2003. Kullijian passed away in 2011. Channing also has a son, Channing Carson, who is a well-known cartoonist.
Channing passed away on January 15, 2019, in California.
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