Cantinflas
Overview
 
Fortino Mario Alfonso Moreno Reyes (August 12, 1911 – April 20, 1993), was a Mexican comic film actor
Comedy film
Comedy film is a genre of film in which the main emphasis is on humour. They are designed to elicit laughter from the audience. Comedies are mostly light-hearted dramas and are made to amuse and entertain the audiences...

, producer, and screenwriter known professionally as Cantinflas. He often portrayed impoverished campesinos or a peasant
Peasant
A peasant is an agricultural worker who generally tend to be poor and homeless-Etymology:The word is derived from 15th century French païsant meaning one from the pays, or countryside, ultimately from the Latin pagus, or outlying administrative district.- Position in society :Peasants typically...

 of pelado
Pelado
In Mexican culture in society, pelado is "a term invented to describe a certain class of urban "bum" in Mexico in the 1920s."Mexico has a long tradition of urban poverty, beginning with the léperos, a segregated caste of Mestizos, Central American people, and illegitimate Criollos during the...

 origin. The character came to be associated with the national identity of Mexico, and allowed Cantinflas to establish a long, successful film career that included a foray into Hollywood
Cinema of the United States
The cinema of the United States, also known as Hollywood, has had a profound effect on cinema across the world since the early 20th century. Its history is sometimes separated into four main periods: the silent film era, classical Hollywood cinema, New Hollywood, and the contemporary period...

. Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin
Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, KBE was an English comic actor, film director and composer best known for his work during the silent film era. He became the most famous film star in the world before the end of World War I...

 once commented that he was the best comedian alive, and Moreno has been referred to as the "Charlie Chaplin of Mexico".
Encyclopedia
Fortino Mario Alfonso Moreno Reyes (August 12, 1911 – April 20, 1993), was a Mexican comic film actor
Comedy film
Comedy film is a genre of film in which the main emphasis is on humour. They are designed to elicit laughter from the audience. Comedies are mostly light-hearted dramas and are made to amuse and entertain the audiences...

, producer, and screenwriter known professionally as Cantinflas. He often portrayed impoverished campesinos or a peasant
Peasant
A peasant is an agricultural worker who generally tend to be poor and homeless-Etymology:The word is derived from 15th century French païsant meaning one from the pays, or countryside, ultimately from the Latin pagus, or outlying administrative district.- Position in society :Peasants typically...

 of pelado
Pelado
In Mexican culture in society, pelado is "a term invented to describe a certain class of urban "bum" in Mexico in the 1920s."Mexico has a long tradition of urban poverty, beginning with the léperos, a segregated caste of Mestizos, Central American people, and illegitimate Criollos during the...

 origin. The character came to be associated with the national identity of Mexico, and allowed Cantinflas to establish a long, successful film career that included a foray into Hollywood
Cinema of the United States
The cinema of the United States, also known as Hollywood, has had a profound effect on cinema across the world since the early 20th century. Its history is sometimes separated into four main periods: the silent film era, classical Hollywood cinema, New Hollywood, and the contemporary period...

. Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin
Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, KBE was an English comic actor, film director and composer best known for his work during the silent film era. He became the most famous film star in the world before the end of World War I...

 once commented that he was the best comedian alive, and Moreno has been referred to as the "Charlie Chaplin of Mexico". To audiences in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, he is best remembered as co-starring with David Niven
David Niven
James David Graham Niven , known as David Niven, was a British actor and novelist, best known for his roles as Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days and Sir Charles Lytton, a.k.a. "the Phantom", in The Pink Panther...

 in a Golden Globe Award
Golden Globe Award
The Golden Globe Award is an accolade bestowed by the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association recognizing excellence in film and television, both domestic and foreign...

-winning role in the 1956 film Around the World in 80 Days.

As a pioneer of the cinema of Mexico, Moreno helped usher in its golden era
Golden age of the cinema of Mexico
The Golden Age of Mexican cinema is a period between 1936 and 1969 where the quality and economic success of the cinema of Mexico reached its peak....

. In addition to being a business leader, he also became involved in Mexico's tangled and often dangerous labor politics. Although he was a political conservative, his reputation as a spokesperson for the downtrodden gave his actions authenticity and became important in the early struggle against charrismo
Charro (Mexican politics)
In Mexican politics and labor, a charro or líder charro is a government-appointed union boss.Mexico has a long tradition of government control and cooptation of unions and their leaders...

, the one-party
Institutional Revolutionary Party
The Institutional Revolutionary Party is a Mexican political party that held power in the country—under a succession of names—for more than 70 years. The PRI is a member of the Socialist International, as is the rival Party of the Democratic Revolution , making Mexico one of the few...

 government's practice of co-opting and controlling unions
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

.

Moreover, his character Cantinflas, whose identity became enmeshed with his own, was examined by media critics, philosophers, and linguists, who saw him variably as a danger to Mexican society, a bourgeois puppet, a kind philanthropist, a transgressor of gender roles, a pious Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, a verbal innovator, and a picaresque underdog.

Personal life

He was the eldest child born to Pedro Moreno Esquivel, an impoverished mail carrier, and María de la Soledad Reyes Guizar (from Cotija, Michoacan
Cotija, Michoacán
Cotija is a municipality located in the Mexican state of Michoacán. The municipality has an area of 504.05 square kilometres , and is bordered to the north by Jiquilpan and Villamar, to the east by Tocumbo, and to south by the state of Jalisco. The municipality had a population of 18,207...

). They had eight children: Pedro, Jose ("Pepe"), Eduardo, Fortino, Esperanza, Catalina, Enrique and Roberto.

Fortino Mario Alfonso Moreno Reyes was born in the Santa María la Redonda
Santa María la Redonda
Santa María la Redonda is a boulevard in colonia Guerrero of the Cuauhtémoc borough of the Mexican Federal District.During the 1920s and 1930s, the boulevard was home to numerous carpa theaters....

 neighbourhood
Neighbourhood
A neighbourhood or neighborhood is a geographically localised community within a larger city, town or suburb. Neighbourhoods are often social communities with considerable face-to-face interaction among members. "Researchers have not agreed on an exact definition...

 of Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City is the Federal District , capital of Mexico and seat of the federal powers of the Mexican Union. It is a federal entity within Mexico which is not part of any one of the 31 Mexican states but belongs to the federation as a whole...

, and grew up in the tough neighborhood of Tepito
Tepito
Tepito is a barrio located in Colonia Morelos in the Cuauhtémoc borough of Mexico City bordered by Avenida del Trabajo, Paseo de la Reforma, Eje 1 and Eje 2. Most of the neighborhood is taken up by the colorful tianguis or open-air market. Tepito’s economy has been linked to tianguis or traditional...

.
He made it through difficult situations with the quick wit and street smarts that he would later apply in his films. After an unsuccessful attempt to enter the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 through California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, he became a prizefighter in his teens as a source of income. His comic personality led him to a circus tent show, and from there to legitimate theatre and film.

He married Valentina Ivanova Zubareff, of Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n ethnicity, on October 27, 1936, and remained with her until her death in January 1966. A son was born to Moreno in 1961 by another woman; the child was adopted by Valentina Ivanova and was named Mario Arturo Moreno Ivanova, causing some references to erroneously refer to him as "Cantinflas' adopted son".

He served as president of the Mexican actor's guild
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

 known as Asociación Nacional de Actores (ANDA, "National Association of Actors") and as first secretary general of the independent filmworkers' union Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Producción Cinematográfica
Union of Cinema Production Workers
Union of Cinema Production Workers was an autonomous Mexican trade union. It was formed in 1944 after splitting off from the CTM-affiliated Union of Cinema Industry Workers . Mario Moreno "Cantinflas" served as its first secretary general....

 (STPC). Following his retirement, Moreno devoted his life to helping others through charity
Charitable organization
A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization . It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on philanthropic goals A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization (NPO). It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on philanthropic goals A...

 and humanitarian organizations, especially those dedicated to helping children. His contributions to the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 and orphanage
Orphanage
An orphanage is a residential institution devoted to the care of orphans – children whose parents are deceased or otherwise unable or unwilling to care for them...

s made him a folk hero
Folk hero
A folk hero is a type of hero, real, fictional, or mythological. The single salient characteristic which makes a character a folk hero is the imprinting of the name, personality and deeds of the character in the popular consciousness. This presence in the popular consciousness is evidenced by...

 in Mexico.

In 1993, after his death in Mexico City of lung cancer
Lung cancer
Lung cancer is a disease characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung. If left untreated, this growth can spread beyond the lung in a process called metastasis into nearby tissue and, eventually, into other parts of the body. Most cancers that start in lung, known as primary...

, thousands appeared on the rainy day for his funeral. The ceremony was a national event, lasting three days. His body lay in state in the Rotonda de los Hombres Ilustres
Panteón de Dolores
The Panteón Civil de Dolores is the largest cemetery in Mexico and contains the "Rotonda de las Personas Ilustres" . It is located on Constituyentes Avenue in Miguel Hidalgo borough of Mexico City, between sections two and three of Chapultepec Park...

 (Rotunda of Distinguished Men) and he was honored by many heads of state and the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

, which held a moment of silence for him.

After his death, a 12-year legal battle ensued between Mario Moreno Ivanova, Cantinflas' son and heir to his estate, and the actor's blood nephew, Eduardo Moreno Laparade over the control of 34 films made by Cantinflas. The nephew claimed his uncle gave him a written notice to the rights for movies on his deathbed. Moreno Ivanova argued he is the direct heir of Cantinflas and the rights belong to him. Moreno Laparade won the lawsuit twice, but Moreno Ivanova eventually triumphed after two appeals. In 2005, Mario Moreno Ivanova, Jr. won rights to 39 films and name.

At the same time, another legal battle ensued between Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. is an American film production and distribution company. Columbia Pictures now forms part of the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Sony. It is one of the leading film companies...

 and Moreno Ivanova over control of these films. Columbia claims that it bought the rights to the 34 films four decades ago with the court noting several discrepancies in the papers. Moreno Ivanova wanted the rights to the films to remain his and more generally, Mexico's, as a national treasure. On June 2, 2001 the eight year battle was resolved with Columbia retaining ownership over the 34 disputed films.

Origin of name

As a young man, Cantinflas performed a variety of acts in travelling tents, and it was here that he earned the nickname "Cantinflas", although the origin of the name is obscured by legend. According to one obituary, "Cantinflas" is a meaningless name invented to prevent his parents from knowing he was in the entertainment business, which they considered a shameful occupation. In another version, the Mexican media critic and theorist Carlos Monsiváis cites a legendary account of the origin of Cantinflas's characteristic speech:

Entertainment career

Before starting his professional life in entertainment, he explored a number of possible careers, such as medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

 and professional boxing
Boxing
Boxing, also called pugilism, is a combat sport in which two people fight each other using their fists. Boxing is supervised by a referee over a series of between one to three minute intervals called rounds...

, before joining the entertainment world as a dancer. By 1930 he was involved in Mexico City's carpa
Carpa
In Mexico and the Southwestern United States, the carpa theater flourished during the 1920s and 30s. Like its American counterpart vaudeville, performances were varied, including comedic sketches, puppet shows, political satire, acrobatics, and dance.Some well-known carpas include Carpa Valentina...

 (travelling tent) circuit, performing in succession with the Ofelia, Sotelo of Azcapotzalco
Azcapotzalco
Azcapotzalco is one of the 16 delegaciones into which Mexico's Federal District is divided. Azcapotzalco is in the northwestern part of Mexico City...

, and finally the Valentina carpa, where he met his future wife. At first he tried to imitate Al Jolson
Al Jolson
Al Jolson was an American singer, comedian and actor. In his heyday, he was dubbed "The World's Greatest Entertainer"....

 by smearing his face with black paint
Blackface
Blackface is a form of theatrical makeup used in minstrel shows, and later vaudeville, in which performers create a stereotyped caricature of a black person. The practice gained popularity during the 19th century and contributed to the proliferation of stereotypes such as the "happy-go-lucky darky...

, but later separated himself to form his own identity as an impoverished slum dweller with baggy pants, a rope for a belt, and a distinctive mustache. In the tents, he danced, performed acrobatics, and performed roles related to several different professions.

Film career

In the mid-1930s, Cantinflas met Russian producer Jacques Gelman
Jacques Gelman
Jacques Gelman was a producer of Mexican films.Gelman was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia. During the 1920s, he worked as a still photographer in European motion picture studios, and became a distributor of French films. He arrived in Mexico just before the outbreak of World War II, and as a...

 and subsequently partnered with him to form their own film production venture. Gelman produced, directed, and distributed, while Cantinflas acted. Cantinflas made his film debut in 1936 with No te engañes corazón but the film received little attention. He established Posa Films in 1939, producing short films
Short subject
A short film is any film not long enough to be considered a feature film. No consensus exists as to where that boundary is drawn: the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines a short film as "an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all...

 that allowed him to develop the Cantinflas character, but it was in 1940 that he finally became a movie star, after shooting Ahí está el detalle
Ahí está el detalle
Ahí está el detalle is a 1940 Mexican comedy film directed by Juan Bustillo Oro and starring Cantinflas, Joaquín Pardavé, Sara García with Sofía Álvarez and Dolores Camarillo. It was the twelfth film in Cantinflas' career, and the best one considered by Mexican film critics, for it is considered...

 ("There's the rub", literally "There lies the detail"), with Sofía Álvarez
Sofía Álvarez
Sofía Álvarez was a Colombian-born Mexican film actress.-Selected filmography:-External links:...

, Joaquín Pardavé
Joaquín Pardavé
Joaquín Pardavé Arce was a Mexican film actor, director, songwriter and screenwriter of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. He was best known for starring and directing various comedy films during the 1940s...

, Sara García
Sara García
Sara García was a Mexican actress who made her biggest mark during the "Golden Age of Mexican cinema". During the 1940s and 1950s, she often played the part of a no-nonsense but lovable grandmother in numerous Mexican films...

, and Dolores Camarillo
Dolores Camarillo
Dolores Camarillo was a Mexican character actress of film, television, and theater. She also was a makeup artist for films, and was frequently billed as "Fraustita".-Personal life:...

. The phrase that gave that movie its name became a "Cantinflas" (or catchphrase) for the remainder of his career. The film was a breakthrough in Latin America and was later recognized by Somos
Somos
Somos is the debut studio album by Christopher Von Uckermann. It was released on November 16, 2010."Somos" is an innovative album, where each of the pieces are fused, conceptual and futuristic electronica are fed with fresh lyrics undoubtedly mark the history of experimental pop as defined by the...

 magazine as the 10th greatest film produced largely in Mexico.

In 1941, Moreno first played the role of a police officer on film in El gendarme desconocido ("The unknown police officer" a play on words on "The Unknown Soldier
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier refers to a grave in which the unidentifiable remains of a soldier are interred. Such tombs can be found in many nations and are usually high-profile national monuments. Throughout history, many soldiers have died in wars without their remains being identified...

). By this time he had sufficiently distinguished the peladito character from the 1920s-era pelado, and his character flowed comfortably from the disenfranchised, marginalized, underclassman to the empowered public servant. The rhetoric of cantinflismo facilitated this fluidity. He would reprise the role of Agent 777 and be honored by police forces throughout Latin America for his positive portrayal of law enforcement.

Ni sangre, ni arena ("Neither Blood, nor Sand" a play on words on the bullfighter/gladiator phrase Blood and Sand
Blood and Sand (1941 film)
Blood and Sand is a Technicolor film produced by 20th Century Fox, directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Rita Hayworth, and Alla Nazimova...

), the 1941 bullfighting film, broke box-office records for Mexican-made films throughout Spanish-speaking countries. In 1942, Moreno teamed up with Miguel M. Delgado and Jaime Salvador to produce a series of low-quality parodies, including an interpretation of Chaplin's The Circus
The Circus (silent film)
The Circus is a 1928 silent film written and directed by Charlie Chaplin with Joseph Plunkett as an uncredited writer. The film stars Chaplin, Al Ernest Garcia, Merna Kennedy, Harry Crocker, George Davis and Henry Bergman...

.

The 1940s and 1950s were Cantinflas's heyday. In 1946, he rejected Mexican film companies and instead signed with Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. is an American film production and distribution company. Columbia Pictures now forms part of the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Sony. It is one of the leading film companies...

. By this time, his popularity was such that he was able to lend his prestige to the cause of Mexican labor, representing the National Association of Actors in talks with President
President of Mexico
The President of the United Mexican States is the head of state and government of Mexico. Under the Constitution, the president is also the Supreme Commander of the Mexican armed forces...

 Manuel Ávila Camacho
Manuel Ávila Camacho
Manuel Ávila Camacho served as the President of Mexico from 1940 to 1946.Manuel Ávila was born in the city of Teziutlán, a small town in Puebla, to middle-class parents, Manuel Ávila Castillo and Eufrosina Camacho Bello. He had several siblings, among them sister María Jovita Ávila Camacho and...

. The talks did not go well, however, and, in the resulting scandal, Moreno took his act back to the theatre.

On August 30, 1953, Cantinflas began performing his theatrical work Yo Colón ("I, Columbus") in the Teatro de los Insurgentes
Teatro de los Insurgentes
Teatro de los Insurgentes is a theater located on Mexico City's Avenida de los Insurgentes.It was built by José María Dávila in 1953 as part of President Miguel Alemán's program of urban renewal. Dávila commissioned muralist Diego Rivera to paint La historia del teatro, a visual history of the...

, the same theatre that had earlier been embroiled in a controversy over a Diego Rivera
Diego Rivera
Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez was a prominent Mexican painter born in Guanajuato, Guanajuato, an active communist, and husband of Frida Kahlo . His large wall works in fresco helped establish the Mexican Mural Movement in...

 mural incorporating Cantinflas and the Virgin of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe , also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe is a celebrated Catholic icon of the Virgin Mary.According to tradition, on December 9, 1531 Juan Diego, a simple indigenous peasant, had a vision of a young woman while he was on a hill in the Tepeyac desert, near Mexico City. The lady...

. Critics, including the PAN
National Action Party (Mexico)
The National Action Party , is one of the three main political parties in Mexico. The party's political platform is generally considered Centre-Right in the Mexican political spectrum. Since 2000, the President of Mexico has been a member of this party; both houses have PAN pluralities, but the...

 and archbishop
Archbishop
An archbishop is a bishop of higher rank, but not of higher sacramental order above that of the three orders of deacon, priest , and bishop...

 Luis María Martínez
Luis María Martínez
Luis María Martínez y Rodríguez was the Catholic archbishop of Mexico and a member of the Academia Mexicana de la Lengua ....

, called the mural blasphemous
Blasphemy
Blasphemy is irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things. Some countries have laws to punish blasphemy, while others have laws to give recourse to those who are offended by blasphemy...

, and it was eventually painted without the image of the Virgin.

Yo Colón placed Cantinflas in the character of Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus was an explorer, colonizer, and navigator, born in the Republic of Genoa, in northwestern Italy. Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to general European awareness of the American continents in the...

, who, while continually "discovering America", made comical historical and contemporary observations from fresh perspectives. The jokes changed nightly, and Moreno continued to employ his word games and double entendre
Double entendre
A double entendre or adianoeta is a figure of speech in which a spoken phrase is devised to be understood in either of two ways. Often the first meaning is straightforward, while the second meaning is less so: often risqué or ironic....

s to jab
Jab
A jab is a type of punch used in the martial arts.Several variations of the jab exist, but every jab shares these characteristics: while in a fighting stance, the lead fist is thrown straight ahead and the arm is fully extended...

 at politicians.

In 1956, Around the World in Eighty Days
Around the World in Eighty Days (1956 film)
Around the World in 80 Days is a 1956 adventure film produced by the Michael Todd Company and released by United Artists. It was directed by Michael Anderson. It was produced by Michael Todd, with Kevin McClory and William Cameron Menzies as associate producers. The screenplay was written by James...

, Cantinflas's American debut earned him a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a musical or comedy
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
The Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy was first awarded by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association as a separate category in 1951...

. Variety magazine said in 1956 that his Chaplinesque quality made a big contribution to the success of the film. The film ultimately made an unadjusted $42 million at the box office
Box office
A box office is a place where tickets are sold to the public for admission to an event. Patrons may perform the transaction at a countertop, through an unblocked hole through a wall or window, or at a wicket....

. While David Niven
David Niven
James David Graham Niven , known as David Niven, was a British actor and novelist, best known for his roles as Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days and Sir Charles Lytton, a.k.a. "the Phantom", in The Pink Panther...

 was billed as the lead in English-speaking nations, Cantinflas was billed as the lead elsewhere. As a result of the film, Cantinflas became the world's best paid actor.

Moreno's second Hollywood feature, Pepe
Pepe (film)
Pepe is a 1960 film starring Mario "Cantinflas" Moreno in the title role, directed by George Sidney. A multitude of cameo appearances attempted to replicate the success of Mario Moreno's American debut, notably Around the World in Eighty Days, produced by Mike Todd in 1956.The film failed to...

, attempted to replicate the success of his first. The film had cameo appearances by Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra was an American singer and actor.Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the...

, Judy Garland
Judy Garland
Judy Garland was an American actress and singer. Through a career that spanned 45 of her 47 years and for her renowned contralto voice, she attained international stardom as an actress in musical and dramatic roles, as a recording artist and on the concert stage...

 and other stars. His humor, deeply rooted in the Spanish language, did not translate well for the American audience and the movie was a notorious box office disappointment. He still earned a Golden Globe nomination for his part. Later in a 1992 American interview, Moreno cited the language barrier as the biggest impediment to his making it big in the United States.

After returning to Mexico, Cantinflas starred in the comic drama El bolero de Raquel
El bolero de Raquel
El bolero de Raquel is a 1957 Mexican film starring Cantinflas, Manola Saavedra and Flor Silvestre...

 (1957), the first Cantinflas film to be distributed to the United States by Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. is an American film production and distribution company. Columbia Pictures now forms part of the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Sony. It is one of the leading film companies...

. The film was followed by three more Cantinflas-Delgado-Columbia productions: El analfabeto
El analfabeto
El analfabeto is a Mexican comedy film, directed by Miguel M. Delgado. It is the second Cantinflas film presented by Columbia Pictures starring the prolific actor Mario Moreno "Cantinflas" and Lilia Prado.-Plot:...

 (1961), El padrecito
El padrecito
-Plot:The young priest Father Sebastián is assigned to a parish in San Jerónimo el Alto, where he is not welcomed by the community, particularly the resident priest Father Damián...

 (1964), and Su excelencia
Su Excelencia
Su Excelencia is a 1966 Mexican film. A Cold War comedy, it stars Mario Moreno "Cantinflas" as Lopez , a bureaucrat from the Latin American "Republica De Los Cocos" who is stationed in the embassy of the Communist bloc country "Pepeslavia" Su Excelencia ("His Excellency") is a 1966 Mexican film....

 (1967). After Su excelencia, Cantinflas began to appear in a series of low-budget comedies (also directed by Miguel M. Delgado
Miguel M. Delgado
Miguel M. Delgado was a Mexican film director and screenwriter. He directed 139 films between 1941 and 1990.- Selected filmography :* Los tres mosqueteros * Doña Bárbara * El padrecito...

), which were produced by his own company "Cantinflas Films". These films lasted until El Barrendero, in 1982.

Like Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin
Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, KBE was an English comic actor, film director and composer best known for his work during the silent film era. He became the most famous film star in the world before the end of World War I...

, Cantinflas was a social satirist. He played el pelado, an impoverished Everyman, with hopes to succeed. With mutual admiration, Cantinflas was influenced by Chaplin's earlier films and ideology. El Circo (the circus) was a "shadow" of Chaplin's silent film, The Circus
The Circus (silent film)
The Circus is a 1928 silent film written and directed by Charlie Chaplin with Joseph Plunkett as an uncredited writer. The film stars Chaplin, Al Ernest Garcia, Merna Kennedy, Harry Crocker, George Davis and Henry Bergman...

 and Si yo fuera diputado ("If I Were a Congressman") had many similarities with the 1940 film, The Great Dictator
The Great Dictator
The Great Dictator is a comedy film by Charlie Chaplin released in October 1940. Like most Chaplin films, he wrote, produced, and directed, in addition to starring as the lead. Having been the only Hollywood film maker to continue to make silent films well into the period of sound films, this was...

. Cantinflas's films, to this day, still generate revenue for Columbia Pictures. In 2000, Columbia reported in an estimated USD$4 million in foreign distribution from the films.

Cultural Impact

Among the things that endeared him to his public was his comic use of language in his films; his characters (all of which were really variations of the main "Cantinflas" persona but cast in different social roles and circumstances) would strike up a normal conversation and then complicate it to the point where no one understood what they were talking about. The Cantinflas character was particularly adept at obfuscating the conversation when he owed somebody money, was courting an attractive young woman, or was trying to talk his way out of trouble with authorities, whom he managed to humiliate without their even being able to tell. This manner of talking became known as Cantinfleada, and it became common parlance for Spanish speakers to say "¡estás cantinfleando!" (loosely translated as you're pulling a "Cantinflas!" or you're "Cantinflassing!") whenever someone became hard to understand in conversation. The Real Academia Española
Real Academia Española
The Royal Spanish Academy is the official royal institution responsible for regulating the Spanish language. It is based in Madrid, Spain, but is affiliated with national language academies in twenty-one other hispanophone nations through the Association of Spanish Language Academies...

 officially included the verb, cantinflear, cantinflas and cantinflada in its dictionary in 1992.

In the visual arts, Mexican artists such as Rufino Tamayo
Rufino Tamayo
Rufino Tamayo was a Mexican painter of Zapotec heritage, born in Oaxaca de Juárez, Mexico. Tamayo was active in the mid-20th century in Mexico and New York, painting figurative abstraction with surrealist influences....

 and Diego Rivera
Diego Rivera
Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez was a prominent Mexican painter born in Guanajuato, Guanajuato, an active communist, and husband of Frida Kahlo . His large wall works in fresco helped establish the Mexican Mural Movement in...

 painted Cantinflas as a symbol of the Mexican everyman. The American electronic dance music
Electronic dance music
Electronic dance music is electronic music produced primarily for the purposes of use within a nightclub setting, or in an environment that is centered upon dance-based entertainment...

 band Mindless Self Indulgence
Mindless Self Indulgence
Mindless Self Indulgence is an American musical group formed in New York in 1997. Their music has a mixed style including rap, punk rock, alternative rock, electronica, techno and industrial...

 released a song about Cantinflas called "Whipstickagostop".

Cantinflas's style and the content of his films have led scholars to conclude that he influenced the many teatros that spread the message of the Chicano Movement
Chicano Movement
The Chicano Movement of the 1960s, also called the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, also known as El Movimiento, is an extension of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement which began in the 1940s with the stated goal of achieving Mexican American empowerment.-Origins:The Chicano Movement...

 during the 1960s-1970s in the United States, the most important of which was El Teatro Campesino
Teatro Campesino
El Teatro Campesino , is a theatrical troupe founded in 1965 as the cultural arm of the United Farm Workers. The original actors were all farmworkers, and El Teatro Campesino enacted events inspired by the lives of their audience...

. The teatro movement was an important part of the cultural renaissance that was the social counterpart of the political movement for the civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

 of Mexican Americans. Cantinflas' use of social themes and style is seen as a precursor to Chicano
Chicano
The terms "Chicano" and "Chicana" are used in reference to U.S. citizens of Mexican descent. However, those terms have a wide range of meanings in various parts of the world. The term began to be widely used during the Chicano Movement, mainly among Mexican Americans, especially in the movement's...

 theater.

A cartoon series, the Cantinflas Show
Amigo and Friends
Amigo and Friends is an educational children's cartoon that was based on the Mexican cartoon series Cantinflas Show in 1979...

, was made in the 1970s starring an animated Cantinflas. The show was targeted for children and was intended to be educational. The animated character was known as "Little Amigo" and concentrated on a wide range of subjects intended to educate children, from the origin of soccer to the reasons behind the International Date Line
International Date Line
The International Date Line is a generally north-south imaginary line on the surface of the Earth, passing through the middle of the Pacific Ocean, that designates the place where each calendar day begins...

. The animated series was a joint venture between Televisa
Televisa
Televisa is a Mexican multimedia conglomerate, the largest mass media company in Latin America and in the Spanish-speaking world. It is a major international entertainment business, with much of its programming airing in the United States on Univision, with which it has an exclusive contract...

 and Hanna-Barbera
Hanna-Barbera
Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc. was an American animation studio that dominated North American television animation during the second half of the 20th century...



Although Cantinflas never achieved the same success in the United States as in Mexico, he was honored with a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He earned two Golden Globe nominations (winning one) for best actor and the Mexican Academy of Film Lifetime Achievement Award. His handprints have been imbedded onto the Paseo de las Luminarias
Plaza de las Estrellas
Plaza de las Estrellas is a shopping center located in Mexico City. It was built in 1982. It is best known as the site of the Paseo de las Luminarias, the Mexican equivalent of the Hollywood Walk of Fame...

 for his work in motion pictures.

The Mario Moreno "Cantinflas" Award is handed out annually for entertainers who "represent the Latino community with the same humor and distinction as the legendary Mario Moreno "Cantinflas" and who, like Cantinflas, utilizes his power to help those most in need". Cantinflas films are distributed in North America by Laguna Films.

Critical response

Cantinflas is sometimes seen as a Mexican Groucho Marx
Groucho Marx
Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx was an American comedian and film star famed as a master of wit. His rapid-fire delivery of innuendo-laden patter earned him many admirers. He made 13 feature films with his siblings the Marx Brothers, of whom he was the third-born...

 character, one who uses his skill with words to puncture the pretensions of the wealthy and powerful, the police and the government. Historian and author of Cantinflas and the Chaos of Mexican Modernity, writes, "Cantinflas symbolized the underdog who triumphed through trickery over more powerful opponents" and presents Cantinflas as a self image of a transitional Mexico. Gregorio Luke, executive director of the Museum of Latin American Art
Museum of Latin American Art
The Museum of Latin American Art was founded by Dr. Robert Gumbiner in 1996 in Long Beach, California and serves the greater Los Angeles area. MoLAA is the only museum in the United States exclusively dedicated to modern and contemporary Latin American art. Since its inception, MoLAA has doubled...

 said, "To understand Cantinflas is to understand what happened in Mexico during the last century".

For his part, Monsiváis interprets the Moreno's portrayals in terms of the importance of the spoken word in the context of Mexico's "reigning illiteracy" (70% in 1930). Particularly in the film El analfabeto
El analfabeto
El analfabeto is a Mexican comedy film, directed by Miguel M. Delgado. It is the second Cantinflas film presented by Columbia Pictures starring the prolific actor Mario Moreno "Cantinflas" and Lilia Prado.-Plot:...

, (The Illiterate), "Cantinflas is the illiterate who takes control of the language by whatever means he can".

The journalist Salvador Novo
Salvador Novo
Salvador Novo López was a Mexican writer, poet, playwright, translator, television presenter, entrepreneur, and the official chronicler of Mexico City, his birthplace and home. As a noted intellectual, he influenced popular perceptions of politics, media, the arts, and Mexican society in general...

 interprets the role of Moreno's character entirely in terms of Cantinflismo: "En condensarlos: en entregar a la saludable carcajada del pueblo la esencia demagógica de su vacuo confusionismo, estriba el mérito y se asegura la gloria de este hijo cazurro de la ciudad ladina y burlona de México, que es 'Cantinflas". ("In condensing them [the leaders of the world and of Mexico], in the giving back to the healthy laughter of the people the demagogic state of their empty confusion, merit is sustained and glory is ensured for the self-contained son of the Spanish-speaking mocker of Mexico, who is Cantinflas.")

In his biography of the comic, the scholar of Mexican culture Jeffrey M. Pilcher views Cantinflas as a metaphor for "the chaos of Mexican modernity", a modernity that was just out of reach for the majority of Mexicans: "His nonsense language eloquently expressed the contradictions of modernity as 'the palpitating moment of everything that wants to be that which it cannot be'." Likewise, "Social hierarchies, speech patterns, ethnic identities, and masculine forms of behavior all crumbled before his chaotic humor, to be reformulated in revolutionary new ways."

A cinematic biopic is being co-written and directed by Alejandro Gomez Monteverde
Alejandro Gomez Monteverde
Jose Alejandro Gomez Monteverde is a Mexican film director. His first film, Bella took top prize at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival by winning the “People's Choice Award”....

.

Filmography

Cinema of the United States
Cinema of the United States
The cinema of the United States, also known as Hollywood, has had a profound effect on cinema across the world since the early 20th century. Its history is sometimes separated into four main periods: the silent film era, classical Hollywood cinema, New Hollywood, and the contemporary period...

Year Director Film Role
1969 Norman Foster The Great Sex War  General Marcos
1960 George Sidney Pepe
Pepe (film)
Pepe is a 1960 film starring Mario "Cantinflas" Moreno in the title role, directed by George Sidney. A multitude of cameo appearances attempted to replicate the success of Mario Moreno's American debut, notably Around the World in Eighty Days, produced by Mike Todd in 1956.The film failed to...

 
Pepe
1956 Michael Anderson Around the World in Eighty Days
Around the World in Eighty Days (1956 film)
Around the World in 80 Days is a 1956 adventure film produced by the Michael Todd Company and released by United Artists. It was directed by Michael Anderson. It was produced by Michael Todd, with Kevin McClory and William Cameron Menzies as associate producers. The screenplay was written by James...

 
Passepartout

Cinema of Mexico
Year Director Film Role
1981 Miguel M. Delgado El barrendero Napoleón
1977 Miguel M. Delgado El patrullero 777 Diógenes Bravo
1975 Miguel M. Delgado El ministro y yo
El ministro y yo
-Plot:Mateo Melgarejo is a notary public and scribe for the illiterate people of Santo Domingo, a neighborhood north of Mexico City's Zócalo. A squatter friend asks for his help in negotiating with the land census bureau to regularize a land title...

 
Mateo Melgarejo
1973 Miguel M. Delgado Conserje en condominio Úrsulo
1972 Roberto Gavaldón Don Quijote cabalga de nuevo Sancho Panza
1970 Miguel M. Delgado El profe Sócrates García
1969 Miguel M. Delgado Un Quijote sin mancha Justo Leal, Aventado
1968 Miguel M. Delgado Por mis pistolas
Por mis pistolas
Por mis pistolas is a 1938 Mexican film. It stars Sara García....

 
Fidencio Barrenillo
1966 Miguel M. Delgado Su excelencia
Su Excelencia
Su Excelencia is a 1966 Mexican film. A Cold War comedy, it stars Mario Moreno "Cantinflas" as Lopez , a bureaucrat from the Latin American "Republica De Los Cocos" who is stationed in the embassy of the Communist bloc country "Pepeslavia" Su Excelencia ("His Excellency") is a 1966 Mexican film....

 
Lopitos
1965 Miguel M. Delgado El señor doctor  Salvador Medina
1964 Miguel M. Delgado El padrecito
El padrecito
-Plot:The young priest Father Sebastián is assigned to a parish in San Jerónimo el Alto, where he is not welcomed by the community, particularly the resident priest Father Damián...

 
Sebastián
1963 Miguel M. Delgado Entrega inmediata Feliciano Calloso
1962 Miguel M. Delgado El extra  Rogaciano
1960 Miguel M. Delgado El analfabeto
El analfabeto
El analfabeto is a Mexican comedy film, directed by Miguel M. Delgado. It is the second Cantinflas film presented by Columbia Pictures starring the prolific actor Mario Moreno "Cantinflas" and Lilia Prado.-Plot:...

 
Inocencio Prieto y Calvo
1958 Miguel M. Delgado Sube y baja Cantinflas
1958 Tulio Demicheli Ama a tus prójimo Cantinflas
1956 Miguel M. Delgado El bolero de Raquel
El bolero de Raquel
El bolero de Raquel is a 1957 Mexican film starring Cantinflas, Manola Saavedra and Flor Silvestre...

 
Cantinflas
1954 Miguel M. Delgado Abajo el telón Cantinflas
1953 Miguel M. Delgado Caballero a la medida Cantinflas
1952 Miguel M. Delgado El señor fotógrafo Cantinflas
1951 Miguel M. Delgado Lluvia de estrellas Cantinflas
1951 Miguel M. Delgado Si yo fuera diputado  Cantinflas
1950 Miguel M. Delgado El bombero atómico Cantinflas
1950 Miguel M. Delgado El siete machos Margarito
1949 Miguel M. Delgado Puerta, joven (El Portero) Cantinflas
1948 Miguel M. Delgado El mago Cantinflas
1948 Miguel M. Delgado El supersabio Cantinflas
1947 Miguel M. Delgado ¡A volar joven! Cantinflas
1946 Miguel M. Delgado Soy un prófugo Cantinflas
1945 Miguel M. Delgado Un día con el Diablo Cantinflas
1944 Miguel M. Delgado Gran Hotel Cantinflas
1943 Miguel M. Delgado Romeo y Julieta Romeo de Montesco
1942 Miguel M. Delgado El circo Cantinflas
1942 Miguel M. Delgado Los tres mosqueteros
Los tres mosqueteros
Los tres mosqueteros was a 1942 Mexican film.-Plot:Cantinflas and three friends return a stolen necklace to an actress who invites them to be extras at Clasa studios...

 
Cantinflas / D'Artagnan
1941 Carlos Villatoro Carnaval en el trópico Cameo
1941 Alejandro Galindo Ni sangre, ni arena El Chato / Manuel Márquez "Manolete"
1941 Miguel M. Delgado El gendarme desconocido Badge Number 777
1940 Juan Bustillo Oro Ahí está el detalle
Ahí está el detalle
Ahí está el detalle is a 1940 Mexican comedy film directed by Juan Bustillo Oro and starring Cantinflas, Joaquín Pardavé, Sara García with Sofía Álvarez and Dolores Camarillo. It was the twelfth film in Cantinflas' career, and the best one considered by Mexican film critics, for it is considered...

 
Cantinflas / "Leonardo del Paso"
1940 Carlos Toussaint Cantinflas y su prima (short) Cantinflas
1940 Fernando Rivera Cantinflas ruletero (short) Cantinflas
1940 Fernando Rivera Cantinflas boxeador (short) Cantinflas
1939 Fernando Rivera Jengibre contra Dinamita (short) Cantinflas
1939 Fernando Rivera Siempre listo en las tinieblas (short) Cantinflas
1939 Chano Urueta El signo de la muerte Cantinflas
1937 Arcady Boytler Águila o sol
Águila o sol
Águila o sol is a 1937 film of the cinema of Mexico.This was Cantinflas's third film and the second in a row with Manuel Medel...

 
Polito Sol
1937 Arcady Boytler ¡Así es mi tierra! El Tejón
1936 Miguel Contreras Torres No te engañes corazón
No te engañes corazón
No te engañes corazón is the first full-feature film of Cantinflas after becoming a star of the carpa circuit...

 

External links

Cantinflas at the cinema of Mexico site of the ITESM
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