This June 27, 2007 file photo shows singer and actress Carol Channing in Concord, N.H. Channing, whose career spanned decades on Broadway and on television has died at age 97. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

Broadway legend Carol Channing has died at age 97

Her outsized personality seemed too much for the screen, and she made only a few movies

Carol Channing, the lanky, ebullient musical comedy star who delighted American audiences over almost 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.”

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.

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.”

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Quebec police continue search for father, one day after missing girls found dead

Bodies were found in a wooded area of Quebec City suburb

Red Deer up to 4 active COVID-19 cases

Province announced 77 new confirmed cases across Alberta Friday

Samson chief election set for July 14

Nine candidates, including the incumbent, running

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

How Conservative leadership hopefuls would address the WE scandal if they win

The ethics commissioner has been called in to see if Trudeau broke conflict-of-interest law

With debt, deficit numbers out, experts say Liberals need plan for growth

Borrowing will push the federal debt past $1 trillion by the end of the fiscal year

Pedestrian-only downtown a hit with residents as St. John’s adapts to pandemic

‘The city really got this right this time. We’re very happy’

Bosnian-Canadians mark 25th anniversary of Srebrenica massacre

‘It’s sad for a child to think that it’s normal, actually, to … have family members killed’

PODCAST: COVID-19 and the US Election

The Expert welcomes Burman University Political Scientist Marc Froese

Sylvan Lake RCMP continue search for missing man

43-year-old Steven Hull’s last known whereabouts were in the Sylvan Lake area on May 28

Most Read