: : : Carmen Miranda - Bananas Is My Business

Story

Few people know that movie star and gay icon Carmen Miranda was actually born in Portugal but moved to Rio de Janeiro as a girl in 1909. She was a determined, self-perpetuated creation--a master at promoting her public self, which "she wore like a mask that could not be penetrated." That she ultimately became the richest woman in America at one point in her career was a testament to her sheer will to succeed in show business. Carmen Miranda: Bananas Is My Business is a hit-and-miss, sometimes shabbily done "proto-documentary" about her childhood and stardom, enacted with the sort of faux seriousness that is at times embarrassingly inane. The real people in the film, including her cousin, actors Cesar Romero, Rita Moreno, and Alice Faye (who says simply, "She had magic"), and boyfriends from her youth ("She had eyes like the headlights on a car," rues one) paint a portrait of a woman who, though effervescent on the surface, was haunted by criticism from home after she became "Americanized" and who endured a cold, loveless, physically abusive marriage. Miranda emerges as a Hollywood victim, for although she had everything she wanted, she was never given the studio's blessing to escape from her image to pursue her true musical talent. Sleeping pills, depression, and electroshock therapy followed, further indicating an underlying misery despite Miranda's gleeful public expression that "bananas is my business." Yet she never despised her famous alter ego--a Latin spitfire bombshell who wore a fruit basket on her head. Her death by a heart attack, which followed a collapse while dancing with Jimmy Durante, is unfortunately mismanaged in the film by director Helena Solberg. Miranda, who is still remembered by millions, hardly merits a bad reenactment of her lonely demise. It's a shame this intriguing documentary (that is, when it sticks to the film clips and archival footage) feels compelled to inject such speculative contrivances, because Miranda's life was fascinating of its own accord. --Paula Nechak

Cast

Helena Solberg
Eric Barreto

  • Genre: Documentaries
  • Director: Helena Solberg
  • Producer: Wellspring
  • Length: 90 min
  • Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
  • Theatrical Release
    North AmericaJan 1, 1995
  • DVD Release
    North AmericaMay 21, 2002
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