By 1944, Carmen Miranda, the "Brazilian bombshell," was the highest-paid actress in Hollywood just five years after she hit U.S. shores.
Miranda wowed audiences with her Latin rhythms, exuberant songs and impossibly large fruit-basket headdresses, which only grew in proportion with her fame. She starred in such films as "The Gang's All Here" (1943) and "Springtime in the Rockies" (1942).
Born Maria de Carmen Miranda da Cunha on Feb. 14, 1914, in Lisbon, Portugal, Miranda was taken to Brazil as an infant. Her father was a traveling salesman. She entered show business when a guitarist friend got her a job singing on the radio in Rio. Within a matter of weeks she was the darling of the nation.
Miranda rose like a comet in the show business firmament. She gave the samba, Brazil's native music, to the world.
Lee Shubert, a New York producer and theater owner, brought Miranda to the United States after signing her for his Broadway musical, "The Streets of Paris," in 1939. She took Broadway by storm and became a star overnight.
A motion picture contract with 20th Century Fox followed in 1940. Her first picture, "Down Argentine Way," was a repeat of her Broadway triumph. She became one of the world's most famous and wealthy entertainers.
The great hats she wore, covered with bananas and grapes and pineapples, were copied throughout the world. Her platform shoes were sold everywhere. And millions followed her hip-swinging, eye-rolling example on the dance floor and learned to samba.
Miranda made nine feature films in her five years at Fox, including such great musical hits as "That Night in Rio," "Weekend in Havana," "Springtime in the Rockies," and "If I'm Lucky," and an equal number for other companies. Her last picture was "Copacabana," in which she costarred with Groucho Marx in 1947.
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