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 sel... more »f, 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« less
"Helena Solberg takes Carmen Miranda fans where they've never gone before. This video is the most in depth bio I have ever seen on the "Little Girl" from Brazil. Not only does it delve into Miranda's life, but it goes into detail the abuse she took from the movie industry. Hollywood stereotyped Carmen to the point that it was impossible for her to find roles other than the "Rosita" and "Carmelta" characters she portrayed, and her native Brasil deemed her too "Americanized", almost to the point of disowning her. She was definitely a woman without a country."Bananas" also shows some of Miranda's classic numbers from the camp 20th Century Fox musicals. All in all, "Bananas Is My Business" is a detailed account of the life of this extraordinary talent....a "must see" for any Miranda fan."
Haunting docu-fantasy--masterfully done!
D. Pawl | Seattle | 10/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw this film when it was broadcast on the independent film show, P.O.V. (Point of View), on PBS back in 1995. I knew about as much about Carmen Miranda as the average Yanqui. (Even though I like to think I transcend this national limitation with my inherited sense of Latina soul by way of my Venezuelan father's DNA.) I wanted to know more about "The Lady with the Tutti Frutti Hat," this icon who represented so many things to so many people. To her people of Brazil, she was their Carmen, that young, vivacious and drop-dead gorgeous singer of sambas, forros and Brazilian popular music (Musica Popular do Brasil) in the 1940s. To the North American public, she was the Latin bombshell with a flare for flashy, bold and colorful "traditional" costumes, who emerged as part of "tropical" dance numbers in several popular, Hollywood musicals. It didn't matter to many what language she was singing in, nor the content of her songs. It was pure, exotic fluff to entertain and distract us from our troubles. That was what we were lead to believe, anyway.
The story behind Carmen Miranda, the young Brazilian woman, born in Portugal to Portuguese parents, is finally revealed in Helena Solberg's compelling, cautionary film, that is disclosed to us through an innovative and engaging series of archived films, fantasy re-enactments and personal accounts of people who knew the woman behind the bananas. Let me tell you, here and now, bananas weren't the ONLY thing that were her business. Don't let the song fool you! ("Bananas Is My Business") Carmen Miranda was actually born Maria de Carmen, to Portuguese parents who immigrated with their young, two-year old daughter to Brazil. Maria was a gorgeous, outgoing, green-eyed ("like the headlights of a car," according to a Brazilian journalist) hatmaker at a men's boutique, when her enchanted voice was first heard. Maria used to sing to herself, to while away the hours. The numbers of customers surged when Maria was around. They were immediately enchanted and attracted to the beautiful young woman. A few years later, her first test record for the RCA studio, became a hit record in Rio de Janeiro. Once she had built a name for herself, she was performing at a nightclub one night and an American producer from Hollywood happened to see her sing. The rest is history.....
The film unapologetically presents the duality of Carmen's experiences in Hollywood and showbusiness in the United States. Though, she had given herself the name Carmen Miranda, when she began her journey of self discovery before she even became a popular singer, her overall makeover and appearance in the public eye was severely altered by Hollywood's hand. She was presented as a goodwill ambassador, representing the cultures of South America to the United States, not only as a means of social outreach, but as a tool of political and economic advancement. This beautiful woman gradually began to resemble the clownish, over-the-top persona carved out for her. She was never given successful, "serious" roles as a Latina in U.S. showbusiness. Instead, she was presented as the exotic icing, while other Non-Latin actors took the cake.
When she finally succumbed to a heart attack at the young age of fourty-six, the numerous sleeping and caffeine pills she had taken to become addicted to, along with an abusive and disrespectful marriage to American David Sebastian, finally took their toll. Nonetheless, her legacy lives on as a beautiful, talented and vivacious film legend who can never be replaced in our hearts. It is my hope that people see this film to get a glimpse at the woman behind the fruit basket."
Matthew G. Sherwin | 03/15/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What a great character she was. The Portuguese jealous she immigrated to Brazil when she was little more than a baby and the Brazilians not less envious because she emigrated to N. America. Carmen Miranda a combination of stamina and talent. The DVD is a collectors item with images of Rio de Janeiro at its very best."
Why we gave that gal a spotlight
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 02/27/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Carmen Miranda possessed a singular ability to show people how to have fun; and this talent was so infectious that it was always magical to watch her on the screen I still enjoy movies that feature her today! This documentary about Carmen's life is rather well done; and the action moves along at a good pace.
We see many still photos of Carmen in her late teenage years; sometimes we also see an actress playing a very young Carmen on the beach mostly likely because no such footage exists. The footage of Carmen performing with her original Brazilian band is wonderful; and the brief remaining footage of a movie she did with her sister in Brazil is practically priceless.
As you may have guessed, interviews and footage are interspersed throughout the film. There's great footage from movies Carmen starred in; most notable of all this footage is the way over the top musical number by Busby Berkeley from the movie The Gang's All Here. Great!
The interviews we get are very well done. We get lots of insight and memories from Alice Faye, Cesar Romero, and a couple of songwriters for Carmen and her band in Brazil. Perhaps the best interviews are from Carmen's cousin and Carmen's sister who really knew her extremely well.
There is considerable time spent on how the Brazilian journalists accused Miranda of forgetting her country and becoming too Americanized. I'm sure this upset Carmen very badly.
One thing we do not get is any interview time with husband Dave Sebastian, who reportedly was very cruel to Carmen and even physically abusive. I think that the producers of this film wouldn't want to give him the chance to smear Carmen by interviewing him if indeed he was still living at the time this film was made.
Unfortunately, we also get footage of Carmen returning to Brazil in the 1950s after a severe nervous breakdown; she was miserable in her marriage and it shows when she is being interviewed upon her arrival in Rio. There's even more potentially disturbing footage of Carmen falling down while dancing with Jimmy Durante on television. She died just a few hours later at home; and her death is one of several scenes reenacted by an actress.
Sure, I don't care for the scenes reenacted by actresses, even though they did a very good job of finding ladies who looked like Carmen. However, it's the best you can get if you don't have footage. The scene in which Carmen dies alone may be rough on some people; I don't blame them.
Overall, this documentary tells people quite a bit that they didn't know before about a great, talented lady named Carmen Miranda. This is a fine place for the casual fan or the beginner fan to start. Of course, diehard fans may want this in their collections anyway.
I give this film a four star review--they were a little too "free and easy" with those reenactment scenes. "
A Beautiful Insight Into A Pioneering Latina Superstar!!
MUZIK4THAPEOPLE!! | Orlando, FL | 01/15/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw this documentary back in about 1995 while I was living in Atlanta on TBS I believe it was... Anywayz, I thought it was great then and when I saw that it was now available on DVD, I jumped at the chance to buy it! Very little was known about how the "Brazilan Bombshell", the great Carmen Miranda, rose to prominence on the world stage! Before Celia Cruz and Salsa, Before La Lupe transfixed audiences with her impassioned and (some say) possessed performances, Before Rita Moreno took broadway and hollywood by storm, Before J-Lo dazzled us on screen and became "Jenny From The Block"... Carmen Miranda, who incidientally was born in Portugal but reared in Brazil, became the figurehead for all latinas of her time! This was a time when most white americans couldn't even distinguish between Puerto Rican / Dominican / Cuban / Mexican or Brazilian and lumped them all into one tidy category--"The Firey Vivacious Latin Spit-Fire"!! Rita Moreno (still alive and well!)and other classic hollywood actors and actresses who are no longer here, share their personal antecdotes and stories about Carmen. Interwoven into all of this history is a parallel story of a little brazilan girl, the film maker, and her life long admiration for "the lady with the fruit on her head". There is great historical footage and pictures of Carmen's early days. Her sister and first boyfriend and first husband (I Believe all are deceased now) also give interesting perspective. It also gives great insight to the dark times and tragedies in her life and her untimely death of a massive heart attack at the far too young age of 46 in 1955 and the huge state funeral that was held in Brazil that was mobbed by millions of her fans who saw themselves in her and gained hope from her journey!---All-n-All, a great DVD!!"