Carol Channing, the legendary Broadway actress who portrayed Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly! has died, her publicist said in a statement.
Channing was 97 and died at her home in Rancho Mirage, California.
Her gravelly voice and big, bright smile became the trademarks of a performer who originated some of Broadway’s most iconic roles throughout the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.
In a statement, Harlan Boll said “it is with extreme heartache” she announced “the passing of an original Industry Pioneer, Legend and Icon.”
“I admired her before I met her, and have loved her since the day she stepped … or fell rather … into my life,” wrote the publicist. “It is so very hard to see the final curtain lower on a woman who has been a daily part of my life for more than a third of it.”
Her big break came in 1949 when she was cast as the diamond-obsessed showgirl Lorelei Lee in the Broadway musical Gentleman Prefer Blondes, in which she performed the now classic song Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend (Marilyn Monroe played the same role in the movie.
In 1964 she scored her most iconic role as Dolly Gallagher Levi, a turn of the century matchmaker, in the musical Hello, Dolly!
Channing famously beat out Barbra Streisand, who starred in Funny Girl, for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her starring turn.
Channing reprised the role three times on Broadway and in the West End for more than 5000 performances up until 1995.
Channing was cast as Muzzy Van Hossmere in the 1967 movie musical Thoroughly Modern Millie, starring Julie Andrews.
She won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress, as well as an Academy Award nomination.
Muzzy is best remembered for the now iconic line, “Raspberries,” which has become synonymous with Channing ever since.
She was first married to writer Theodore Naidish and then Canadian football player Alex Carson with whom she had one son, Channing Carson.
Channing then married her manager and publicist Charles Lowe in 1956 and even though it lasted 42 years she claimed in divorce proceedings in 1998 that they had only slept together twice and that he had mismanaged her finances. He died a year later before the divorce was finalised.
In 2003 she married her childhood sweetheart Harry Kullijian and they were together until Kullijian’s death eight years later.