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Carmen Miranda: Bananas Is My Business (1995)

7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 192 users  
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A biography of the Portuguese-Brazilian singer Carmen Miranda, whose most distinctive feature was her tutti frutti hat. She came to the US as the "Brazilian Bombshell" and was a Broadway ... See full summary »

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Title: Carmen Miranda: Bananas Is My Business (1995)

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Aurora Miranda ...
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A biography of the Portuguese-Brazilian singer Carmen Miranda, whose most distinctive feature was her tutti frutti hat. She came to the US as the "Brazilian Bombshell" and was a Broadway and Hollywood star in the 1940s. Written by Will Gilbert

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13 April 1995 (Brazil)  »

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Bananas Is My Business  »

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Connections

Features Down Argentine Way (1940) See more »

Soundtracks

Street of Dreams
Music by Victor Young
Lyrics by Sam Lewis
Performed by The Ink Spots
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User Reviews

Decent premise ruined by oversentimentalization
13 August 2001 | by (USA) – See all my reviews

By now, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Hollywood during the "golden years" under the studio system -- specifically the 30s, 40s and 50s -- was no place for the faint of heart. Many an icon was created which turned on its portrayer, typecasting them for eternity to a single image or even a single role. In Carmen Miranda's case, she will be forever remembered, at least by most Americans, as the oversexed, thickly-accented Latina "bombshell," with any of a number of names ending in "-ita," elevating the "exotic" stereotype of "Souse Americans" to a fine art with grotesquely bright, overdone Technicolor costumes and pounds of gaudy jewelry draped everywhere her tiny body could carry it. Carmen was a major recording star in her adopted homeland of Brazil for the majority of the 1930s, certainly long before most Americans had even heard of her. However, she came to the U.S. in 1939 and proceeded to make a career as a professional "hot-cha-cha gal" in fourteen films, each campier than the last.

Director Helena Solberg, who was a child at the time of Miranda's death in 1955, appears to have nurtured a lifelong obsession with the late star. Her film documentary, "Bananas is My Business," is, to be fair, obviously a labor of affection and wistfulness that Carmen's talents were stolen from the world at the comparatively young age of forty-six. However, the film reeks of nineties-style "exposure therapy," as if the fact that Carmen fell victim to prescription drugs and a violent husband and frustration over not being allowed to play anyone but caricature-laden Carmencita-type spitfires was the major defining element of her life.

This woman clawed her way out of childhood poverty and not only conquered the heavily male-dominated music business in Brazil, but then proceeded to become the highest-paid woman in the entire United States in 1944. Yes, she married an asshole and she kept the kind of hectic schedule that couldn't be maintained for long without chemical intervention. She saw doors closed to her because she was a woman and a Latina and the fact that she could speak far better English than was usually quoted from her was probably very frustrating indeed. But how do we know she died miserable?

I would rather have seen more remembrances from people who actually knew Carmen (although I realize that many of her contemporaries in Hollywood were already deceased when this documentary was made. Oh, to have known what Edward Everett Horton would have said of her! LOL). Ms. Solberg's psychobabble ruminations on how Carmen "must" have felt about this or that event in her life became tiresome very quickly and offensive in the final analysis.

Carmen Miranda was more than another Judy Garland that Hollywood chewed up and spit out. I think some things are best remembered without attempting to analyze them.


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