Carmen Miranda Costume & Memorabilia: Oversized Jewelry & Tropical Fruits

Carmen Miranda costume: Rio Museum of Modern Art Brazilian Bombshell memorabilia exhibitionCarmen Miranda costume: the so-called “Brazilian Bombshell” in typical churchgoing garb of the period – subdued colors and only the most modest of accoutrements. The “Carmen Miranda Forever” exhibition at Rio de Janeiro's Museum of Modern Art will be showcasing all sorts of memorabilia relating to the “Mamãe Eu Quero” and “The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat” performer.

Carmen Miranda costume & other memorabilia get Rio showcase

“We want to restore the image of Carmen, who has had an incredible impact on Brazil,” says Fabiano Canosa, the curator of a Carmen Miranda costume and memorabilia exhibition being held this December 2005 at the Museum of Modern Art (MAM) in Rio de Janeiro.

Marking (a little belatedly) the fiftieth anniversary of Miranda's death in August 1955, “Carmen Miranda Forever” is being billed as the largest Miranda exhibition ever. Included are more than 700 items, from costumes and jewelry to records, magazines, and photographs.

Carmen Miranda became an international screen legend following singing, dancing, and “r”-rolling appearances as various South of the Border Chitas, Rositas, and Queridas in a series of tropical-flavored, enjoyably vapid, Hollywood Technicolor movies of the 1940s, which, on the downside, mostly failed to make full use of Miranda's warm, exuberant personality and first-rate comic timing.

From Rio to Broadway

Born on Feb. 9, 1909, in a village in the vicinity of the northern Portuguese town of Marco de Canaveses, Carmen Miranda was raised in Rio de Janeiro, to where her family had emigrated while she was still an infant.

She began singing on the radio in the late 1920s, and a few years later was seen – at times accompanied by her younger sister Aurora Miranda – on the Rio stage and in musical numbers in a handful of Brazilian movies (e.g., Alô Alô Brasil, Banana-da-Terra). Next, she performed on Broadway, which led to a 20th Century Fox contract.

Hollywood's 'Carmen Miranda Costume': Brazilian Bombshell

Carmen Miranda's first Fox movie was Irving Cummings' Down Argentine Way (1940), featuring the Brazilian import as a “specialty” attraction singing “Mamãe Eu Quero” and “South American Way.”

Along with her frilly, colorful costumes and the fruit salad she often wore atop her head, Miranda, nicknamed the Brazilian Bombshell, would remain at the studio until 1946. During that time, she was almost invariably seen as generic characters – usually with Hispanicized names – from somewhere south of the Rio Grande.

With the exception of a few elaborate musical numbers, her movies were equally generic. They gave her plenty of opportunities to sing (sometimes in Portuguese) and dance, but little opportunity to act apart from raising her eyebrows before exploding in “Latin” fury or delivering lines in her unique rat-a-tat manner.

If that weren't all, the actual romantic leads in these star vehicles were Fox's all-American blondes Alice Faye, Betty Grable, and (strawberry blonde) Vivian Blaine.

Carmen Miranda costume: Brazilian Bombshell as generic South of the Border characters in Fox musicalsCarmen Miranda costume. In her dozen Hollywood movies, Brazilian import Carmen Miranda was cast as generic South of the Border characters notable for their colorful, partly edible costumes; long, shiny lips and eyelashes; and zestfully accented machine-gun-like line delivery. Despite Miranda's undeniable popularity, her movies' leading men John Payne, James Ellison, and Don Ameche hooked up not with her, but with all-American blondes Alice Faye, Betty Grable, and (strawberry blonde) Vivian Blaine.

Carmen Miranda movies

Below is a list of Carmen Miranda's Hollywood movies. All but the last four were 20th Century Fox releases. Every title between 1940 and 1944 was in Technicolor.

Also in color were Miranda's two Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films, A Date with Judy and Nancy Goes to Rio.

  • Down Argentine Way (1940).
    Dir.: Irving Cummings.
    Cast: Betty Grable. Don Ameche. Carmen Miranda. Charlotte Greenwood. J. Carrol Naish. Henry Stephenson.
  • That Night in Rio (1941).
    Dir.: Irving Cummings.
    Cast: Alice Faye. Don Ameche. Carmen Miranda. S.Z. Sakall. J. Carrol Naish. Curt Bois.
  • Week-End in Havana (1941).
    Dir.: Walter Lang.
    Cast: Alice Faye. John Payne. Carmen Miranda. Cesar Romero. Cobina Wright Jr.
  • Springtime in the Rockies (1942).
    Dir.: Irving Cummings.
    Cast: Betty Grable. John Payne. Carmen Miranda. Cesar Romero. Charlotte Greenwood. Edward Everett Horton. Harry James.
  • The Gang's All Here (1943).
    Dir.: Busby Berkeley.
    Cast: Alice Faye. Carmen Miranda. James Ellison. Sheila Ryan. Charlotte Greenwood. Phil Baker. Benny Goodman. Eugene Pallette.
  • Greenwich Village (1944).
    Dir.: Walter Lang.
    Cast: Carmen Miranda. Vivian Blaine. Don Ameche. William Bendix.
  • Something for the Boys (1944).
    Dir.: Lewis Seiler.
    Cast: Carmen Miranda. Vivian Blaine. Michael O'Shea. Phil Silvers. Sheila Ryan. Glenn Langan.
  • Doll Face (1945).
    Dir.: Lewis Seiler.
    Cast: Vivian Blaine. Dennis O'Keefe. Perry Como. Carmen Miranda. Martha Stewart. Stephen Dunne.
  • Copacabana (1947).
    Dir.: Alfred E. Green.
    Cast: Groucho Marx. Carmen Miranda. Steve Cochran. Gloria Jean.
  • A Date with Judy (1948).
    Dir.: Richard Thorpe.
    Cast: Jane Powell. Wallace Beery. Elizabeth Taylor. Carmen Miranda. Robert Stack. Xavier Cugat. Scotty Beckett.
  • Nancy Goes to Rio (1950).
    Dir.: Robert Z. Leonard.
    Cast: Ann Sothern. Jane Powell. Barry Sullivan. Carmen Miranda. Louis Calhern. Scotty Beckett.
  • Scared Stiff (1953).
    Dir.: George Marshall.
    Cast: Dean Martin. Lizabeth Scott. Jerry Lewis. Carmen Miranda. George Dolenz. Dorothy Malone.

Death at age 45

Carmen Miranda's last film appearance was what amounted to a cameo in the 1953 Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis comedy Scared Stiff.

She died of a heart attack on Aug. 5, 1955, in Beverly Hills – a day after suffering a minor attack during a taping of The Jimmy Durante Show. She was buried in Rio, where her hearse was accompanied by a crowd of 500,000.

Dec. 30 update: Carmen Miranda's younger sister, Aurora Miranda, whose handful of film credits include Phantom Lady and The Three Caballeros (in which she wears a more discreet Carmen Miranda costume in the Bahiana style), died at age 90 on Dec. 22.

See more Carmen Miranda costumes as she turns 100 (“Carmen Miranda Turns 100”) and she shakes the blues away (“Carmen Miranda Dances in That Night in Rio”).

 

Rio de Janeiro's Museum of Modern Art website.

Carmen Miranda costume images: Publicity shots ca. early 1940s.

“Carmen Miranda Costume & Memorabilia: Oversized Jewelry & Tropical Fruits” last updated in January 2019.

Carmen Miranda Costume & Memorabilia: Oversized Jewelry & Tropical Fruits © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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3 Comments to Carmen Miranda Costume & Memorabilia: Oversized Jewelry & Tropical Fruits

  1. Austin Burbridge

    The Carmen Miranda Museum (Museu Carmen Miranda) in the Flamengo neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro is small but curated with love. Mostly it is a gallery of her costumes. She was such a *giant* of entertainment — it is startling to see that the garments were made for a *tiny* person.

  2. Nono

    Sou familiar da carmen miranda prima em 4º grau tenho uma obsessão por sua musica e pela sua beleza!

  3. Joni Giarratano

    I taught an Art class using my memory of Carmen Miranda and hercostume, as one I always wore as my costume for Halloween. NO one in the class knew who I was talking about ! I need a photo of her to show them , next time , just how beautiful she was ! I can't seem to download the photo that accompanies this article !…HELP?