Carmen Miranda Turns 100

Carmen Miranda – known as the “Brazilian Bombshell” in the U.S.; as A Pequena Notável (either “The Notable Gal” or “The Notable Little One”) in Brazil – would have turned 100 today.

In the clip above, the Portuguese-born, (as Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha, in Marco de Canavezes) Brazilian-raised (in Rio de Janeiro) entertainer can be seen performing, along with the Bando da Lua (Band of the Moon), what may well be her most popular song – Dorival Caymmi's “O Que É Que a Baiana Tem” (“What Does the Bahiana Have?”) – in the 1939 Brazilian musical comedy Banana-da-Terra, directed by Ruy Costa. (According to the youtube poster, the original routine was shorter; the one above has been re-edited. That probably explains the poor lip-synching midway through the clip.)

Shot in 1938, two years before Miranda made her Hollywood debut, “O Que É Que a Baiana Tem,” is reportedly Banana-da-Terra's only surviving sequence. It also marks the first time Miranda wore her beringed, bejeweled, bedazzling Bahiana outfit – though (at least some of) Banana-da-Terra is set in Rio (as can be attested by the skyline at the beginning of the clip).

Written by João de Barro and Mário Lago, Banana-da-Terra follows the Queen of Bananolândia (Dircinha Batista), as she tries to help her island-country get rid of its excess banana production by exporting the fruit to (of all places) Brazil, where apparently people eat more bananas than they produce. Also in the cast were Oscarito, who might be described as a sort of Brazilian Totó or Cantinflas or Bob Hope, Linda Batista (Dircinha's sister), and Aloysio de Oliveira.

I'd never seen “O Que É Que a Baiana Tem” until a few minutes ago, but it's already my favorite Carmen Miranda number. Her “The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat” from The Gang's All Here (1943) may be more extravagant, while her other show-stoppers in 20th Century Fox productions of the early 1940s may have been all impeccably produced – and in color – but it's the very simplicity of the “O Que É Que a Baiana Tem” number, shot in plain, old black and white, now extant in a faded, scratchy print, that I find, despite (or perhaps because of) its zesty rhythms, immensely moving.

Carmen Miranda's sister, Aurora Miranda (Phantom Lady, The Three Caballeros) died at age 90 in Dec. 2005.

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4 Comments to Carmen Miranda Turns 100

  1. Andre Soares

    Hey, Suellen,
    According to what I've read, Carmen Miranda and Aurora Miranda sing “Nós somos as cantoras do rádio…” in Adhemar Gonzaga's “Alô Alô Carnaval” (1936).

  2. Suellen

    Hi André! I thought that there were two clips from “Banana da Terra”, this one and the one she sings with Aurora “Nos somos as cantoras do Radio..;” where we can see them singing and dancing in silver top hats. It's a pity we can't see these movies nowadays. I'd love see a Brazilian movie with Carmen.

  3. Alan B. Nogueira

    Hi. “Pequena Notável” in portuguese means “The Notable Little One”. I think that I as a brazilian could help you with this little translation.

  4. Belinda Jones

    This is just beautiful. Ms. Miranda was so fun to watch and oh so gracefully amusing.

    I actually have seen this before back at my university days, when they had a screening about latin movie stars in the 1950's.