Monday, February 09, 2009

BANANAS WERE HER BUSINESS


If you are an old Hollywood fan as I am and always will be, you might find it interesting that today would have been the one hundreth birthday of Brazillian super star Carmen Miranda. This was one amzing entertainer. This amsazing lady was making more money ($200,00 a year) in 1945 than any other woman in the entertainment industry. That beats even Bette Davis and joan Crawford. Literally "bananas were her business". Who could forget those amazing dances she performed on film. Dear Carmen made a total of fourteen Hollywood films between 1940 and 1953 and was dubbed "The Brazilian Bombshell". Her 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. Her act 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." However there were times that Carmen performed barefoot on stage due to the fact she could move more easily in bare feet than the towering platform sandals.During a visit to Brazil in 1940, Miranda was heavily criticized for giving in to American commercialism and projecting a false image of Brazil. She responded with the Portuguese language song "They Say I've Come Back Americanized." Her motto "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 fourteen years.
After returning to the United States, Miranda made her final film appearance in the 1953 film Scared Stiff with Martin and Lewis/ In the later years of her life, Miranda, began taking amphetamines and barbiturates all of which took a toll on her body. That happened not only to Ms. Miranda, but to many other stars of the day like Judy Garland. On August 4, 1955, Carmen Miranda suffered a heart attack during a segment of the live The Jimmy Durante Show, although she did not realize it at the time. After completing a dance number on the live telecast, she unknowingly suffered a mild heart attack, and nearly collapsed. She quickly pulled herself together and finished the show. At the end of the broadcast, she smiled and waved and exited the stage. She died later that night after suffering a second heart attack at her home.In accordance with her wishes, Miranda's body was flown back to Brazil where the Brazilian government declared a period of national mourning. Despite the controversy surrounding her career in her native Brazil, more than a million Brazilians stood on the funeral procession's route to mourn her death.She is buried in in Rio de Janeiro. Her funeral cort├Ęge, en route to the cemetery, was accompanied by about half a million people.
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Carmen Miranda has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6262 Hollywood Boulevard.Helena Solberg made a documentary of her life, Carmen Miranda: Bananas is My Business in 1995.
Miranda's enormous, fruit-laden hats are iconic visuals recognized around the world. These costumes lead to Saks Fifth Avenue developing a line of turbans and jewelry inspired by Carmen Miranda in 1939. Many costume jewelry designers made fruit jewelry also inspired by Carmen Miranda which is still highly valued and collectible by vintage and antique costume jewelry collectors. Fruit jewelry is still popular in jewelry design today. Much of the fruit jewelry seen today is often still fondly called "Carmen Miranda jewelry" because of this. Her image was much satirized and taken up as camp, and today, the "Carmen Miranda" persona is popular among female impersonators and drag performers. Today is also the birthday of dear Ronald Coleman for whom I do a nifty impression of and actress Peggy Wood who was the Mother Abbess in 1965's "The Sound Of Music". Alas, i discover that Peggy Wood did not actually sing the song in that movie-- it was dubbed. Today we celebrate Lincoln's Birthday on this date although it actually doesn't arrive until February 12th when dear old Honest Abe" will turn two hundred years old. John Nugent and I ran an ad for singers in Backstage West last week and so far we have received twenty-one applications of some of the most amazing singers I have ever heard. I have extended another invitation for Terry Snyder to join us. As I told him in my e mail letter that if it were not for the genius of he and dear Tony Westbrook, (accompanied by the amazing Tim Doran) I simply wouldn't be doing the writing I am doing. Those wonderful days will not be forgotten by me. The studio where we recorded many of Tony's songs for "Highway To A Dream" in Glendale doesn't even exist any more. Thank goodness for Smooth Sound studios. Now John Nugent and I are using full orchestrations created by Finale 2009. It's a God-send. Weather wise: We've had three days of rain here and we are all pretty tired of it-- oh well. Well off to more writing!

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