Ms. Channing’s voice, gravel-toned and able to sinking to subterranean ranges, was as distinctive as her look. When she sang a tune in her exaggerated growl, it belonged to her eternally; solely Louis Armstrong’s personal growling rendition of “Hiya, Dolly!” was a match for hers.
Her speech in public, described as every thing from a “raspy yawp” to a foghorn, was misleading, mates mentioned: When alone with them, she was completely able to much less stylized enunciation and loved critical dialog.
The critic Walter Kerr known as her “maybe the only creature extant who can reside as much as a Hirschfeld,” explaining that the theatrical caricaturist Al Hirschfeld “at all times lives as much as the folks he attracts, however the folks he attracts don’t at all times reside as much as him.” Mr. Kerr added, “Right here’s the exception: mascara to swim in, nobly tragic mouth, the face of a fantastic mystic about to make a horrible mistake.”
‘A Nova Explodes’
The tall, flamboyant Ms. Channing turned a Broadway star on the Ziegfeld Theater on Dec. 8, 1949. That was the opening night time of “Gents Want Blondes,” a musical primarily based on Anita Loos’s greatest vendor of the 1920s, with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Leo Robin and choreography by Agnes de Mille. Ms. Channing starred because the flapper Lorelei Lee, and her stardom was assured when she sang Lorelei’s anthem, “Diamonds Are a Woman’s Finest Good friend”:
Time rolls on
And youth is gone
And you may’t straighten up when
However stiff again or stiff knees,
You stand straight at Tiff’ny’s,
Diamonds are a lady’s greatest pal.
Time journal summed up her efficiency: “Maybe as soon as in a decade a nova explodes above the Nice White Manner with sufficient brilliance to reillumine the entire gaudy legend of present enterprise.” Brooks Atkinson, the drama critic of The New York Instances, hailed her Lorelei Lee as “essentially the most fabulous comedian creation of this dreary interval in historical past.”
The present ran virtually two years on Broadway, and Ms. Channing performed Lorelei on tour for one more 12 months.