Carmen Miranda: The Brazilian Bombshell

With an incredible voice and a keen eye for fashion, who could resist Carmen Miranda.

Born with the name Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha, she received the nickname Carmen from her father at a young age.  Miranda grew to love the arts of singing and dancing at an early age.  Her career started, at age 20, when composer Josué de Barros discovered her and helped her record her first album in the year 1929.  In 1933 she signed a two-year contract with Rádio Mayrink Veiga, becoming the first contract singer in the radio industry in Brazil.  She continued with her musical career throughout the ’30s, receiving a recording contract through RCA Records for her samba sounds and rising on the charts.  During this time she was also appearing in small parts in films, most notably “Estudantes” in 1935 and “Alô Alô Carnaval”, that latter in which she sang “Cantoras do Rádio” with her sister Aurora in 1936.

After the premiere of  “Alô Alô Carnaval”, Miranda left Brazil and signed onto a contract in Hollywood in the year 1939. Over the course of her film career in the United States, Miranda starred in 14 films, often sporting tall hats made of fruit and blending Brazilian, Portugese, Argentinian and Mexican traditions all into one.  By the mid-1940s, she had become the highest-paid entertainer in the US and had earned herself a new nickname: The Brazilian Bombshell.

Of course, her Hollywood image received its own share of backlash. Her new flamboyant nature upset Brazil, claiming she was projecting a false image of the country and that she had given up her culture for American commercialism. Miranda didn’t take the criticism lightly, and left the country behind.

Her last film was made in 1953 (“Scared Stiff”), and her life ended shortly after that when she suffered from two heart attacks in 1955. Though she’s laid to rest in Rio de Janeiro, Miranda has left her mark on America.  She has her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and even now Miranda’s fruit-hats are iconic. Fruit jewelry and the like are still associated with her, often known as “Carmen Miranda jewelry.”  Various musical artists have paid their respects to Miranda with references to her life and career in their own music.

In Rio de Janeiro, people can visit a museum dedicated to Miranda with a great deal of memorabilia.  In 1998 in Hollywood, Carmen Miranda Square was founded, located at Hollywood and Orange across from Grauman’s Chinese Theater.  Speaking of, Miranda’s footprints also happen to be preserved in concrete at the theater itself.

Finally, in honor of Carmen Miranda, a documentary was created in 1995 entitled “Carmen Miranda: Bananas is my Business.” Ten years later, Brazilian author Ruy Castro wrote a biography entitled “Carmen.” You can view the opener for this documentary below.

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