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Movie Review: 'Carol Channing: Larger Than Life' -- 3.5 stars

'Carol Channing'

'Carol Channing' Credit: (Peter James Zielinski)

Carol Channing: Larger Than Life
Documentary by Dori Bernstein Not rated.
3.5 stars

It's hard to think of anyone the Broadway community loves more than Carol Channing, but Hollywood has never been kind to the tall, bubbly, raspy-voiced performer, who turned 91 earlier this week.

Luckily, Dori Bernstein's heartfelt documentary about Channing's background and career - which combines vintage footage with new interviews of Channing and celeb pals like Barbara Walters and Lily Tomlin - will preserve her oversized personality and generous spirit for generations to come. Al Hirschfeld's famous newspaper caricatures of Channing also appear in animated sequences throughout the film.

Channing, who grew up in California and attended Vermont's Bennington College, represents the kind of irreplaceable personality and trouper who could only exist in Broadway's golden age. Channing did more than 5,000 performances of "Hello, Dolly!" and toured in the show throughout the world. (Nowadays, you're lucky to get a star to commit to doing a musical for more than a few months.)

Bernstein also pays close attention to Channing's offstage life: She was stuck in a loveless marriage for almost 50 years that ended in terrible scandal, and then caught up with Harry Kullijian, her childhood sweetheart, whom she quickly married. (Sadly, Kullijian passed away in December.) Channing also admits that she neglected her son as a result of her busy stage career.

This documentary is ultimately a testament to being eternally grateful for the ability to do what you love.

Playing at AMC Empire.


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