Almanac: Carmen Miranda


Carmen Miranda in the 1943 musical "The Gang's All Here," directed and choreographed by Busby Berkeley.

20th Century Fox

On February 9, 1909, future Hollywood star Carmen Miranda was born in Portugal. Her family soon relocated to Brazil, where Carmen became a young singing sensation.

In the early 1940s she broke into Hollywood, earning the nickname "The Brazilian Bombshell," while also reputedly earning the biggest salary of any movie actress.

Just five feet tall and 98 pounds, Miranda performed in platform shoes and her signature tropical fruit headgear, as in the 1943 Busby Berkeley spectacular, "The Gang's All Here":

The Lady In The Tutti Frutti Hat by Gregory May on YouTube

In a British interview, she revealed the source of her fashion inspiration: "In Brazil, in Bahia, the girls carry a basket with their fruit on their heads," she said.

As it happened, many Brazilians carried a grudge against Miranda as well, accusing her of perpetuating the worst stereotypes of Latin American culture.

Still, after her death from a heart attack in 1955 at the age of just 46, tens of thousands of people turned out for her funeral in Rio de Janeiro.

Story produced by Robert Marston.