And now for something COMPLETELY different — La Hibiscus!
Talk about in-your-face! No shrinking violet she. Her philosophy is, If you’ve got it, flaunt it! A hot-blooded lady from the tropics, our hibiscus is right out there. In her gorgeous color, her glamorous pose, her whole exotic demeanor, she reminds me of a floral Carmen Miranda.
You’re mostly young things out there, I can hear you now: Carmen who?
Carmen Miranda, the Brazilian Bombshell, the lady in the tutti-frutti hat — still doesn’t ring a bell, does it? She was a Brazilian singer and dancer who was popular from the 1930’s until the 1950’s on Broadway and in Hollywood. In 1940, she made her first Hollywood film, “Down Argentine Way“, with Don Ameche and Betty Grable. Her exotic looks, flamboyant clothes, Latin accent, and outrageous hats heaped with fruits and vegetables became her trademarks. And, like the hibiscus flower, she was a real charmer.
Wikipedia reports that in 1945 she was the highest-paid woman in the United States. Her dazzling, dizzy song and dance numbers provided much-needed relief during the hard years of World War II.
I remember her from the movies in the 1940’s, when I was just old enough to clutch my quarter and head off with friends to a Saturday matinee. (Those quarter matinees, by the way, included two movies, both the feature and a B-movie to go with it, a newsreel, a serial, and several cartoons. Not bad, huh.) Because I haven’t seen or thought of her for decades, I went to Youtube to check her out. After all, things can play brilliantly in memories of long-ago that, seen again, fall flat in the present.
But not in this case! She really was a star. There are lots of Youtubes I could have picked to show you. It was a tough choice. But I think I’ll go with this one, and if you like what you see, you can try some others yourself. Here she is, as brilliant and outrageous and charming as a hibiscus flower:
The movie is Week-end in Havana (1941), starring Alice Faye and John Payne. (Don’t remember them either, I suppose!) As in most of her movies, Carmen Miranda appears as her starry self in a night club scene (or two or three) to entertain the lead actors in their romantic drama. They don’t make movies like this any more! Just as well, perhaps. Nevertheless, maybe you can see why the brilliant flower makes me think of this brilliant performer —