Channing, Carol 1923-
CHANNING, Carol 1923-
PERSONAL: Born January 31, 1923, in Seattle, WA; daughter of George (an editor and reporter) and Adelaide (Glaser) Channing; third marriage to Charles F. Lowe, September 5, 1956 (divorced, 1998); children: (second marriage) Channing George. Education: Attended Bennington College.
ADDRESSES: Agent—William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
CAREER: Actress. Broadway productions include No for an Answer, 1941; Let's Face It, 1941; Proof through the Night, 1942; So Proudly We Hail, 1948; Lend an Ear, 1948; Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1949, 1951-52; Wonderful Town, 1953; The Vamp, 1955; Show Business, 1959; Show Girl, 1961; George Burns-Carol Channing Musical Revue, 1962; The Million-airess, 1963; Hello Dolly, 1964-67 (three revivals); Carol Channing and Her Ten Stout-hearted Men, 1970; Four on a Garden, 1971; In Cabarets, 1972; Festival at Ford's, 1972; Carol Channing and Her Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Revue, 1972; Lorelei (tour), 1973-75; Jerry's Girls, 1984-85; Legends, 1986; and Carol's Broadway Revue (tour). Films include First Traveling Saleslady, 1956; Thoroughly Modern Millie, 1967; Skidoo, 1968; Shinbone Alley (voice), 1971; Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1978; Happily Ever After (voice), 1990; Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbelina (voice), 1994; and The Line King: Al Hirschfeld, 1996. Television productions include Svengali and the Blonde, Three Men on a Horse, and Crescendo. Television appearances in The Love Boat, 1977; Alice in Wonderland, 1985; Where's Waldo? (voice), 1991; Adams Family (voice), 1992; The Magic School Bus (voice), 1994; The Line King: Al Hirschfeld, 1996; and Homo Heights, 1998.
Recorded songs from shows and films; provided narration and vocals for recordings for children, including The Year without a Santa Claus, and Other Stories for Christmas, Caedmon, 1969; Madeline and the Gypsies, and Other Stories, Caedmon, 1970; Winnie-the-Pooh, Caedmon, 1972; Frederick and Ten Other Stories, Caedmon, 1976; Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day? and Great Big Schoolhouse, Caedmon, 1978; Tubby the Tuba, Caedmon, 1979; Coleman Jacoby's Mathilde Mouse and the Story of Silent Night, Caedmon, 1981; The House at Pooh Corner, Caedmon, 1981; Winnie-the-Pooh and Eeyore, Caedmon, 1982; Winnie-the-Pooh and Kanga and Roo, Caedmon, 1982; Winnie-the-Pooh and Tigger, Caedmon, 1982; Carol Channing Sings The Pooh Song Book, Caedmon, 1983; Richard Scarry's Great Big Mysteries and Please and Thank You Book, Caedmon, 1983; Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin, Caedmon, 1984; Peter and the Wolf, MusicMasters, 1991.
AWARDS, HONORS: Best Nightclub Act award, 1957; Theatre World award and Critics' Circle award, both for Lend an Ear; Antoinette Perry award for best actress and New York Drama Critics' award for best actress, both 1963, both for Hello Dolly; London Critics' award, for Carol Channing and Her Ten Stout-hearted Men; Golden Globe award for best supporting actress, and Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress, both 1967, both for Thoroughly Modern Millie; Theatre World award, 1978; Antoinette Perry Lifetime Achievement award, 1995.
Just Lucky I Guess: A Memoir of Sorts, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Theater legend Carol Channing was still reviving her famous role as Dolly Levi in the 1990s, when Channing was in her seventies. She has performed the role more than 5,000 times, and has missed only one performance, when she suffered food poisoning in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Her role of Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is almost as well known, as is her signature song from that show, "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." When Marilyn Monroe was given the role in the film version, the studio bought her a ticket to watch Channing perform it on stage, and Monroe attended every performance for three weeks. At the end of that time, she went backstage to visit Channing and said "That's my last show, and I was never bored." Channing spent four years in a condo in Rancho Mirage, California, near Palm Springs, where she wrote of her life "with pencil and eraser" for more than four years. The result is Just Lucky I Guess: A Memoir of Sorts, in which she talks about her more-than-half century in show business.
Channing also writes about her beginnings and being raised in San Francisco, the only child of Christian Science parents. Her father, a reporter who became editor of all of the church's publications, was a strong influence in her life. Channing studied dance with Jose Limon at Bennington College but dropped out when her career began to take off. It was difficult at first, because Channing in heels was six feet tall. Her first big break came when Marge Champion, of the dance team of Marge and Gower Champion, auditioned her for a part in Lend an Ear, which opened in California and came to New York the following year. Her role led to others, including the lead in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and films, notably Thoroughly Modern Millie, for which she received a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress.
Hello Dolly opened on Broadway on January 16, 1964, and Channing has played that role across the United States, in London, and in Australia. Liz Smith interviewed Channing for Interview in 1995, as Channing was about to revive the role of Dolly on Broadway. Smith asked her how this production was different from the 1964 version. Channing said that in the song "So Long, Dearie," "I used to do a discreet sideways bump. Now I can do it straightforwardly, and nobody minds." Smith asked if that meant that Dolly is "more liberated." "Yeah!" said Channing. "She's higher, wider, handsomer; it's the happiest year of my life, Liz, 'cause I know who Dolly is now."
At the age of seventy-seven Channing divorced Charles Lowe, her husband of forty-one years. She alleged that they had sex only twice in that time and that he had a long-running gay affair. She also alleged that he had spent huge sums of her money without her knowledge, including five million dollars while she was on tour with Hello Dolly, and was verbally and physically abusive. Channing filed in 1998, and Lowe died after suffering a stroke in 1999.
In her book Channing mentions the luminaries who were part of her life, celebrities like George Burns, Loretta Young, Marlene Dietrich, Yul Brynner, and Ethel Merman, and presidents, including Lyndon B. Johnson and John F. Kennedy, and their families. She notes that although Barbra Streisand w ono t her role for the film version of Hello Dolly! it turned out to be a flop. She also reveals her successful bout with ovarian cancer in the 1960s.
A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that "Channing's appeal has always been that of a lovable fruitcake, and she wisely chooses to tell her story in her own words, rather than employ a ghostwriter or an 'as told to' technique." "Chatty and colorful, it's like having Channing as the only guest on an afternoon talk show," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Booklist's Kathleen Hughes remarked of Just Lucky I Guess that "Broadway babies and showbiz aficionados are sure to get a kick out of this rollicking tale."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Channing, Carol, Just Lucky I Guess: A Memoir ofSorts, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 31, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000.
Booklist, November 1, 2002, Kathleen Hughes, review of Just Lucky I Guess: A Memoir of Sorts, p. 465.
Interview, October, 1995, Liz Smith, "Well, Hello, Carol!" p. 84.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2002, review of Just LuckyI Guess, p. 1189.
Publishers Weekly, August 26, 2002, review of JustLucky I Guess, p. 54.
CBSNews.com,http://www.cbsnews.com/ (October 3, 2002), review of Just Lucky I Guess.
Southern Voice,http://www.southernvoice.com/ (December 20, 2002), J. S. Hall, review of Just Lucky I Guess.*