Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Carol Channing (born January 31, 1921 in Seattle, Washington) is a United States actress whose career was built largely on two roles, Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Dolly Gallagher Levi in Hello Dolly!. She is easily recognized by her distinctive voice and wide eyes.
She was born in Seattle, Washington. Her father was an editor and moved the family to San Francisco when she was younger. She went to school at Aptos Junior High School and met a man named Harry Kullijian and they became sweethearts. They lost touch when she went to Lowell High School of San Francisco. Her high I.Q. lead her to the most prestigious high school in the American West at that time. When she left home to attend another prestigious school, Bennington College in Vermont, her mother informed her that her father, a journalist whom she had believed was born in Rhode Island, was actually a light-skined African-American born in Augusta, Georgia who had passed for white, saying that the only reason she was telling her was so she wouldn't be surprised "if she had a black baby". She kept her heritage secret so she would not be typecast on Broadway and in Hollywood, ultimately revealing it only in her autobiography, Just Lucky I Guess, which was published in 2002, when she was more than 80 years old.
Her first Broadway play was Let's Face It, where she was an understudy for Eve Arden. She had a featured role in a review, Lend an Ear, where she was spotted by Anita Loos and cast in the role of Lorelei Lee, which was to bring her to prominence. (Her signature song from the production was "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend.") Carol's persona and that of the character were strikingly alike: simultaneously smart yet scattered, na´ve but worldly.
She reprised the role of Lorelei Lee in the musical Lorelei, and appeared in two New York revivals of Hello, Dolly!, in addition to touring with it extensively throughout the United States.
She married four times. Her first husband, Theodore Naidish, was a writer; her second, Alexander Carson, was center for the Ottawa Rough Riders Canadian football team (they had one son, Chan, who is a cartoonist). In 1956 she married her manager and publicist Charles Lowe. They remained married for 42 years, but she filed for divorce in 1998, alleging they had had marital relations only twice in that timespan, not surprising since Lowe was gay, a fact she may not have realized when they wed. He died before the divorce was finalized. On May 10, 2003, she married Harry Kullijian , her junior high school sweetheart, who reunited with her after she mentioned him fondly in her memoir.
At Lowell High School, her old school, they renamed the school's auditorium "The Carol Channing Theatre" in honor of her. On February 25, 2002, the City of San Francisco proclaimed it was Carol Channing Day.
Her autobiography entitled "Just Lucky I Guess" was published/released on October 8, 2002. In her memoirs Carol Channing reveals her "long kept secret" that she has African American ancestry.
- Let's Face It! (1941)
- Proof Through the Night (1942)
- Lend an Ear (1948)
- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949)
- Wonderful Town (1953) (replaced Rosalind Russell for a few months)
- The Vamp (a legendary flop) (1955)
- Show Girl (1961)
- Hello, Dolly! (1964)
- Four on a Garden (1971)
- Lorelei (a reworking of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) (1974)
- Jule's Friends at the Palace (benefit) (1974)
- Hello, Dolly! (revival) (1978)
- Hello, Dolly! (revival) (1995)
- Paid in Full (1950)
- The First Traveling Saleslady (1956)
- All About People (1967) (short subject) (narrator)
- Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
- Skidoo (1968)
- Shinbone Alley (1971) (voice)
- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978) (cameo)
- Happily Ever After (1993) (voice)
- Thumbelina (1994) (voice)
- Edie & Pen (1997)
- Homo Heights (1998) (cameo)
- (2003) (documentary)
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