Carol Channing, Broadway’s ‘Dolly,’ 97

Font Size

CAROL CHANNING, who won over audiences with her giddy, guileless charm in signature roles in Broadway’s Hello, Dolly! and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, died in her California home on Tuesday at the age of 97, according to her publicist.

Ms. Channing died of natural causes in Rancho Mirage after having suffered multiple strokes last year, publicist Harlan Boll said.

In a career that spanned seven decades, the saucer-eyed, raspy-voiced musical-comedy star never shook her association with the role of matchmaker Dolly Levi in the 1964 musical Hello Dolly! or gold digger Lorelei Lee in Anita Loos’ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Still, Ms. Channing embraced being identified with Lorelei, as well as Dolly, a role that won her a Tony Award.

“Audiences expect and demand I sing these songs,” she once told a reporter of her signature tunes, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “Hello Dolly.” “I’m lucky to be so closely associated with both ‘Diamonds’ and ‘Dolly.’ … I’m luckier than most — I have two identity songs.”

Ms. Channing played each role for years on Broadway and on tours around the world, taking the stage as Dolly more than 3,000 times. As recently as 1996, at age 75, she returned to Broadway following a national and world tour of Dolly.

“One of Broadway’s greatest lights, Carol Channing, has passed on,” wrote Star Trek actor George Takei on Twitter. “She rejoins the heavens as a new diamond in the night sky, and as she famously sang, they are a girl’s best friend.”

In 1964, Ms. Channing found a role equal to Lorelei Lee in Jerry Herman’s Hello Dolly, which became a Broadway classic.

She saw both of her signature stage roles go to younger Hollywood actresses when film versions of the plays were made. Marilyn Monroe played Lorelei Lee and Barbara Streisand had the title role in the 1969 film Hello Dolly, a colossal flop often blamed for ending the classic era of Hollywood musicals.

In 1968, she was given a Tony special award and in 1995, accepted a Tony for lifetime achievement. — Reuters