Carmen Miranda

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Carmen Miranda

from the film The Gang's All Here (1943)
BornMaria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha, GCIH
(1909-02-09)9 February 1909
Marco de Canaveses, Portugal
Died5 August 1955(1955-08-05) (aged 46)
Beverly Hills, California
OccupationSinger, dancer, actress
Years active1928–1955
Spouse(s)David Alfred Sebastian
(m. 1947-1955; her death)
 
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Carmen Miranda

from the film The Gang's All Here (1943)
BornMaria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha, GCIH
(1909-02-09)9 February 1909
Marco de Canaveses, Portugal
Died5 August 1955(1955-08-05) (aged 46)
Beverly Hills, California
OccupationSinger, dancer, actress
Years active1928–1955
Spouse(s)David Alfred Sebastian
(m. 1947-1955; her death)

Carmen Miranda, GCIH (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈkaɾmẽȷ̃ miˈɾɐ̃dɐ], 9 February 1909 – 5 August 1955) was a Portuguese-born Brazilian[1] samba singer, Broadway actress and Hollywood film star popular in the 1940s and 1950s. She was, by some accounts, the highest-earning woman in the United States and noted for her signature fruit hat outfit she wore in the 1943 movie The Gang's All Here. Though hailed as a talented performer, her movie roles in the United States soon became cartoonish and she grew to resent them. She is considered the precursor of Brazil's Tropicalismo.

Contents

Early life

Carmen Miranda was born Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha in Várzea da Ovelha e Aliviada, a village in the northern Portuguese municipality of Marco de Canaveses.[1] She was the second daughter of José Maria Pinto da Cunha (17 February 1887 – 21 June 1938) and Maria Emília Miranda (10 March 1886 – Rio de Janeiro, 9 November 1971).[2] In 1909 when she was ten months old, her father emigrated alone to Brazil[3] and settled in Rio de Janeiro, where he opened a barber shop. Her mother followed in 1910 with their daughters Olinda and Maria do Carmo. Maria do Carmo, later Carmen, never returned to Portugal, but retained her Portuguese nationality. In Brazil, her parents had four more children: Amaro (1911), Cecília (1913), Aurora (1915–2005) and Óscar (1916).[2]

She was christened Carmen by her father because of his love for the opera comique, and also after Bizet's masterpiece Carmen. This passion for opera influenced his children, and Miranda's love for singing and dancing at an early age.[3] She went to school at the Convent of Saint Therese of Lisieux. Her father did not approve of her plans to enter show business. However, her mother supported her and was beaten when her husband discovered Carmen had auditioned for a radio show. Carmen had previously sung at parties and festivals in Rio. Her older sister Olinda contracted tuberculosis and was sent to Portugal for treatment. Miranda went to work in a tie shop at age 14 to help pay her sister's medical bills. She next worked in a boutique, where she learned to make hats and opened her own hat business which became profitable.

Career

Carmen Miranda as Chita Chula performing "Chico Chico" in 1946 Doll Face.

Her extraordinary talent was discovered when Miranda was first introduced to composer Josué de Barros, who went on to promote and record her first album with Brunswick, a German recording company in 1929. In 1930, she was known to be Brazil's gem singer, and in 1933 went on to sign a two-year contract with Rádio Mayrink Veiga, becoming the first contract singer in the radio industry history of Brazil. In 1934, she was invited as a guest performer in Radio Belgrano in Buenos Aires.[3] Ultimately, Miranda wound up with a recording contract with RCA Records. She pursued a career as a samba singer for ten years before she was invited to New York City to perform in a show on Broadway. As with other popular singers of the era, Miranda made her screen debut in the Brazilian documentary A Voz Do Carnaval (1933). Two years later, Miranda appeared in her first feature film entitled Alô, Alô Brasil. But it was the 1935 film Estudantes that seemed to solidify her in the minds of the movie-going public. In the 1936 movie Alô Alô Carnaval, she performed the famous song Cantoras do Rádio with her sister Aurora, for the first time.[3]

Miranda signed a movie contract with Hollywood and arrived in the United States in 4 May 1939[3] with her band, the Bando da Lua. Carmen grew to fame in the country quickly, having formally been presented to President Franklin D. Roosevelt at a White House banquet shortly after arrival.[3] She was encouraged by the United States government as part of President Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor policy, designed to strengthen links with Latin America and Europe; it was believed that in delivering content like hers, the policy would be better received by the American public. By 1946 she was Hollywood's highest-paid entertainer and top female tax payer in the United States,[3] earning more than $200,000 that year (=$2.2 million in 2010 adjusted for inflation), according to IRS records.

Against her family's wishes, she married on 17 March 1947 to failed American movie producer David Alfred Sebastian, born in Detroit on 23 November 1908. In 1948 she became pregnant, but suffered a miscarriage after a show. The marriage lasted only a few months, but Carmen, who was Catholic, would not accept getting a divorce. Her sister Aurora later would state in the documentary Bananas is My Business that "he was very rude, many times even hit her. The marriage was a burden in her life; he only married her for her money. He did not like our family".[this quote needs a citation]

Miranda teamed with the famous Andrews Sisters three times from 1948-1950 to produce three Decca singles, the first one, "Cuanto La Gusta", being the most popular (a best-selling record and a number-twelve Billboard hit). "The Wedding Samba" (#23) followed in 1950.[4] Patty, Maxene, and LaVerne's close harmony and stellar rhythmic singing were a perfect match for Carmen's frantic vocal syncopations, and both acts enjoyed working with each other. Their first collaboration was on radio in 1945 when Miranda guested on ABC's The Andrews Sisters Show.[5]

Miranda made a total of fourteen Hollywood films between 1940 and 1953 and was dubbed The Brazilian Bombshell.[6] Her Hollywood image was one of a generic Latinness that blurred the distinctions between Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, and Mexico as well as between samba, tango and habanera. It was carefully stylized and outlandishly flamboyant. She was often shown wearing platform sandals and towering headdresses made of fruit, becoming famous as "the lady in the tutti-frutti hat."[7] However there were times that Miranda performed barefoot on stage because she could move more easily in bare feet than in the towering platform sandals.

Career difficulties

During a visit to Brazil in 1940, Miranda was heavily criticized for giving in to American commercialism and projecting a false image of Brazil. She responded with the Portuguese language song "Disseram que Voltei Americanizada", or "They Say I've Come Back Americanized." Another song, "Bananas Is My Business," was based on a line in one of her movies and directly addressed her image. She was greatly upset by the criticism and did not return to Brazil again for fourteen years.

The Shamrock Hotel Program and Menu - Carmen Miranda (2/26/1952, Houston, Texas)

After returning to the United States, Miranda made her final film appearance in the 1953 film Scared Stiff with Martin and Lewis.[8]

In the later years of her life, in addition to her already heavy smoking and alcohol consumption, Miranda began taking amphetamines and barbiturates, all of which took a toll on her health.[9]

Death

On 4 August 1955, Miranda suffered a heart attack during a segment of the live NBC television series, The Jimmy Durante Show. After completing a dance number (which was later aired on A&E Network's Biography episode about Miranda), she fell to her knees, and Durante instinctively told the band to "stop da music!". He helped Miranda up to her feet as she laughed, "I'm all out of breath!". "Dat's OK, honey, I'll take yer lines", Durante replied. Miranda laughed again and quickly pulled herself together, finishing the show. At the end of the broadcast, she smiled and waved, then exited the stage. She died later that night after suffering a second heart attack at her home in Beverly Hills.[10]

In accordance with her wishes, Miranda's body was flown back to Rio de Janeiro where the Brazilian government declared a period of national mourning.[11] 60,000 people attended her mourning ceremony at the Rio town hall,[3] and more than half a million Brazilians escorted the funeral cortège to her resting place.[12] She is buried in the Cemitério São João Batista in Rio de Janeiro.[13]

Tributes

Carmen Miranda in The Gang's All Here (1943)

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Carmen Miranda has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6262 Hollywood Boulevard.

Helena Solberg made a documentary of her life, Carmen Miranda: Bananas is My Business in 1995.

Miranda's enormous, fruit-laden hats are iconic visuals recognized around the world. These costumes led to Saks Fifth Avenue developing a line of turbans and jewelry inspired by Carmen Miranda in 1939.[14] Many costume jewelry designers made fruit jewelry also inspired by Carmen Miranda which is still highly valued and collectible by vintage and antique costume jewelry collectors (recently featured on America's Next Top Model Cycle 12 Ep. 10). Fruit jewelry is still popular in jewelry design today. Much of the fruit jewelry seen today is often still fondly called "Carmen Miranda jewelry" because of this. Her image was much satirized and taken up as camp, and today, the "Carmen Miranda" persona is popular among drag performers. The style was even emulated in animated cartoon shorts. The animation department at Warner Brothers seemed to be especially fond of the actress's image. Animator Virgil Ross used it in his short Slick Hare, featuring Bugs Bunny, who escapes from Elmer Fudd by hiding in the fruit hat. Bugsy himself mimics Miranda briefly in What's Cookin' Doc? Tex Avery also used it in his MGM short Magical Maestro when an opera singer is temporarily changed into the persona, fruit hat and all, via a magician's wand.

Brazilian singer Ney Matogrosso's album Batuque brings the period and several of Miranda's early hits back to life in faithful style. Caetano Veloso paid tribute to Miranda for her early samba recordings made in Rio when he recorded "Disseram que Voltei Americanizada" on the live album Circuladô Vivo in 1992. He also examined her iconic legacy of both kitsch and sincere samba artistry in an essay in the New York Times. Additionally, on one of Veloso's most popular songs, "Tropicalia", Veloso sings "Viva a banda da da da....Carmen Miranda da da da" as the final lyrics of the song. Singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett included a tribute to Carmen Miranda on his 1973 album A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean, entitled "They Don't Dance Like Carmen No More." In the early 1970s a novelty act known as Daddy Dewdrop had a top 10 hit single in the US titled "Chick-A-Boom," one of Carmen's trademark song phrases, although the resemblance ended there. The band Pink Martini recorded "Tempo perdido" for their Hey Eugene! Album on 2007.

Brazilian author Ruy Castro wrote a biography of Carmen Miranda entitled Carmen, published in 2005 in Brazil. This book has yet to appear in English.

Visitors to Rio de Janeiro can find a museum dedicated to Carmen Miranda in the Flamengo neighborhood on Avenida Rui Barbosa. The museum includes several original costumes, and shows clips from her filmography. There is also a museum dedicated to her in Marco de Canaveses, Portugal called "Museu Municipal Carmen Miranda", with various photos and one of the famous hats. Outside the museum there is a statue of Carmen Miranda.

A hot air balloon in her likeness was conceived in 1982 at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta by Jacques Soukup and Kirk Thomas. Named "Chic-I-Boom", the craft was built by Cameron England, and was the first special-shaped hot-air balloon ever to fly at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. The original Chic-I-Boom was retired from flight in 1996, and a new Chic-I-Boom was built by Aerostar. Chic-I-Boom's bananas are each 50 feet long.

The singer Leslie Fish created a song called "Carmen Miranda's Ghost Is Haunting Space Station Three", in which a space station is inundated with fresh fruit. A science fiction anthology later had the same title.

John Cale, a member of the Velvet Underground, issued a song called "The Soul of Carmen Miranda" on his album Words for the Dying.

A suburb in Sydney, Australia called "Miranda" has a night club called "Carmens" thus being Carmens (in) Miranda.

A multicultural festival in Pakington St, Geelong West, called Pako Festa, which attracts 100,000 attendees annually, has a street parade led by a local singer and dancer dressed as Carmen Miranda.

Carmen Miranda Square

On 25 September 1998, a city square in Hollywood was named Carmen Miranda Square in a ceremony headed by longtime honorary mayor of Hollywood, Johnny Grant, who was also one of the singer's personal friends dating back to World War II. Brazil's Consul General Jorió Gama was on hand for opening remarks, as were members of Bando da Lua, Carmen Miranda's original band.

Carmen Miranda Square is only one of about a dozen Los Angeles city intersections named for historic performers. The square is located at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Orange Drive across from Grauman's Chinese Theater. The location is especially noteworthy not only since Carmen Miranda's footprints are preserved in concrete at the Chinese Theater's famous collection, but in remembrance of an impromptu performance at a nearby Hollywood Boulevard intersection on V-J Day where she was joined by a throng of servicemen from the nearby USO.

Filmography

Film
YearFilmRoleNotes
1933A Voz do CarnavalHerself at Rádio Mayrink Veiga
1935Alô, Alô, Brasil
1935EstudantesMimi
1936Alô Alô Carnaval
1939Banana-da-Terra
1940Laranja-da-China
1940Down Argentine WayHerself
1941That Night in RioCarmen
1941Week-End in HavanaRosita Rivas
1941Meet the Stars #5: Hollywood Meets the NavyHerselfShort subject
1942Springtime in the RockiesRosita Murphy
1943The Gang's All HereDoritaAlternative title: The Girls He Left Behind
1944Greenwich VillagePrincess Querida
1944Something for the BoysChiquita Hart
1944Four Jills in a JeepHerself
1945The All-Star Bond RallyHerself (Pinup girl)
1946Doll FaceChita ChulaAlternative title: Come Back to Me
1946If I'm LuckyMichelle O'Toole
1947CopacabanaCarmen Novarro/Mademoiselle Fifi
1947"Slick Hare" (Looney Tunes)Herself (Voice)
1948A Date with JudyRosita Cochellas
1950Nancy Goes to RioMarina Rodrigues
1953Scared StiffCarmelita Castinha
Television
YearTitleRoleNotes
1949Texaco Star TheaterHerself1 episode
1949The Ed Wynn ShowHerself1 episode
1951What's My Line?Mystery Guest1 episode
1951–1952The Colgate Comedy HourHerself2 episodes
1953Toast of the TownHerself1 episode
1955The Jimmy Durante ShowHerself2 episodes

Singles

Brazilian Singles

1935

1936

1937

1938

1939

1940

American Singles

1939

1941

1942

1945

1947

1949

1950

See also

References

  1. ^ a b McGowan, Chris; Pessanha, Ricardo (1998). The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova, and the Popular Music of Brazil. Temple University Press. pp. 32. ISBN 1-56639-545-3. 
  2. ^ a b Tompkins, Cynthia Margarita; Foster, David William (2001). Notable Twentieth-century Latin American Women: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 192. ISBN 0-313-31112-9. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "The century of the Brazilian Bombshell". It's time for Brazil in Singapore (Singapore: Sun Media): 63. 
  4. ^ Sforza, John: Swing It! The Andrews Sisters Story; University Press of Kentucky, 2000; 289 pages
  5. ^ Sforza, John: "Swing It! The Andrews Sisters Story;" University Press of Kentucky, 2000; 289 pages
  6. ^ Dennison, Stephanie; Shaw, Lisa (2004). Popular Cinema in Brazil, 1930–2001: 1930–2001. Manchester University Press. pp. 112. ISBN 0-7190-6499-6. 
  7. ^ Tompkins, Cynthia Margarita; Foster, David William (2001). Notable Twentieth-century Latin American Women: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 191. ISBN 0-313-31112-9. 
  8. ^ Hadley-Garcia, George (1990). Hispanic Hollywood: The Latins in Motion Pictures. Carol Pub. Group. pp. 123. ISBN 0-8065-1185-0. 
  9. ^ Brioux, Bill (2007). Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 176. ISBN 0-275-99247-0. 
  10. ^ Brioux, Bill (2007). Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 177. ISBN 0-275-99247-0. 
  11. ^ Ruíz, Vicki; Sánchez Korrol, Virginia (2005). Latina Legacies: Identity, Biography, and Community. Oxford University Press US. pp. 207. ISBN 0-19-515398-7. 
  12. ^ Ruíz, Vicki; Sánchez Korrol, Virginia (2005). Latina Legacies: Identity, Biography, and Community. Oxford University Press US. pp. 193. ISBN 0-19-515398-7. 
  13. ^ Lawrence, Sandra (12 August 2003). "Brazil: In search of the queen of samba". telegraph.co.uk. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/southamerica/brazil/728105/Brazil-In-search-of-the-queen-of-samba.html. Retrieved 2008-10-30. 
  14. ^ McGowan & Pessanha, 1991

Bibliography

External links