Remembering Carol Channing: Star of the stage, screen -- and TV commercials

Legendary star of 'Hello Dolly!' passes away at 97

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Carol Channing in a vintage American Express commercial
Carol Channing in a vintage American Express commercial Credit: American Express via Youtube

The arts world has lost a major force with the death today of Carol Channing, musical and stage star, at the age of 97. But while the ebullient Channing will always be known for her Broadway roles -- particularly Dolly Gallagher Levi in "Hello Dolly! and Lorelei Lee in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" -- the bombshell with a penchant for groovy jewelry was also a prolific star of TV commercials.

In several memorable spots from the '60s, '70s and '80s, the gravely-voiced Channing was featured alongside other Hollywood luminaries including Milton Berle, Gregory Peck and even Cher, pitching products from Atari to AmEx.

Below, we recall some of her high-wattage commercial roles in which she proves that it's more than diamonds that were her best friends.

Here, Channing is in an unlikely pairing with Kareem Abdul Jabbar to pitch the Atari video cartridge system.

In this spot for Republic Airlines, Channing brings us back to the days when it was pleasurable to fly (remember that?) and the on-board meals (remember those?) were sumptuous and special. Also appearing in this commercial: Milton Berle (remember him?).

Guess what Channing won't leave home without.

In this early example of product integration, Channing (almost unrecognizable in a hat and huge dark glasses) makes a visit to the "Gomer Pyle USMC" set to pitch Post Corn Flakes with Jim Nabors in 1966. Pyle's benevolent nemesis, Sgt. Carter (Frank Sutton) makes an appearance at the end.

Her co-star is a glamorous feline in this commercial for ... Litter Green.

It's no surprise that Carol Channing loves New York. But it is surprising to see her leading man in this ad for the Big Apple: Henry Kissinger. (Stick around for Gregory Peck and Cher.)

In 2014, Pepsi promoted its halftime show in a "Candid Camera"-type spot in which Channing surprises a man playing bingo. In the commercial, he recalls seeing Channing do the halftime show in 1970, which, he says, marked the first time a celebrity entertained at the half. So he's bowled over when she makes an entrance at the bingo hall singing "When the Saints Go Marching In."

And here, for all posterity, is Channing in an ad for the role that defined her.

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