Carol Channing, legendary Broadway actress, dies at 97

The raspy-voice, wide-eyed actress made a name for herself starring in the Broadway musicals "Hello, Dolly!" and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."

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By Kalhan Rosenblatt

Carol Channing, the Broadway star who earned a lifetime achievement Tony Award for her legendary career, which included roles in classics like "Gentleman Prefer Blondes" and "Hello, Dolly!" died on Tuesday. She was 97.

B. Harlan Boll, a representative for Channing, confirmed her death to NBC News, saying the actress died of natural causes just days before her 98th birthday.

"It is with extreme heartache, that I have to announce the passing of an original Industry Pioneer, Legend and Icon — Miss Carol Channing. I admired her before I met her, and have loved her since the day she stepped ... or fell rather ... into my life," Boll said in a statement to Broadway World.

Actress Carol Channing at the Grammy Awards in 1982 in Los Angeles.Doug Pizac / AP

Although much of Channing's career was spent on Broadway, she won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance as Muzzy Van Hossmere in 1967's "Thoroughly Modern Millie."

Born in Seattle, Washington, in on Jan. 31, 1921, Channing got her start in New York's theater scene in 1941's "No For an Answer," according to Playbill. The following year she debuted on Broadway as a member of the cast of "Proof Through the Night," Playbill reported.

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But her star-making role would come in 1949, when she played the gold-digging Lorelei Lee in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." The role was played by Marilyn Monroe in the film adaptation of the musical.

Because of her role in "Blondes," Channing would forever be associated with the song "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend."

Her wide eyes and raspy voice became the actress' iconic identifiers as her star continued to rise on Broadway and in Hollywood.

Channing would go on to star as Dolly in "Hello, Dolly!" — a performance attended by Jacqueline Kennedy and her two children in their first public outing following the death of President John F. Kennedy, according to Broadway World.

Her illustrious career earned her recognition throughout the industry, and in 1995 she received the Lifetime Achievement Tony Award.

Channing also had success in film, with roles in "Paid In Full," "The First Traveling Saleslady," "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

In 2009, items from Channing's career were inducted into the Smithsonian Institute, including the diamond dress she wore in "Blondes," according to Broadway World. Channing was also given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

On Twitter, Channing's fellow Broadway stars mourned her death and thanked her for the joy she spread through her performances.

"She was show business and love personified," Bernadette Peters, who starred in "Into the Woods," and "Sunday in the Park With George," tweeted on Tuesday.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of "Hamilton" and "In The Heights," tweeted lyrics from "Hello, Dolly!" as he bid farewell to the star.

Comedienne and actress Sandra Bernhard called Channing her "original inspiration."

Channing is survived by her son Channing Lowe, according to Broadway World.