You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Carmen Miranda: Bananas Is My Business

Complex and probing, "Carmen Miranda: Bananas Is My Business" provides a fascinating account of the onetime megastar as not only a torn and tragic person and underrated artist, but also as the eventual prisoner of a giddy image reflecting various intertwined political and cultural agendas.

With: Cynthia Adler, Erick Barreto, Lerticia Monte.

Complex and probing, “Carmen Miranda: Bananas Is My Business” provides a fascinating account of the onetime megastar as not only a torn and tragic person and underrated artist, but also as the eventual prisoner of a giddy image reflecting various intertwined political and cultural agendas. As enjoyable as it is thought-provoking, well-honed docu should fruitfully engage auds in specialized sites and on PBS, where it will air in the “P.O.V.” series this fall. Brazilian narrator-director Helena Solberg establishes a personal tone in recalling how her parents kept her away from Miranda’s 1955 funeral, which drew nearly a million mourners in Rio de Janeiro.

The memory leads into recurrent reflections about the ambivalent feelings many Brazilians and other Latin Americans, especially women, had and have for “the Tutti-Frutti Woman.”

Born in Portugal and reared in Brazil, Miranda was an overnight sensation after being discovered at the age of 20 while working for a milliner. Singing infectious sambas in fanciful, fruit-topped costumes inspired by the African-American dress of the Bahia region, she was already a national icon in 1939 when visiting impresario Lee Shubert caught her act and signed her to a Broadway contract.

After taking New York by storm in “The Streets of Paris,” she returned home only to be stung by criticism that she had become “Americanized.” Replying to the charges in a witty musical revue, she scored another success, but her lingering dismay evidently prepared her to depart again quickly, this time bound for Hollywood and a contract with Fox.

Pic’s most intriguing segments examine how wartime political concerns led Washington, via the Nelson Rockefeller-led office of Inter-American Affairs, to nudge Hollywood to make convivial Latin-themed films as a way of solidifying alliances. Miranda thus became “the Good Neighbor policy in person.” However, though her cartoonish persona was a huge smash in the U.S., it rankled many in South America.

Presented as savvy and self-reliant, as well as charismatic, Miranda sensed the limitations of the image increasingly imposed on her. Buying out her Fox contract at the end of the war, she attempted to expand her range by playing a dual role in “Copacabana,” co-starring Groucho Marx. Nevertheless, her subsequent life was a steady slide into woes that included substance abuse, severe depression and a bad marriage. She died of a heart attack at age 46.

Pic makes good use of film clips and interviews with many Miranda confidants, Brazilian cultural commentators and observers such as Rita Moreno, who speaks movingly of the effects of cultural stereotyping.

Occasional dramatizations, featuring two actors as Miranda and another as “Luella Hopper,” are smoothly integrated, and tech credits are fine throughout.

Carmen Miranda: Bananas Is My Business

Production: An International Cinema Inc. production. Produced by David Meyer, Helena Solberg. Directed, narrated by Helena Solberg.

Crew: Camera (color), Tomasz Magierski; editors, Meyer, Amanda Zinoman. Reviewed on videocassette, N.Y., June 30, 1995. Running time: 90 min.

With: With: Cynthia Adler, Erick Barreto, Lerticia Monte.

More Film

  • VICE

    Adam McKay Explains the 'Vice' Musical Number He Left on the Cutting Room Floor

    Adam McKay’s “Vice” has clearly divided critics, with some calling it a bold and daring analysis of one of the most pivotal figures in American politics, and others mincing no words in labeling it, full stop, the worst film of the year. (Truly, in the year of a Dinesh D’Souza movie, people are grandstanding with [...]

  • Penny Marshall Dead

    Penny Marshall, 'Laverne & Shirley' Star, Director, Dies at 75

    Penny Marshall, who starred alongside Cindy Williams in the hit ABC comedy “Laverne & Shirley” and then became a successful director, died on Monday night at her Hollywood Hills home due to complications from diabetes, Variety has confirmed. She was 75. Marshall was the first woman to direct a film that grossed more than $100 [...]

  • 'They Shall Not Grow Old' Box

    Peter Jackson's 'They Shall Not Grow Old' Collects $2.3 Million on Monday

    Peter Jackson’s World War I documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old” earned $2.3 million at 1,122 theaters in North America on Monday. Warner Bros. released the movie five weeks after it aired on Armistice Day on the BBC. The studio partnered with Fathom Events in the U.S. for a one-day event, marking the largest single [...]

  • Dua LipaVariety Hitmakers Brunch, Portraits, Los

    'Alita: Battle Angel' to Feature New Song by Dua Lipa

    Robert Rodriguez’s “Alita: Battle Angel” will feature a new song by Dua Lipa. “Swan Song,” co-written by Justin Tranter, Kennedi Lykken, Mattias Larsson, Robin Fredriksson and Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL), in addition to Dua Lipa, will drop ahead of the film’s U.S. opening on Feb. 14. The Twentieth Century Fox action-adventure movie was produced by James Cameron and Jon Landau [...]

  • Les Arcs Festival Unveil Prizes For

    'System Crasher,' 'White on White' Win Work-in-Progress Awards at Les Arcs

    Nora Fingscheidt’s “System Crasher” and Theo Court’s “White on White” won the top prizes at Les Arcs Film Festival’s Work-in-Progress session. Both titles were among the 18 films in post-production pitched during the 10th edition of the Work-in-Progress showcase which is spearheaded by Frederic Boyer, the artistic director of Les Arcs and Tribeca festivals. “System [...]

  • Actress Shirley MacLaine poses at the

    Shirley MacLaine Selected for AARP Career Achievement Award

    Shirley MacLaine has been selected as the recipient of the AARP’s 2018 Movies for Grownups Career Achievement Award. MacLaine will be honored at the 18th annual Movies for Grownups Awards ceremony on Feb. 4 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. MacLaine has credits on more than 50 feature films, won a best [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content