From the Archives: Film Star Carmen Miranda Dies

Carmen Miranda, 46, the explosive Brazilian star who set the hips of the nation swinging to the samba, was found dead yesterday in a hallway of her palatial home at 616 N. Bedford Drive, Beverly Hills.

Dr. W.L. Marxer, her physician, said she was a victim of a heart attack.

The tiny actress, famed for her huge, fruit-salad hats and her high platform shoes, had completed the filming of a television comedy with Jimmy Durante late Thursday night. The company worked unusually late because of the impending strike of TV actors.

After Last Take

After the last take, Miss Miranda and Durante staged an impromptu performance on the set for the cast and technicians. And the Latin singer took several members of the cast and some friends home with her for a small party.

Always the entertainer, she danced and sang for her guests, skirts whirling, eyes rolling, hips and hands in constant motion. Perpetual motion was a Miranda trademark.

It was about 3 a.m. when the actress and her husband, Film Producer David Sebastian, climbed the stairs to bed. They occupied separate bedrooms.

Apparently Fell to Floor

Miss Miranda removed her clothing, placed her platform shoes in a corner, lit a cigarette and placed it in an ash tray and went into her bathroom to fix her face for the night.

She apparently came from the bathroom with a small, circular mirror in her hand and in the small hall that leads to her bedroom, she toppled to the floor and died.

She made no outcry. No one heard her fall. Her body was found at about 10:30 a.m. lying in the hallway.

"She was tired from the long hours of work the day before and the party," her husband said. "I wanted her to sleep late. I went into her room to wake her — and found her lying there."

Dr. Marxer, who had been Miss Miranda's physician since she came to California and the movies in 1940, was called to the house and pronounced her dead. He said there was no history of heart trouble and that aside from a brief battle with bronchitis in the last few weeks the singing star had been in perfect health.

Rose Like a Comet

Carmen Miranda rose like a comet in the show business firmament. At the age of 15 in Rio de Janeiro she was a singing sensation. Her records made while she was still in her teens sold like hotcakes throughout South America. And she literally made thousands of them. She gave the samba, Brazil's native music, to the world.

Lee Shubert, New York producer and theater owner, brought Carmen to the United States. He saw her entertaining at the Casino Urqua in Rio and signed 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 entertainers.

Famed Hats Copied

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.

By conservative estimate, Carmen Miranda earned more than $2,000,000 in Hollywood. She 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.

During the filming of "Copacabana" Miss Miranda met Sebastian, an assistant producer of the film. They were married March 17, 1947, in the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills.

Stars in Night Clubs

In recent years the singing star had devoted her talents to night club work and occasional guest appearances on television. She was often a guest on Durante's NBC show and appeared with other television stars. 

Carmen Miranda was at her best on a night club floor, however. She had returned to her Beverly Hills home a week ago from a two-week engagement at the Tropicana Night Club in Havana. She was also often starred in New York's Latin Quarter and Copacabana, the Chez de Paris in Chicago, London's Palladium and the Las Vegas hotels.

Always she was called upon to sing again the songs she made famous—"Down Argentine Way," "Chica Chica Boom Chic" and "I Yi Yi Yi Yi."

Maintained Other Homes

Hollywood had seen little of Carmen Miranda in recent years. In addition to her Beverly Hills home she maintained homes in Palm Springs and Rio de Janeiro. She also owned an apartment house in Rio. She was known in Hollywood as a good businesswoman who invested her entertainment earnings well and was reputedly wealthy.

Carmen Miranda was born Maria de Carmen da Cunha in Lisbon, Portugal, on Feb. 9, 1909. She was taken to Brazil as an infant. Her father was a traveling salesman.

She entered show business at the age of 15 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.

Slight in Stature

Carmen Miranda was slightly over 5 feet tall and weighed 98 pounds. But her magnetic personality made her a giant on a night club floor or the screen or stage.

Yesterday, stunned by the new of her death, NBC officials were debating whether the TV film she'd just completed with Durante would be shown or scrapped. The film cost about $35,000 to make.

"Well," said one man wearily, "if Carmen were around I know what she'd say. She'd want us to show it. She was that kind of a trouper."

Miss Miranda leaves her mother, Mrs. Maria Cunha, who shared the Beverly Hills home, and two sisters, Mrs. Aurora Richaid and Miss Cecilia Cunha, and two brothers, Mario and Oscar Cunha, all of Rio de Janeiro. Funeral arrangements are pending at Cunningham & O'Connor Mortuary.

news.obits@latimes.com

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times

FOR THE RECORD

July 28, 2015: The original version of this obituary, published on Aug. 6, 1955, erred in stating that Carmen Miranda was 41 when she died.  She was 46. Additionally, her date of birth was incorrectly reported as Feb. 14, 1901.  She was born on Feb. 9, 1909.

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