New Film "Carol Channing: Larger Than Life" Opens in New York and San Francisco Feb. 3; Talkbacks Planned for NYC

By Andrew Gans
and Kenneth Jones
February 3, 2012

"Carol Channing: Larger Than Life," a new feature-film documentary about the life of Tony-winning Hello, Dolly! star Carol Channing, arrives in theatres in New York and San Francisco Feb. 3 following a Los Angeles debut Jan. 20.



Directed by Dori Berinstein ("Show Business: The Road to Broadway"), the new film features interviews with Channing, her husband Harry Kullijian (who died earlier this year), Jerry Herman, Lily Tomlin, Margie Champion, Betty Garrett (who has since died), Chita Rivera, Barbara Walters, Tyne Daly, Debbie Reynolds, Phyllis Diller, Loni Anderson, JoAnne Worley, Bruce Vilanch and many more. Running time is 87 minutes.

The documentary can be seen at the AMC Empire 25 in New York City and the Landmark Opera Plaza Theatre and Landmark Shattuck Cinemas in San Francisco.

In New York question-and-answer sessions with director Berinstein will be held after the 6:50 PM showings Feb. 3 and 4 and after the 4:25 PM showing Feb. 5. (Berinstein will also introduce the film prior to the 9:35 PM shows Feb. 3 and 4.)

"The story of legendary performer Carol Channing's life is as colorful as the lipstick on her big, bright smile," according to production notes. In the film director Berinstein, with co-writer Adam Zucker, capture the "magic and vivacity of the 90-year-old icon — both onstage and off...past and present. The film is both an intimate love story and a rarefied journey inside Broadway's most glamorous era. It is, above all, a look at an inspiring, incomparable and always entertaining American legend."

Entertainment One US is distributing the film. Berinstein's Broadway producing credits include Legally Blonde, Enchanted April, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Crucible, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Fool Moon and Golden Child.

In addition to her 1964 Tony for playing Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly!, Channing received a Special Tony in 1968 and a Lifetime Achievement Tony in 1995. Her other major Broadway credit is creating the role of golddigger Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She would sing the character's signature songs "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" and "A Little Girl From Little Rock" for the next 60 years in nightclubs, concerts and on TV.

How did Channing's passion for the theatre begin? As she tells it in "Larger Than Life," she was stage-struck as a child when she tried to sell the Christian Science Monitor to theatre people at the stage doors of San Francisco theatres.

Channing (sometimes in full makeup, sometimes stripped of it) also admits in the picture that a theatre life — a commitment to a long run, the road and never missing a performance — is a "selfish" one, and that it took a toll on her ability to be a proper mother to her son, Chan. "My son took a back seat," she says. Chan Lowe would grow up to be a famous cartoonist. He turned down an offer to appear in the movie.

At the core of the new film is Channing's romance with childhood sweetheart Harry Kullijian. Separated in their teen years, when he went to military school, they reunited more than 60 years later and were married as octogenarians. He died Dec. 26, 2011.

Berinstein told Playbill.com that the future DVD release will have many bonus extras and cut footage. Read Playbill.com's Brief Encounter interview with Berinstein.

PLAYBILL VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: Tommy Tune Talks About Carol Channing