CARMEN MIRANDA Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name:Carmen Miranda                                                               
Born: Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha                                             
Born: 9 February 1909 Marco de Canaveses, Portugal                                 
Died: 5 August 1955 Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California                         
Carmen Miranda (February 9, 1909 – August 5, 1955);                             
birth name Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha, GCIH) was a Portuguese-born           
Brazilian samba singer and motion picture star most active in the 1940s. She       
was nicknamed Carmen by her father, because of his love of the opera Carmen by     
Georges Bizet. Carmen's legacy was instrumental in synthesizing, divulging and     
popularizing samba.                                                               
Carmen Miranda was born in the small northern Portuguese town of Marco de         
Canaveses to Portuguese parents. She was the second daughter of José Maria Pinto 
Cunha (1887 - 1938) and Maria Emília Miranda (1886 - 1971). Shortly after her     
birth, her father, José Maria, emigrated to Brazil and settled in Rio de Janeiro 
(the then capital), where he opened a barber's shop. In 1910, her mother           
followed, together with her eldest daughter, Olinda, and Carmen. Carmen never     
returned to Portugal. Once in Brazil, her parents had further children, namely:   
Amaro (1911), Cecília (1913), Aurora (1915 - 2005) and Oscar (1916).             
Carmen went to school at the Convent of Saint Therese of Lisieux. Her very         
Catholic parents did not approve of her dreams of pursuing show business, so she   
kept them secret for years. In her spare time, she often sang at parties and       
festivals around town. Carmen's sister, Olinda, contracted tuberculosis and       
returned to Portugal for treatment. Carmen got her first job, in a tie shop at     
age 14, to help pay for her sister's medical treatment. She later worked in a     
boutique, La Femme Chic, where she learned to make hats. In no time, she started   
her own small hat business which became quite profitable. Olinda, meanwhile,       
remained in Portugal until her death in 1931.                                     
Before long, she was discovered and began singing on a local radio station.       
Ultimately, Carmen wound up with a recording contract with RCA. One thing led to   
another, and she pursued a career as a samba singer for 10 years before she was   
invited to New York City to perform in a show on Broadway.By 1928, she was a       
genuine superstar in Brazil. As with other popular singers of the era, Carmen     
eventually made her way into the film world. She made her debut in the Brazilian   
documentary "A Voz Do Carnaval". Two years later Carmen appeared in her first     
feature film entitled "Alo, Alo Brasil". But it was Estudantes that seemed to     
solidify Carmen in the minds of the movie going public                             
In Brazil, she was noted as a musical innovator, and was one of the first samba   
superstars long before her arrival in the United States. She also made six films   
in Brazil.                                                                         
Carmen 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.     
Carmen made a total of 14 Hollywood films between 1940 and 1953. As a singer,     
she sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. She was given                     
the nickname "The Brazilian Bombshell".                                           
Carmen’s 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." At only 5 feet tall (1.52   
m), these accoutrements made her appear almost larger-than-life on screen.         
She was well aware of the tensions in her career. During a visit to Brazil in     
1940, she 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 14 years.                         
Carmen did not drink or smoke until her late 30s. In addition                     
to her addiction to alcohol and tobacco, Carmen regularly used amphetamines and   
barbiturates, all of which weakened her heart.                                     
"Scared Stiff" was her final performance on the silver screen. On August 4, 1955, 
Carmen suffered a heart attack, although she didn't realize it at the time,       
while taping a segment for the Jimmy Durante Show.                                 
The A&E Network Biography episode featuring Carmen Miranda contained the final     
tragic kinescope footage from her August 4 appearance.                             
After completing a dance number, Carmen unknowingly suffered a mild heart attack, 
and nearly collapsed. Durante was at her side, and helped keep her on her feet.   
She laughed "I'm all out of breath" and Durante replied "Dat's OK, honey, I'll     
take yer lines!" Carmen laughed again, quickly pulled herself together and         
finished the show. At the end of the broadcast, she danced backwards out of the   
door, turned to the audience, blew a big kiss, and was gone for the last time.     
"The Brazilian Bombshell" died early the following morning, at the age of 46.     
The official cause of death given on her death certificate was from untreated     
toxemia (later known as pre-eclampsia), and heart failure stemming from a         
pregnancy. Her body was flown back to Brazil soon afterwards and the Brazilian     
government declared a period of national mourning. She was buried in the           
Cemitério São João Batista in Rio de Janeiro. Her funeral cortège, en route   
to the cemetery, was accompanied by about half a million people.