I meant to post this last night, but had a brain freeze. So, I'll jump in first thing this morning and correct that oversight.
It was a shame to read about the passing of Carol Channing at the age of 97, but what a full, long life and career she had -- performing on Broadway with a revival of Hello, Dolly! at 72 and still doing a cabaret act into her mid-80s.
I saw her on stage in the show when it played in Chicago at the Shubert Theatre during her first tour with the musical. (She did four.) I think that was probably around 1967. And yes, she was wonderful, filling not just the stage, but the theater with her persona. That large personality seems most likely the reason didn't make many movies, since it fit the stage better than film with its intimate close-ups. Though she did get a major role in the hit film, Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Here's a good video of her singing That Title Song. It's not from a live performance during the musical, but a recreation for a TV show when Hello, Dolly! was in London in 1979. But it's the full cast from that revival, and she's in her prime. What's notable about this production is that, despite playing the role over 5,000 times, she was not in the original London production. That was Mary Martin. So, this was the first time British audiences got to see her in the show.
As much as she was identified with the role of Dolly Levi and Hello, Dolly! for over half a century, she came to fame in 1949 as Lorelei Lee in the big hit Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She repeated the role 25 years later when the show was revised under the name Lorelei with a new, sort of "bookend" story that allowed her to play the role with another actress in a "flashback" storyline.
Like with Hello, Dolly!, she didn't get to appear in the movie version of her two big hits. And since she never made many movies, most people's perception of her is as that Dolly-like character in her later years. But here is a rare treat -- Carol Channing in a 1953 TV special performing the two big songs from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, "I'm Just a Little Girl from Little Rock" and "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend."
(To be clear, this is not how the numbers were performed in the show, and they're also trimmed and sung much faster, no doubt to meet the time requirements of TV. Also know that this sequence doesn't last almost nine minutes like the video says, but a little less than five -- and then bizarrely it partially repeats a couple of times.)
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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