In the years which followed, Miranda virtually embodied Hollywood's narrow and condescending concept of Latin American culture -- from her first starring role in 1940's Down Argentine Way, her enduring public image remained that of the feisty Brazilian bombshell, invariably clad in some sort of enormous fruit-basket headdress while singing and dancing. It was an image she proved unable to shake during her film career; worse, during her first visit back to Brazil, Miranda was accused of becoming too "Americanized." (The experience later resulted in her song "Disseram Que Eu Voltei Americanizada" -- "They Said I Came Back Americanized.") As World War II drew to an end, however, the market for the light, campy musicals on which Miranda's fame rested began to dry up, and in 1953, she made her final screen appearance in the Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis vehicle Scared Stiff.
Undaunted, Miranda focused increasingly on her nightclub appearances, also becoming a fixture on television variety shows -- indeed, for all the stereotyping she faced throughout her career, her performances made huge strides in popularizing Brazilian music, while at the same time paving the way for the increasing awareness of all Latin culture. Still, she suffered from severe depression throughout the final years of her life, returning to Brazil for the final time in 1954; while taping a strenuous song-and-dance number for an episode of television's The Jimmy Durante Show on August 4, 1955, Miranda suffered a heart attack, and after returning to her Beverly Hills home, she died the following morning at the age of just 46. Her body was flown back to Brazil, where her passing was met by a period of national mourning. A museum was later constructed in Rio de Janeiro in her honor, and in 1995 she was the subject of the acclaimed documentary Carmen Miranda: Bananas Is My Business. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi