'Grease' star Stockard Channing turns 80

A huge happy birthday is in order for the legendary actress Stockard Channing - who has turned 80!
The renowned actress has etched her name in Hollywood history, captivating audiences with her talent and versatility since the late 1960s. From iconic film roles to memorable television performances, Channing's illustrious career has left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry.

Born Susan Stockard on February 13, 1944, Channing embarked on her acting journey with the experimental Theater Company of Boston, showcasing her talent in Off-Broadway productions like the Elaine May play Adaptation/Next.

However, it was her portrayal of the sassy Betty Rizzo in the beloved 1978 movie musical Grease that catapulted her to international fame.
Back in 2015, Channing spoke out about how she fought to not only make Rizzo one of the most memorable characters in the movie, but also cement it as her career-defining role.

"I was at the bottom of the barrel, bottom of the drawer maybe but I decided the only way I could do this was to look at her like she was a real person," she told Broadway World. "I was so much older than she was in life, but I could not think about that so I sort of threw myself back to what I felt when I was her age over, even younger.

"The complexity of adolescents and hormones and sexuality and all of that other stuff. Seeing that I really was older I think that added to the isolation of Rizzo."

"I didn't play around with the material," she added. "I was very much in love with that song, 'There Are Worse Things I Could Do', and I fought for it and Pat Birch, who directed all the musical sequences, helped me. If you see the sequence it's very simply shot and [Producer Allan Carr] really indulged me and said, 'Go ahead just do it.'"
Beyond the silver screen, Channing graced television screens as First Lady Abbey Bartlet in the critically acclaimed NBC series The West Wing, solidifying her status as a small-screen powerhouse. Her cinematic repertoire boasts an array of notable films, including The Fortune, To Wong Foo, and Six Degrees of Separation.

While Channing's professional accomplishments shine brightly, her personal life has also been marked by various relationships and marriages. The actress has walked down the aisle four times.

Her first marriage to Walter Channing Jr. in 1963 led to the actress adopting the name "Stockard Channing" - even after their divorce four years later. Subsequent marriages followed, including unions with Paul Schmidt, David Debin, and David Rawle.

Despite the twists and turns of her romantic life, Channing's heart found solace in her long-term relationship with cinematographer Daniel Gillham, whom she met on the set of A Time Of Destiny. Their enduring bond endured until Gillham's passing in 2014.
Channing's magnetic presence on screen has captivated not only audiences but also fellow actors, as evidenced by Will Smith's revelation about his feelings for her during the filming of Six Degrees of Separation.

In an interview with Esquire magazine, Smith confessed his admiration, recounting how he "fell in love" with Channing's character and, subsequently, with the actress herself.

Responding to Smith's sentiments, Channing expressed her gratitude and fondness, telling Page Six: "I adored him from the first time I laid eyes on him because I thought he was genuinely sweet."

As Channing's legacy continues to evolve, her contributions to film, television, and theater serve as a testament to her enduring talent and enduring spirit. From her early days in Boston to her iconic performances on screen, Stockard Channing remains a beloved figure in Hollywood lore, her influence reaching far beyond the silver screen.

Happy birthday, Stockard!

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