Carol Channing, Hello Dolly actress, dies aged 97

Telegraph Reporters
Carol Channing celebrates her 90th Birthday in 2011 - Getty Images Contributor

Carol Channing, a Broadway dame known for starring in Hello, Dolly! and Thoroughly Modern Millie has died aged 97, her publicist has confirmed. Channing died of natural causes in California having twice suffered strokes over the past year. She would have turned 98 on January 31.

Although she started out in theatre starring in musicals, Channing subsequently took her talents to Hollywood. On both stage and screen, she won awards: picking up a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical in Hello, Dolly! in 1964 and earning Oscar and Golden Globe nominations in 1968 for Thoroughly Modern Millie. 

Channing's career lasted decades – she picked up a Grammy Award and a Tony Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002, when she was 80. 

Her death has inspired an outpouring of tributes on social media. Channing was known for her vocal prowess – not least her gravelly voice – stage presence, mega-watt smile and sharp wit. On the aftermath of starring in two Broadway hits, one of which subsequently transferred to the West End, in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Hello, Dolly!, she famously said: "You know, if you're lucky enough to have two smash hit shows, the traffic of the world goes through your dressing room."

Channing was born in Seattle in 1921 and nurtured stage ambitions from childhood. Her first entry to the theatre was through the stage door alley of the Curran Theatre while accompanying her mother, who delivered newspapers there. In 2005, Channing recalled that she realised "that this is a temple. This is a cathedral. It's a mosque. It's a mother church. This is for people who have gotten a glimpse of creation and all they do is recreate it. I stood there and wanted to kiss the floorboards."

She majored in drama at Bennington College, but was motivated to leave her studies after her performance in a revue caused the New Yorker magazine to pick her out, writing, "You'll be hearing more from a comedienne named Carol Channing." Within a decade, in 1950, Channing had been put on the cover of Time magazine, which touted her as Broadway's new star.

While Channing went on to achieve showbiz success, her personal life was turbulent. She married four times, most recently to her high school sweetheart after rekindling their romance in 2003, while recording the audiobook of her autobiography. Her third marriage was to Charles Lowe, her manager, and lasted 43 years.

She is survived by her son, the cartoonist Channing Carson, whose father is the football player Alexander Carson.