Title: Carol Channing: Larger Than Life
Director: Dori Berinstein (‘ShowBusiness: The Road To Broadway’)
Starring: Carol Channing, Harry Kullijian and Debbie Reynolds
Iconic stage performers are remembered for their vivacity and their undeniable glamor as they hit the stage. While many high-profile actresses garner extensive fame as they release their most acclaimed work, few have been able to easily maintain their charm and appeal nearly two decades after retiring. However, the eccentric 91-year-old former Broadway actress Carol Channing is one of the rare talented performers who has managed to do just that. In the new biographical documentary about her career and personal life, Channing isn’t afraid to share information with the audiences who have long embraced her.
‘Carol Channing: Larger Than Life’ features interviews with the acclaimed Broadway and film actress as she reflects on her 70-year stage career. She, along with some of her biggest fans, including Loni Anderson, Debbie Reynolds, Lily Tomlin and Barbara Walters, discuss her most well-known originating roles in musical theater, including the bombshell Loreli Lee in ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,’ and the matchmaking widow Dolly Gallagher Levi in ‘Hello, Dolly!’ Channing also reflects on her fourth marriage, to her junior high school sweetheart, the late Harry Kullijian.
Director Dori Berinstein, who has made a career out of helmng films that tell inspiring stories, perfectly captured Channing’s enthusiasm towards life and her career. The actress, who never became disenfranchised with singing and acting, happily discussed the hard work she put into her performances. Channing truly radiates happiness throughout the documentary as she discusses her dedication to her craft; she truly cares about her audience, refusing to miss a show, even when she was sick.
One of the most entertaining aspects of ‘Carol Channing: Larger Than Live’ is when her fellow performers, who are among the actress’ biggest fans, discuss their working and personal anecdotes about her. Anderson watched Channing on television while she was growing up, which gave her the confidence to enter the world of acting. Tomlin, who waited outside the Stage Door when she was a child whenever Channing performed in Detroit, raved about the Broadway star’s performance of Dolly. She said Channing truly showcased the meaning of humanity in the role.
Berinstein also truly showcased Channing’s humility by including details about the actress’ life, particularly her romantic relationships. It discusses how she married her manager and publicist, Charles Lowe, in 1956, and hints that he was more concerned about her as a brand than a person. Reynolds even described the marriage as disastrous, as he sold her Broadway memorabilia without permission.
But Channing luckily found happiness when she reconnected with her old love, Kullijian, after nearly 70 years of being apart. The two, who attended junior high school together in the 1930s, ended their relationship when he left for a military high school. They hadn’t spoken again until she released her memoirs, ‘Just Lucky I Guess,’ in 2003, and he went to visit her at the theater. ‘Carol Channing: Larger Than Live’ showcases that they were happy living and working together, as they formed the Dr. Channing/Kullijian Foundation for the Arts to raise awareness about bringing back the arts to public schools.
‘Carol Channing: Larger Than Live’ is a touching tribute to one of Broadway’s most distinguished actresses, who lives to please and entertain her audiences. While the fans of her acting roles and her music will surely enjoy the insight the documentary offers on the actress the most, even fans unfamiliar will come to enjoy Channing’s flair for life. She is an inspiration for people who love their careers and can perfectly balance it with their personal lives.
Written by: Karen Benardello