The son of Francisco Fernandes and Maria Viola Fernandes, Millôr Fernandes was born on August 16, 1923 in Méier, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro, with the name Milton Viola Fernandes. He was only registered the following day, so his official birth date is May 27, 1924. His handwritten birth certificate made it look like hi s name was Millôr and not Milton. He had three brothers. His father died when he was two and his mother when he was 11, and he began working at a very young age. In spite of his difficulties, Millôr had a happy childhood alongside 10 uncles, 42 cousins and his Italian grandmother, Concetta de Napole Viola.
When comic strips arrived in Brazil, Millôr became an avid reader of these publications, especially Flash Gordon. With the help of his uncle Antonio Viola, he saw his first work published when he was ten years old, in Rio de Janeiro’s O Jornal. He received 10 thousand réis, the currency of the time, for it. At the age of 15 he began working as an office assistant, page setter and factotum on the magazine O cruzeiro (which, at the time, had only two other employees). At 16, with the pseudonym “Notlim”, he won a short story contest promoted by the magazine A cigarra. For that reason, he was promoted and began working with archives. A short time later, he started writing a regular section on A cigarra, called Poste escrito. He then took on the direction of A cigarra, a role he fulfilled for three years. He also directed O guri, a comic, and Detetive, with crime stories. For six years, from 1938 to 1943, he studied at the Liceu de Artes e Ofícios art school in Rio de Janeiro.
A self-taught man, he did his first literary translation: Dragon seed, a novel by American writer Pearl S. Buck, with the title A estirpe do dragão, in 1942.
In 1943, he returned to the magazine O Cruzeiro, which went from 11 thousand to 750 thousand weekly copies over the following years. His collaboration with the magazine went as high as ten sections a week in 1947.
He made his literary debut in 1946, with the book Eva sem Costela - Um Livro em Defesa do Homem. In 1948, he traveled to the United States, where he met Walt Disney, Vinicius de Moraes, the scientist César Lates and the star Carmen Miranda. He married Wanda Rubino.
He published Tempo e contratempo, with the pseudonym Emmanuel Vão Gôgo, in 1949. He wrote his first film script, Modelo 19. The film, released with the title O amanhã será melhor, won five São Paulo State Governor prizes, including best dialogue (for Millôr).
In 1951 he released the weekly magazine Voga, which had only two issues and, in 1953, his first play, Uma mulher em três atos, opened at the Teatro Brasileiro de Comédia, in São Paulo (SP).
The following year, he bought the apartment that would later become famous as “Millôr’s penthouse”, in Ipanema, where the writer lives to this day. His son Ivan was born.
In 1955, he shared first place in the Buenos Aires Caricature Museum International Exhibition with American artist Saul Steinberg. He wrote Do tamanho de um defunto, which opened at Teatro do Bolso (Rio de Janeiro) and which later, adapted by the author himself for the cinema, received the title Ladrão em noite de chuva. That year, Millôr wrote Bonito como um deus, shown at the Teatro Maria Della Costa, in São Paulo (SP) and, also, Pigmaleoa and Um elefante no caos. The latter only opened five years later (1960) in Rio de Janeiro, once the problems with censorship were resolved, and brought him the Municipal Theater Commission prize for Best Author.
In 1956, Millôr started to illustrate his texts published in the magazine O Cruzeiro.
In 1959, he was invited by Frederic Chateaubriand to present a series of programs entitled Universidade do Méier, where he drew while making a commentary, on Itacolomi TV, in Belo Horizonte, state of Minas Gerais. Subsequently, the program was transferred to Tupi TV in Rio de Janeiro, with the title Treze lições de um ignorante and suspended by the Juscelino Kubitschek administration, after a criticism of the country’s first lady.
In 1961 he worked for seven days on the newspaper Tribuna da Imprensa, being dismissed for writing an article about press corruption. The editors, poet Mário Faustino and the journalist Paulo Francis, also resigned in solidarity.
The following year, in the March 10 issue of O Cruzeiro, he “fired” Vão Gôgo and began to sign as Millôr. The Amstutz & Herder Graphic Press, an important Zurich publication, dedication a page of its yearbook to the author.
From 1964 to 1974, he collaborated weekly on the Portuguese newspaper Diário Popular. In 1964, he launched the magazine Pif-Paf, considered the beginning of the alternative press in Brazil.
He went back to television in 1965, as presenter of the news program Jornal de Vanguarda (Record TV), alongside Luis Jatobá and Sérgio Porto (Stanislaw Ponte Preta). Liberdade, liberdade, a musical written in partnership with Flávio Rangel, opened at Teatro Opinião, in Rio.
The song O homem, composed by Millôr, was sung by Nara Leão at the II Festival of Brazilian Popular Music, in 1966. He set up, in the open air, in Largo do Boticário in Rio de Janeiro, his adaptation of Manuel Antônio de Almeida’s Memórias de um sargento de milícias, using only black actors.
In 1968, he began collaborating with Veja magazine and wrote the text of the concert Momento 68, promoted by the company Rhodia, with Caetano Veloso, Walmor Chagas and Lennie Dale, among others. The following year, he participated in the O Pasquim newspaper.
Over the last 60 years, cartoonist Millôr has been collaborating in the main organs of the Brazilian press. As a columnist, he has published over 40 titles. As a playwright, he wrote hits like Liberdade, Liberdade (in partnership with Flávio Rangel), Computa, computador, computa and É… As a graphic artist, he has had work exhibited in several art galleries in Rio de Janeiro and at the Rio de Janeiro Modern Art Museum – MAM/RJ. He has written scripts for films, television programs, concerts and musicals and is one of the most sought after theater translators in the country. Ironic and controversial, with his texts (aphorisms, epigrams, irony, double entendre and puns) and his drawings, he has chronicled Brazilian customs since the 1940s.