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Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha GCIH, better known by the stage name Carmen Miranda ( ; February 9, 1909 – August 5, 1955) was a Portuguese-bornmarker Brazilianmarker samba singer and actress popular in the 1940s and 1950s.

Miranda was a Broadwaymarker star and by some accounts the highest-earning woman in the United Statesmarker. She achieved stardom in motion pictures, cast in musical roles. Her iconic visual identity is a fruit hat based on costumes she wore in The Gang's All Here. She is considered the precursor of Brazil's Tropicalismo.

Early life

Carmen Miranda was born in Várzea da Ovelha, a village in the northern Portuguesemarker municipality of Marco de Canavesesmarker. She was the second daughter of José Maria Pinto Cunha (1887 – 1938) and Maria Emília Miranda (1886 – 1971). Shortly after her birth, her father emigrated to Brazil and settled in Rio de Janeiromarker, where he opened a barber's shop. Her mother followed in 1910, together with her daughters Olinda and Carmo. Carmo never returned to Portugalmarker, but retained her Portuguese nationality. In Brazil, her parents had four more children - Amaro (1911), Cecília (1913), Aurora (1915 – 2005) and Óscar (1916).

Miranda was called Carmen by her father because of his love for the opera comique. Miranda 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.


Before long, she was discovered and began singing on a local radio station. 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 Citymarker to perform in a show on Broadwaymarker. By 1928, she was a genuine superstar in Brazil. As with other popular singers of the era, Miranda eventually made her way into the film world. She made her 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.

Miranda arrived in the United States in 1939 with her band, the Bando da Lua, and achieved stardom in the early 1940s. She was encouraged by the United States government in her American career 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. She was the country's highest-paid entertainer for several years in the 1940s, and in 1945, was the highest-paid woman in the United States, earning more than $200,000 that year, according to IRS records.

Against her parents' wishes, she married in March 17, 1947 to failed American movie producer David Sebastian. He soon declared himself to be her "manager" and was responsible for many bad business deals. A heavy drinker, he got Miranda into drinking as well and is accused of eventually being her downfall. In 1948 she became pregnant, but suffered a miscarriage after a show. The marriage only lasted 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".

Miranda made a total of fourteen Hollywoodmarker films between 1940 and 1953 and was dubbed "The Brazilian Bombshell". Her Hollywood image was one of a generic Latinness that blurred the distinctions between Brazil, 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." However there were times that Miranda performed barefoot on stage due to the fact she could move more easily in bare feet than 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.

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

In the later years of her life, Miranda began taking amphetamines and barbiturates all of which took a toll on her body.


On August 4, 1955, Miranda suffered a heart attack during a segment of the live The Jimmy Durante Show, although she did not realize it. After completing a dance number (which was later aired on A&E Network's Biography episode about Miranda), she unknowingly suffered a mild heart attack, and nearly collapsed. She quickly pulled herself together and finished 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 accordance with her wishes, Miranda's body was flown back to Brazil where the Brazilian government declared a period of national mourning. Despite the controversy surrounding her career in her adopted Brazil, more than a million Brazilians stood on the funeral procession's route to mourn her death. She is buried in the Cemitério São João Batistamarker in Rio de Janeiromarker. Her funeral cortège, en route to the cemetery, was accompanied by about half a million people.


Carmen Miranda was born in Portugal and moved to Brazil in childhood. Although she retained Portugese citizenship all her life, and never acquired Brazilian citizenship, nevertheless she declared herself to be "Brazilian by Body and Soul" and received numerous citizenship honours in Brazil.


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

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. 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. 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....Carmem 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 After Four Years of Interviews, published in 2005 in Brazil. This book has yet to appear in English.

Visitors to Rio de Janeiromarker 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 Canavesesmarker, 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.

Carmen Miranda Square

On September 25, 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 Angelesmarker city intersections named for historic performers. The square is located at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevardmarker and Orange Drive across from Grauman's Chinese Theatermarker. 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.


Year Film Role Notes
1933 A Voz do Carnaval Herself at Rádio Mayrink Veiga
1935 Alô, Alô, Brasil
Estudantes Mimi
1936 Alô Alô Carnaval
1939 Banana-da-Terra
1940 Laranja-da-China
Down Argentine Way Herself
1941 That Night in Rio Carmen
Week-End in Havana Rosita Rivas
Meet the Stars #5: Hollywood Meets the Navy Herself Short subject
1942 Springtime in the Rockies Rosita Murphy
1943 The Gang's All Here Dorita Alternative title: The Girls He Left Behind
1944 Greenwich Village Princess Querida
Something for the Boys Chiquita Hart
Four Jills in a Jeep Herself
1945 The All-Star Bond Rally Herself (Pinup girl)
1946 Doll Face Chita Chula Alternative title: Come Back to Me
If I'm Lucky Michelle O'Toole
1947 Copacabana Carmen Novarro/Mademoiselle Fifi
1948 A Date with Judy Rosita Cochellas
1950 Nancy Goes to Rio Marina Rodrigues
1953 Scared Stiff Lieutenant
Year Title Role Notes
1949 The Ed Wynn Show Herself 1 episode
1951 What's My Line? Mystery Guest 1 episode
1951-1952 The Colgate Comedy Hour Herself 2 episodes
1953 Toast of the Town Herself 1 episode
1955 The Jimmy Durante Show Herself 2 episodes


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