Carmen Miranda, she of the crazy fruity hats , colourful costumes and ridiculously high platform shoes, was a multi talented singer, dancer and actress who created a sensation when she was first discovered in Hollywood.
Before making her first Hollywood film, however, she had been a radio star and was Brazil’s most famous samba singer. Her gramophone records were incredibly popular especially in Rio in the 1930s. Miranda made her Broadway debut in a show called ‘Streets of Paris’ and was an instant success with her audiences. Not a conventional beauty she had devised a character with zest. verve and comedic timing who could fit well into any staged scenario. She and the character she devised soon became inseparable and the warm, funny, talented Brazilian Bombshell was born. She had actually started working at only fourteen in a hat shop and it was there that she learned to make those crazy hats for which she would later become so famous.
Always cast in roles where she could shine as a problem solving show stopper there to lend her zany style of wisdom to main characters who got themselves into romantic difficulties. In her very first major film made in 1940,she starred with Betty Grable, Don Ameche and Cesar Romero, three of the most famous stars of the day, and held her own as a loveable ,wise cracking performer who becomes friend and confidante to Betty Grable. This would become the formula for all her future films. But while extremely popular in the U.S. she was frowned upon in Brazil for her stock portrayal of Latin American women. For this reason she did not return to Brazil for many years and was extremely hurt by the animosity she felt from her own country. In films such as ‘That Night In Rio’ and ‘ The Lady In The Tuitti Fruity Hat’ she continued to play the same type of character and by 1945 was Hollywood’s highest paid actress.
Carmen Miranda married David Sebastian who had been the producer on one of her films. It is said that it was not a happy marriage and that he was abusive toward her. Whatever the truth is she was dead by the age of 46 of a heart attack. Carmen Miranda was , in actual fact , a creative genius, a one off who is imitated all over the world. That is something that cannot be said for many of the traditionally ‘Beautiful’ actresses who graced Hollywood in it’s golden age. So all of you girls who are unique take heart and be the very best you can at what it is you do.
I… I … I .. I like you very much…..
© Renee Dallow
( Hybiscus Bloom )