Carmen Miranda: The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat is a Documentary programme.

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Carmen Miranda: The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat

Carmen Miranda was the very first 'Samba Superstar'. Colourful, outrageous, iconic, vivacious and hilarious, her career burnt her out by the tragically young age of 46. Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha, was born in 1909 in the small northern Portuguese town of Marco de Canaveses. She was nicknamed Carmen by her father, because of his love of opera. Shortly after her birth, her father emigrated to Brazil and settled in Rio de Janeiro. Carmen followed, together with her mother and elder sister, and never returned to Portugal. Carmen's parents did not approve of her dreams of a career in show business, so she kept them secret for years. In her spare time, she often sang at parties and festivals around town and worked in a boutique where she learned to make hats. She was eventually discovered and given the chance to perform on a local radio station and pursued a career as a Samba singer for ten years before an invitation to perform in a show on Broadway took her to New York. In 1940, 20th Century Fox approached Carmen and invited her to star in the film Down Argentine Way. The movie was criticised in Brazil and forbidden in Argentina, since it showed the country in a 'ridiculous' way, and during a visit to Brazil that year, she was heavily attacked for giving in to American commercialism and projecting a false image of Brazil. Greatly upset by this criticism, she did not return to Brazil again for 14 years. But the film was a great success with the American public and she was encouraged by the United States government as part of President Roosevelt's Good Neighbour Policy. Her outlandishly flamboyant Hollywood image as 'The Brazilian Bombshell' was one of a generic Latin style that blurred the distinctions between Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Cuba as well as the musical styles of Samba, Tango and Habanera. Her character was carefully stylised and wearing platform sandals and huge head-dresses made of fruit, she became famous as 'The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat'. At only five feet tall, these accoutrements, coupled with her dazzling, vivacious personality made her appear larger-than-life on both stage and screen. Carmen Miranda made a total of 14 Hollywood films between 1940 and 1953. Throughout her film career, Carmen never stopped recording and sold more than 10 million records worldwide. As her Hollywood career slowed down after the mid-1940s, Carmen kept up the gruelling work pace with live appearances, performing a marathon of shows non-stop around the world. In 1955, Carmen opened the famous New Frontier Casino in Las Vegas and then travelled to Cuba, where she fell ill with bronchitis. Still not fully recovered, she agreed to appear on the Jimmy Durante TV Show. During the last day of shooting, on August 5, she felt very dizzy and collapsed in front of the audience during the performance. She had planned an after-show party that evening at her house but excused herself at around 2.00am and went upstairs. Carmen had a heart attack and died while taking off her make-up. She was 46 years old. Her body was flown back to Brazil and the Brazilian government declared a period of national mourning. Despite the early troubles that she had endured regarding her career in the US, more than one million Brazilians filled the streets to mourn her death. Contributors to the programme include Helena Solberg, who made a documentary of her life, Carmen Miranda: Bananas is My Business, in 1995.

Genre: Documentary