Monday, June 17, 2013

Carol Channing and Pearl Bailey on Broadway

The two actresses most associated with the Broadway musical Hello Dolly - Carol Channing and Pearl Bailey - got together for a musical TV special in 1969. Was '69 the greatest year for TV of all?

In case you don't know (it was a long time ago) Carol Channing originated the role of Dolly Levi, after her smash run the show was recast with black performers in 1967 and Pearl Bailey stepped into the role. That kind of thing was unheard of but Hello Dolly was revitalized by the changes. Both actresses won a Tony for the role.

Here's the big finale of the TV hour, after a bit of special material they launch into 2 signature numbers from their greatest stage triumph. Wait, did Carol say something about "Ol' Massa" during 'Elegance'? That's not in the Broadway lyrics. Television shows just could not avoid playing into racial stereotypes back in the day. It used to bug me at the time... and I'm white and from the South.

Note how deftly Pearl Bailey plays off of Carol Channing, there was certainly no way anyone anywhere could upstage Ms. Channing, Pearl hits all the right notes by going downbeat. I love me some Pearl Bailey, we'll come back to her later, okay?

More Las Vegas Legends!