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Famous Like Me > Singer > M > Carmen Miranda

Profile of Carmen Miranda on Famous Like Me

Name: Carmen Miranda  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 5th August 1909
Place of Birth:
Profession: Singer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
Carmen Miranda, circa 1940

Carmen Miranda (b. February 9, 1909, Marco de Canaveses, Portugal; d. August 5, 1955 Hollywood, California from untreated toxemia and heart failure stemming from pregnancy), born Maria do Carmo Miranda Da Cunha, was a Portuguese - Brazilian samba singer and motion picture star.

Life and Career

Miranda reached her peak point of fame in the early 1940s. She arrived in the United States in 1939 and had become the country's highest-paid entertainer by 1943. According to TV's The Biography Channel, Miranda was the highest paid woman in the United States in 1945, earning more than $ 200,000 that year. Her nickname, "The Brazilian Bombshell", captured her true spirit and the heart of her Latin culture. Miranda's Hollywood debut was Down Argentine Way where she had the chance to work with Betty Grable. Her last Hollywood movie was in 1953 in Scared Stiff with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin.

Miranda was born in the small northern Portuguese town of Marco de Canaveses and went to school at the Convent of Saint Teresinha. Her very Catholic parents did not approve of her dreams of pursuing show business, so she hid it from them best she could. In her spare time, she often sang at parties and festivals around the town where she was discovered and received the chance to perform on a local radio station.

She was noted as a musical innovator in Brazil, one of the first samba superstars long before her arrival in the US. However, her roles in US movies featured her as a stylized comic "South American" singer and she was often shown wearing platform sandals and towering headdresses made of fruit, becoming known as "the lady in the tutti-frutti hat." At only 5'3"/160cm, these accoutrements made her appear almost larger than life on screen. This image was much satirized and taken up as camp, even in animated cartoon shorts. The animation department at Warner Brothers seemed to be especially fond of the actress's image. Animator Virgil Ross used the image in "Tropical Hare" with Bugs Bunny who, appropriately enough, made his entrance as a stowaway in the fruit hat. Today, the "Carmen Miranda" persona is a popular turn (or performance) for female impersonation and drag performance.

She was well aware of the tensions in her career. Her song, "Bananas Is My Business," was based on a line in one of her movies and directly addressed her image. A sour welcome back to Brazil in 1940 resulted in a response in Portuguese in a song called "Disseram Que Eu Voltei Americanizada," or "They Say I've Become Americanized." Helena Solberg made a documentary of her life, Carmen Miranda: Bananas Is My Business in 1995.

Carmen Miranda, who neither drank nor smoked, died of a heart attack less than a day after an appearance on The Jimmy Durante Show. On an A&E Biography episode about her, there was a fairly startling piece of tape or kinescope footage from that show, from August 4. After a dance number, she nearly passed out, presumably suffering a mild precursor to her later, fatal cardiac arrest. Durante, standing next to her, caught her and helped keep her on her feet. She then smiled and waved to the crowd, and walked offstage, unknowingly for the last time. She was gone by the next morning.

Although she was mildly addicted to prescription medications, she did not use cocaine nor carry the drug in her platform shoes as documented in the controversial book, "Hollywood Babylon". Her body was flown back to Brazil soon afterwards and the government declared a period of national mourning. She was interred in the Cemitério São João Batista in Rio de Janeiro.

Her personal physician Dr. M. Barryman, who would later sign her death certificate, was the father of actor Michael Barryman.

Hollywood tribute

1998 dedication of Carmen Miranda Square, Hollywood,  California.  Pictured (l-r):  Jean Chakanaka, Cheryl Cunha, Claus Languth.  Languth was a passer-by who caught Ms. Cunha as she fell from atop the newspaper rack

On September 25, 1998, a city square in Hollywood was named Carmen Miranda Square in a ceremony headed by longtime honorary Hollywood mayor Johnny Grant who was also one of the singer's personal friends dating back to World War II. The effort was spearheaded by Native American concert promoter Jean Chakanaka and Carmen Miranda's Brazilian-born grandniece, Cheryl Miranda Cunha, herself a songwriter, singer and performer who adopted the stage name "Miranda" and performs many of her aunt's songs in tribute. 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 Mann'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.

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


  • The Voice of the Carnival (1933)
  • Hello, Hello, Brazil (1935)
  • Students (1935)
  • Hello, Hello, Carnival (1936)
  • Bananas of the Land (1939)
  • Orange of China (1940)
  • Down Argentine Way (1940)
  • That Night in Rio (1941)
  • Meet the Stars: Hollywood Meets the Navy (1941) (short subject)
  • Week-End in Havana (1941)
  • It's All True (1942) (documentary) (unfinished) (voice only) (released in 1993)
  • Springtime in the Rockies (1942)
  • The Gang's All Here (1943)
  • Four Jills in a Jeep (1944)
  • Greenwich Village (1944)
  • Something for the Boys (1944)
  • Doll Face (1945)
  • The All-Star Bond Rally (1945) (short subject)
  • If I'm Lucky (1946)
  • Copacabana (1947)
  • A Date with Judy (1948)
  • Nancy Goes to Rio (1950)
  • Scared Stiff (1953)

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Carmen Miranda