Carmen Miranda Museum

Carmen Miranda Museum (27)

Located in Eduardo Gomes Park, better known as Flamengo Park, the Carmen Miranda Museum, which opened to the public in 1976, preserves the memory of the singer and actress considered one of the forerunners of Brazilian Tropicália. The institution thus perpetuates the artist's legacy, which characterised the Brazilian popular music. It is a museum to an icon of the people.

The singer, actress and dancer Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha excelled in the musical cinema of the 1940s thanks to her exotic presence, characterised by her striking headdresses made of tropical fruit.

She was born on 9 February 1909 in Marco de Canavezes, a Portuguese village near Oporto.

Shortly after her birth, Carmen moved with her family to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. 

The samba born in the black favelas was on track to become the official music of the country. In 1929, Carmen debuted on radio and in January 1930 she launched two albums. After a month, the carnival arrived and she became the protagonist, "marking a before and an after in the history of Brazilian popular music". Thanks to her, samba became the language of Brazil.

In the late 1930s, Carmen signed a contract with the Schubert Brothers to star in some musicals on Broadway. The jump from New York to Los Angeles was quick, and she made her debut in Hollywood in 1940 with the 20th Century Fox film "Down Argentine Way", a musical comedy directed by Irving Cummings.

Throughout that decade, Carmen featured in many films, including  "That Night in Rio", "A Week-End in Havana", "Springtime in the Rockies", "Copacabana" in 1947 alongside Groucho Marx and "A Date with Judy", a musical directed by Richard Thorpe that also starred Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Powell, Wallace Beery and Xavier Cugat, and was choreographed by a young Stanley Donen. 

In 1947 she settled down and married David Sebastian, who she left widowed on 5 August 1955 after suffering a heart attack following a television performance on The Jimmy Durante Show. She was just 46 years old.

The museum collection mainly consists of the artist's belongings, donated by her family, especially her sister Aurora Miranda and her widower. 

It consists of more than 3300 objects, including photographs, costumes, jewellery, handbags, shoes and, of course, 38 of her famous headdresses and turbans.

The museum also has a document archive containing programme and movie posters, original scripts, notes handwritten by Carmen, photographs, and more than five thousand newspaper and magazine clippings. 

Carmen Miranda was much more than a headdress made of bananas. She ended up making more money than Cary Grant and exploiting oil wells with John Wayne. A symbol of the cheerful and sensual Latin woman, Hollywood typecast Carmen Miranda in a folkloric role from which she never escaped. 

In 1939, the ship SS Uruguay docked at the port of New York and a group of journalists welcomed her. In the bad English she had learned during her trip, she simply said: "I say money, money, money. I say twenty words in English. I say money, money, money and I say hot dog". But she would soon pay for those words, which sounded funny and innocent at the time. Hollywood would never let her express herself any other way. She had to keep that accent for all the years she lived in the country. In return, they worshipped her, she was featured on the cover of every magazine, she was given the nickname the Brazilian bombshell and she went on to become the highest paid woman in the United States in 1946.

It is said that behind that smile she hid an addiction to barbiturates and the trauma of not having had children.

But above all, the woman with the tutti-frutti hat was the artist who popularised the samba in Brazil and throughout the world.

And she was so beloved among the cariocas that, in addition to the Carmen Miranda Museum, she also has a band, a bloco that parades every carnival. The drag queens faithful to their idol parade with their exuberant costumes every year.

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