Pioneer scriptwriter, actress, and film director in Brazil and partner of Ary Barroso, soprano Gilda de Abreu was born in France, the daughter of Portuguese singer Nícia Silva de Abreu. When she was just four years old, de Abreu went to Brazil just to be baptized, returning to that country where her mother had settled. In 1914, World War I forced her mother to come to Brazil with her, where Nícia became Gilda's first voice teacher. Later, she graduated from the National Institute of Music. After her marriage to the already famous tenor Vicente Celestino, with whom she performed in several operettas, her career took off. Attracted to the cinema by Oduvaldo Viana as an actress, de Abreu also became a director after O Ébrio, one of the most popular representatives of Brazilian filmography ever.
After 1920, de Abreu started to be featured in major operas at the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro, starting with Rossini's The Barber of Seville, Delibes' Lakmé, and Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann. In that period, she came to know her future husband.
Her earliest recordings date from 1930: "A Baiana Tem Cocada," "Tenha Medo do Bicho," "O Kinkalou," "You're Always in My Arms," "Se Estou Sonhando," "Bonequinha de Seda," and "I Love You." She recorded other albums as a singer until 1963, not achieving success. In 1933, she started to do music revues. In that year, she participated in the operetta A Canção Brasileira (Luís Iglésias/Miguel Santos/Henrique Vogeler) with Vicente Celestino, whom she married five months after its opening. Since then, she has worked in partnership with Celestino until his demise, writing songs, musical revues, and cinema scripts. In 1935, she starred in Oduvaldo Viana's film Bonequinha de Seda, inspired by her eponymous valse, a hit in her husband's interpretation. In that year, she also wrote the operetta Aleluia, opened in 1939.
Her debut as a film director happened in 1937 with Alegria. In 1942, she became the partner of Ary Barroso's writing the lyrics for "Mestiça," having also written the lyrics to "Ouvindo-Te" (music by Celestino), tranformed into hits by Vicente Celestino. In 1944, she toured Brazil with Celestino in a company of operettas. Two years later, she wrote the script and directed the film O Ébrio, inspired by the eponymous song written by Celestino, a big hit in his rendition from 1937, several years before Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend (1945) dealt with the same subject of a ruined life because of booze. The film, with Celestino in the main role, instantly attracted large crowds to the cinemas, becoming a box office record. In 1951, de Abreu had another success in the cinema, again with a plot inspired by a successful song written and interpreted by Celestino, Coração Materno. She also wrote several children books and romances, as well as her husband's biography, A Vida de Vicente Celestino (1956).