DATELINE: Showy Biz
Cleopatra, Dolly, Becket.
Larger than Life is the subtitle of a look at the life of the grand star, Carol Channing. Having recently died, we were drawn to this streaming video of her life; she was active at 90 and participated in sharing memories and activities when this documentary was made.
Channing seems to have been born big. Like a generation of vaudeville to TV stars, she had a personality that overwhelmed everything—and she was so kind and generous that she became a titan of beloved show biz.
From her days at Bennington College in the 1930s, she was no dumb blonde, but played one on stage constantly. Judy Holliday owed her persona to Carol who was a hit on stage and TV, but never in movies.
It seems the big screen could not contain her. It is reminiscent of Jimmy Durante, who also was too big for the film roles.
She knew everyone—and literally everyone who was someone came backstage to meet her in Hello Dolly—from Al Pacino to Elizabeth Taylor (pictured with Richard Burton).
She was a mimic, a raconteur, and comedian. She could sing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” with originality because she made the song famous on stage in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes—but the movie was always with someone else (Streisand, Monroe, etc.).
As a walking hyperbole, she was subject to female impersonation by drag queens. Once, with Rich Little, she was approached by a man who marveled at the best impersonation of Channing he had ever seen. He asked what he did in real life: never one to miss a beat, Carol said: “I’m a truck driver from Toledo, Ohio.”
Her first movie costar was Clint Eastwood! It was his first movie too, and they had a love scene which they rehearsed endlessly but was so bad that it ended up on the editing room floor.
This amazing documentary is filled with show biz nuggets and stunning old TV and stage clips. She missed one half of one stage performance in her entire life. Astounding lady.