Brazilliance : Carmen Miranda ©2004JCMarion

Carmen Miranda, known the world over as the "Brazilian Bombshell" was actually born in Portugal in the village of Marco de Canavezes near Porto. As a young child the family moved to Brazil where Carmen's father founded a successful produce business. In her teenage years Miranda (born Maria Do Carmo Miranda da Cunha) was attracted to music especially the samba music heard in Brazil. About 1930 she met and then began performing with Almirante, a true renaissance man of Brazilian entertainment. Together they made many recordings and performed for radio, on stage, and in films throughout the nineteen thirties. Theatrical entrepreneur Lee Schubert brought Miranda to the United States in 1939 and she was an immediate sensation.

Beginning in 1940 Carmen Miranda made many musical films for American studios and became a familiar face in movie theaters all across the country. "Down Argentine Way", "That Night In Rio", "Weekend In Havana", "The Gang's All Here", "Four Jills In A Jeep", "Greenwich Village", and "Something For The Boys" all made by 20th Century Fox. By 1946 she was one of the top movie stars in Hollywood and one of the wealthiest women in the world. With the end of the war Fox wanted to move in other directions with their musicals and so Miranda was let go and she moved to Universal studios. "Doll Face" and "If I'm Lucky" were followed by a Groucho Marx comedy called "Copacabana". In 1948 she had a featured role in "A Date With Judy" a hit film for MGM. This film also produced her biggest selling record in the United States, a spirited duet with the Andrews Sisters on the tune "Cuanto La Gusta" on Decca #24479 which was a solid seller and remained for three and a half months on the top hits list. In 1950 MGM starred Miranda in "Nancy Goes To Rio" and the same year Miranda returned with the Andrews Sisters for the recording of "The Wedding Samba" on Decca #24841.

She had one last film, "Scared Stiff" with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. In 1954 she returned to Brazil for the first time since 1940 and was given a reception worthy of her status as the most famous Brazilian in the world. This was a marked departure from the criticism she received in 1940 because she was too "Americanized". It is true that she was portrayed as something of a caricature with the fractured English and the fruit salad headgear, but that was the Carmen Miranda that the world had come to love. In real life, Miranda's world was not so happy. A marriage to movie producer David Sebastian produced more heartache than happiness. But - her public persona was one of great energy, much fun, and adulation. I thought of her great influence on the world of popular music when recently watching Woody Allen's great ode to American nostalgia "Radio Days". Miranda's original recording of "South American Way" was given great prominence in the film and it is a gem.

Miranda continued to do personal appearances into the nineteen fifties and during a segment of a Jimmy Durante television show featuring a mambo dance number she had trouble catching her breath. The next morning she was dead of a heart attack at the young age of forty six. Fifty years after her death, younger generations may have difficulty understanding the magnitude of her star power during the nineteen forties, but she was indeed one of the top names in the entertainment field. Luckily for those who enjoyed her performances, and for many others that are curious as to what all the excitement was about, there are a great number of re-issue CDs that are available. There is also a documentary DVD about the life and times of Carmen Miranda called "Bananas Is My Business" by Helena Solberg, which while far from perfect, still remains a valuable look at the life of this most unique entertainer and personality.

Carmen Miranda music CDs that are available include :

"The Brazilian Recordings" for Harlequin 1994

"Anthology" for One Way 1994

"South American Way" for Jasmine 1995

"Carmen Miranda 1930-1945" for Harlequin 1997

"Brazilian Bombshell (25 Hits 1939-52)" for ASV Living Era - 1998

"Lady In The Tutti Frutti Hat" (film and radio airshots) for Harlequin 1999

"Samba" for Proper 1999

"Sambas 1936-37" for Musica Latina 2000

"Cocktail Hour" 2 CD for Columbia 2000

"The Ultimate Collection" (26 all time hits) for Prism 2002

and there are some latin music CDs for the Musicrama label -

"Rivivendo", "Pequena Novotel" and "Maleque Indigesto"

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