Born Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha in 1909, Portuguese-Brazilian samba singer, dancer, Broadway actress Carmen Miranda is noted for her signature fruit hat outfit she wore in her American films.
As a young woman, she designed hats in a boutique before making her first recordings with composer Josué de Barros in 1929. Miranda’s 1930 recording of “Taí” (“Pra Você Gostar de Mim”), written by Joubert de Carvalho, catapulted her to stardom in Brazil as the foremost interpreter of samba.
During the 1930s, Miranda performed on Brazilian radio and appeared in five Brazilian chanchadas, films celebrating Brazilian music, dance, and the country’s carnival culture. The 1939 musical Banana da Terra (directed by Ruy Costa) gave the world her “Baiana” image, inspired by African-Brazilians from the northeastern state of Bahia.
In 1939, Broadway producer Lee Shubert offered Miranda an eight-week contract to perform in The Streets of Paris after seeing her at Cassino da Urca in Rio de Janeiro. The following year she made her first Hollywood film, Down Argentine Way with Don Ameche and Betty Grable, and her exotic clothing and Latin accent became her trademark. That year, she was voted the third-most-popular personality in the United States; she and her group, Bando da Lua, were invited to sing and dance for President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In 1943, Miranda starred in Busby Berkley’s The Gang’s All Here, which was noted for its musical numbers with the fruit hats that became her trademark. By 1945, she was the highest-paid woman in the United States.
Miranda made 14 Hollywood films between 1940 and 1953, and was the first Latin American star to be invited to leave her hand- and footprints in the courtyard of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and was the first South American honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 1955, Miranda collapsed with a fatal heart attack at 46 years old. She is considered the precursor of Brazil’s 1960s Tropicalismo cultural movement.
Take a look at these glamorous photos to see the beauty of young Carmen Miranda in the 1930s and 1940s.