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Wacky, disjointed, funny, rambling, perplexing, and absolutely charming. These are words that can be used to describe theater legend Carol Channing as well as this loving tribute of a documentary. "Carol Channing: Larger Than Life," by Dori Berinstein, is as infectious as its subject. If the description larger than life ever had a more apt usage, I don't know what it is. Channing is an enormous personality and has made a lifetime career and millions of fans by being herself. She truly has no equivalent, either today or in the past. I won't contend that she's the biggest talent that the stage has ever seen, but she's a consummate professional that it's impossible not to like. Her saucer eyes, big smile, platinum hair, distinctive voice, and perennially upbeat attitude have made her a beloved icon. But if you're shopping this DVD, then I suspect that I'm preaching to the choir. So I'll shut up and proceed to discuss the film!

It's hard to establish exactly what the narrative scope of "Larger Than Life" is. The most contemporary footage revolves around Channing as she approaches her ninetieth birthday and she readies herself for a charity performance (her first time on stage in 16 years). It's easy to see that Channing is still well recognized and idolized, and she is a gracious host and quite quick witted. The relationship with her husband Harry (unfortunately since deceased) is absolutely beguiling and has an incredible back story that I won't spoil. This film is a fitting love letter to this unorthodox couple as much as being a chronicle of Channing's career. The film really jumps all over the place, though, it does not particularly give you a comprehensive overview of Channing's life, more like savory bites and humorous anecdotes. Of course, there is plenty of old film and TV footage (oftentimes not identified, which I found disappointing), tons of filmed stage work, and many interviews from famous faces. Some of the big names include Barbara Walters, Debbie Reynolds, Tyne Daly, Jerry Herman, Lily Tomlin, Betty Garrett (sadly, now also deceased), Bob Mackie and Chita Rivera among many others.

The two roles that defined Channing are front and center throughout: Hello, Dolly! and Gentleman Prefer Blondes. But, as you might imagine, Channing is the real star here. She can tell a rambling and/or non-sensical story and still absolutely captivate an audience. In truth, "Larger Than Life" is not a perfect film by any means, but its subject matter makes it virtually irresistible. The film itself runs shy of 87 minutes, but there is a bounty of bonus features as well (most of which play like deleted scenes from the movie). All told, there are 15 of these brief extras ranging from enlightening, to strange, to baffling, to hysterical. If you're a fan, you'll definitely want to check this out. And if you don't know Channing, why not? KGHarris, 5/12.
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on May 23, 2012
Wow - this is such a great documentary about a GREAT lady. I am so happy I found this movie. It is a MUST for anyone who loves theater/movies. It is about 90 minutes and moves so well covering all of Carol's life and love(s). So many great interviews and cameos from many celebrities, some of whom have only recently passed away. Overall it is inspiring, funny, moving, and just plain fun to watch. I hope it is considered for (at least) an Oscar nomination next year.
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on July 14, 2012
What an amazing documentary of an amazing actress! This film follows Carol around as she gets ready to go onstage again after 16 years for an AIDS benefit. Her Dollly 'Boys' are there to help her along and so is a long lost love - just try not tearing up when he talks about how he wanted to come up to her when he saw her outside a theatre and didn't - Carols "Oh you should have!" tugs at the heart strings.

Still going strong at her age is also a gret example for all of us! As the song saysw "Look at the old girl now fellas" and we must!
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on August 27, 2012
I admit, I've heard of Carol Channing and I know who she is but I've never seen her in any Broadway shows with that being said ~ and the positive reviews on the cover ~ I looked forward to seeing 'Carol Channing - Larger Than Life'. I only wished there were more interviews involving Carol, the woman can tell fantastic stories all the while, acting out! Overall, I thought it was ok. Carol exudes positive inspiration which I loved to see and the story how she reunited with her current husband was very touching. She's a gem!
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on December 18, 2012
Well, whether you're a fan or not, you have to admit, Carol has had decades of success and full houses. Some of the after show comments never change, but even in her 90's she is still growing, she's still glowing and she's still going strong. From Lorelei, to Dolly, good golly, she keeps packing them in and bri9nging them to their feet. She has given us the perfect funeral song, RE: The Johnstown Flood, in, "This is a Darn Fine Funeral", she has given us guts, in "Switchblade Bess", and she's taught us how to dance with both, "The Yahoo Step" & "Dancing" She's put on more miles than most Secretaries of State, she's performed for Kings and Queens, with dozens of well know leading men. She even lent her talents and voice to President Lyndon B. Johnson's 1964 reelection, with, "HELLO, LYNDON". She's sold Kitty Litter, Diamonds, Gimbels, furs, and dozens of other items. She has never flinched when tossing dozens of Diamond rings to eager fans, though, usually fake, she did throw one out the a fan at a GIMBELS special event, in 1972, while doing a GIMBELS promo, while here to perform in 4 shows at the Wisconsin State Fair. On her very first show at the Wisconsin State fair Park, it poured with lightening and thunder. No matter, trouper that she is, she moved the show to a huge tent. Devoid of Electric power after lightening struck a transformer, on she went, she needed no POWER, she provided her own. The review the next day read, "Incandescent CAROL, using her own Dynamo goes on despite power outage and blows the roof off the tent with her voice and showmanship" And it's all here including many hard to find clips of that dazzling "HELLO,DOLLY!" title number, and in full color. It's so nice to see that performance somewhat preserved, though in just parts, it and CAROL are NATIONAL TREASURES! Thanks for all the years of entertainment!
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on June 21, 2012
I have been a fan of Carol Channings since I was a teen and my Mom and I saw her in the 1970's production of HELLO DOLLY on broadway. She had broken her arm the night before, but as they say " the show must go on". She and the show were FAB; at the end of the performance she came back out and sat on the edge of the stage and told us all of the misadventure that left her with the broken arm. I bet everyone in that theatre felt as I did...that she was talking directly to me! ...and She was my friend!
That is a rare gift is this documentary. If you are a fan of Miss
Channing or of the broadway theater...BUY THIS CD
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on May 24, 2012
If you enjoy musical theater and it's history you will enjoy this lovely film. It's a sweet tribute to an icon of the Broadway stage.
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on August 28, 2012
If you are a Carol Channing fan, get this DVD, you will love it!
If you are not a Carol Channing fan, watch it and you will become one. The lady is 90 years young and still going strong. I saw her in a touring company of Hello Dolly in the 1980s and, though I walked in thinking she was just a punch line for jokes, I left smitten. Her curtain speech was so heartfelt and sincere. A life-long fan was born!
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on August 7, 2012
Carol Channing is one of the most engaging multi-talented stars in show business. This DVD is very interesting because Carol Channing is a delightful show business icon. You'll enjoy watching and listening to her stories. Other stars also offer wonderful tributes to Ms. Channing. I didn't know a lot about Carol Channing. After seeing this DVD I will seek other DVDs and CDs with Carol Channing. I recommend this DVD highly. You won't be disappointed!
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon June 13, 2012
Say the words "Hello Dolly" to anyone over 40 years old and they answer either "Carol Channing" or "Louis Armstrong". While Armstrong's single version of the title song from the Jerry Herman-penned Broadway smash hit was the first record to knock the Beatles from the #1 position on the record charts, it was Actress/Comedienne Channing who WAS Dolly and created the role on Broadway.

I knew Channing from Dolly as well as her TV appearances but I didn't know much about her - until watching this 89-minute 2011 documentary by Dori Berinstein and it's wonderful bonus scenes. Now I am not only in love with Channing (who just turned 90!) but am enthralled with her compassion, wittiness and support for arts in the schools.

Berinstein follows Channing on visits to schools, to have her star placed in the Walk of Fame in Palm Springs (who knew there was such a thing with over 300 stars) and rides in a limo with Channing and her current husband Harry Kullijian. If nothing else grabs your heart in watching this film, it will be Channing's relationship with Harry. They met when they were both 12 years old and dated into high school. They then went there separate ways, with Harry still having a passion for Carol. Each got married: Harry for 60 years and Carol for more than 40 (to a man who literally stole everything from her when they divorced.) After Harry's wife died they reconnected at a Channing book -signing and fell in love again and got married. No two people could be more in love.

For theater fans there is a wealth of rare archival footage (the end credits go on for quite a while) and interviews with everyone from Lily Tomlin to Bob Mackie to Phyllis Diller (did you know Diller played Dolly on Broadway). The nearly 90-minutes literally flies by and you will nearly always have a smile on your face watching the film.

The bonus section adds another 49 minutes. These are not really "deleted scenes" but "supplemental chapters" There are 15 of them and not a dud in the bunch. You will probably get a lump in your throat, as I did, when you hear Barbara Walters tell the story of Channing and Walters' mentally-challenged older sister and laugh out loud when Channing describes the song she performed at Joan Crawford's wedding.

This DVD belongs in every Broadway theatre collection. Seek it out. You won't be sorry.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
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