Mario Moreno (born Mario Fortino) is a Mexican actor. Cantinflas was the stage name of Alfonso Moreno-Reyes, a Mexican comedy film actor, producer, and screenwriter. He was born into an improvised household in Mexico City at the turn of the twentieth century and began his acting career in a carpa. He inadvertently produced a routine that included gibberish, mispronunciation, excessive exaggeration, and mime one night. He kept it because he saw its potential and it became very popular. Despite his entry into the film industry in the middle of the 1930s, he struggled to make an impact at first. Later, he became well-known for his portrayal of Cantinflas, a poor peasant of pelado descent who wore rope-tied trousers, a rough coat, and a broken hat. It quickly made him a household name not only in Mexico, but also throughout Latin America. He later became well-known for his depiction as Passepartout in the epic Hollywood film “Around the World in 80 Days.” Despite being dubbed the “Charlie Chaplin of Mexico,” he was reportedly acknowledged to be the best comedian of his time by Chaplin himself.
Childhood and Adolescence
Mario Fortino is a well-known Italian designer. Alfonso Moreno-Reyes was born in Mexico City’s Santa Mara la Ribera district on August 12, 1911. Pedro Moreno Esquivel, his father, was a poor postal carrier. Mara de la Soledad Reyes Guzar was his mother. He was the fourth of eight children born to his parents.
Mario’s parents enrolled him in a good school despite his lack of means. He was, however, more interested in seeing street plays and, as he grew older, attempting to emulate the players.
His parents sent him to a government agricultural school when he was fifteen, but he ran away after nine months and ended himself in Jalapa, on the Pacific coast. He began his acting career by joining a carpa, a Mexican tent entertainment.
However, he was well aware that his parents would never approve, so he began looking for a stage name. He is said to have overheard a drunken heckler yell “En la cantina, tuinflas” one night (In a bar, you drink). The line delighted him so much that he adopted the stage name Cantinflas.
Moreno began his career as a jack-of-all-trades. He began his career as a tent show dancer, a torero bufo or comic matador in the bull ring, and a ham in the boxing ring.
Then he was invited to step in for the master of the carpa show one night. His previous acts had not included any conversation; but, he was forced to speak this time. He grew so frightened as soon as he stepped onto the stage that he forgot everything.
He realized he had to continue, so he continued to speak quickly, albeit hesitantly, stating the first thing that came to him. The crowd assumed it was part of his show and began laughing; the more they laughed, the more nonsense he offered.
He began working on a routine after realizing the potential of his act. They used gibberish, double-talk, mispronunciation, extreme exaggeration, and pantomime in their performances.
Career of Cantinflas
Cantinflas was a well-known carpa star by 1930. He spent the next five years performing in a succession of carpas, in which he danced, acrobated, and acted out various vocations. He tried to resemble American comedian Al Jason at first, but eventually developed his own style.
He joined the Follies Bergère variety show’s cast in 1935. He made his film debut the following year with ‘No teengaescorazón’ (Don’t Fool Yourself Dear), but it gained little notice.
After meeting publicist and producer Santiago Reachi, he and Reachi founded ‘Posta Films’ in 1939. They were joined by Jacques Gelman, who became their third partner, later in 1943.
Meanwhile, starting in 1939, Post Films began making a series of short films centered on the figure of Cantinflas. The character, played by Moreno, whose stage name was also Cantinflas, became nearly iconic.
He was represented as a scraggly underdog in these films, with a scraggy moustache, sagging slacks, an old t-shirt or coat, a dirty rag thrown over the shoulder, and a handkerchief knotted around his neck. ‘El signo de la muerte,’ the first of these films, was released in 1939.
His ninth picture, ‘Ahestá el detalle’ (There is the detail/Here is the Point), centered on Cantinflas, was the one that made him a star. The picture was a tremendous hit when it was released on September 11, 1940.
Then, in 1941, he appeared in ‘El gendarme desconocido’ as a police officer (Badge No 777). (The Unknown Police Officer). He had already established himself as Cantinflas’ peladito persona, yet he quickly transitioned from a lower-class, ostracized man to a powerful public worker.
His following film, ‘Ni sangreni arena’ (Neither Blood Nor Sand), was likewise a tremendous blockbuster, and was released in 1941. The film shattered all Mexican box office records in Spanish-speaking countries. Moreno had a cameo appearance in the story, which was based on bullfighting.
Another of his important pictures was ‘Los tresmosqueteros,’ which was released in August 1942. Moreno played Cantinflas, a man who dreams of fighting for Queen Anne as D’Artagnan. Unfortunately, the picture received mixed reviews; some praised it as Moreno’s best work, while others were underwhelmed. By this time, Posta Films had begun to produce one or two films every year, the majority of which starred Mario Moreno as Cantinflas. Then, in 1956, he was cast as Passepartout in the film ‘Around the World in 80 Days.’ He costarred with David Niven in his debut Hollywood film.
Another of his Hollywood features, ‘Pepe,’ was released in December 1960. Unfortunately, the picture did not fare well at the box office. His Spanish-based humour didn’t transition well into English. Despite this, he was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance.
In 1969, Moreno starred as General Marcos in his third Hollywood film, ‘The Great Sex War.’ Due to the language barrier, however, the American audience was never able to appreciate him to the full level that he deserved.
He continued to make comedy pictures in Mexico, most of which were produced by Columbia Films. Despite the fact that his strongest years were the 1940s and 1950s, he continued to release new pictures throughout the 1960s, with the exception of the 1970s, when he only released five films.
‘El barrendero’ (The Street Cleaner) was Cantinflas’ last film, released in 1981. After that, in 1985, he appeared in another Mexican television film, ‘México… estamoscontigo’ (Mexico, We Are With You).
In total, he performed in over 45 comedy films and was acclaimed by Charlie Chaplin as the best comedian of his time. He had also worked in theater, the most well-known of which was ‘Yo Colón’ (I, Columbus).
Major Projects of Cantinflas
Mario Moreno is most known in Mexico for his multiple portrayals as Cantinflas. ‘Ahestá el detalle’ (There is the detail/Here is the Point) was, nonetheless, the most popular. It was not only one of his best pictures, but also one of the best Mexican films, according to critics.
He became well-known within the company for his role as Passepartout in ‘Around the World in 80 Days.’ To make room for him, the producers dramatically expanded his role, including adding many scenes not included in the text, such as a bullfight. As a result, he, along with Niven, played a pivotal role in the film.
Achievements & Awards
For his work as Passepartout in ‘Around the World in 80 Days,’ Mario won a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical in 1957. He was also honored by the Mexican Academy of Film with the Special Ariel Award in 1952 and the Golden Ariel Award in 1987. In the Mexican film business, it is regarded as the most prestigious prize.
Personal History and Legacy
Moreno met Valentina Ivanova Zubareff, a Russian woman, while working at the Valentinacarpa. On October 27, 1936, the two married and remained together until her death in January 1966.
Moreno had a son with another woman in 1961. Valentina Ivanova adopted Mario Arturo Moreno Ivanova and named him Mario Arturo Moreno Ivanova. In certain circles, he is incorrectly referred to as “Cantinflas’ adopted son.”
Later in life, he began a connection with Joyce Jett, an American woman from Houston, and spent a lot of time with her in Houston, away from the spotlight.
Despite having amassed millions of wealth over the years, he never forgot his beginnings. Throughout his life, he tried to improve Mexico City’s impoverished areas. He supported 250 households on his own at one point and developed and sold dozens of low-cost housing units. His annual philanthropic contributions were originally believed to be worth $175,000 per year.
Moreno died of lung cancer in Mexico City on April 20, 1993. His funeral, which lasted three days, was considered a national event. Thousands of people attended the ceremony despite the rain. The United States Senate also observed a minute of silence in his honor.
On February 8, 1960, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6438 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
The phrase ‘cantinflas’ was developed from his signature gibberish speeches as Cantinflas, which means to talk a lot without really meaning anything. It grew so popular that it was listed as a new verb in Spanish dictionaries while he was still alive.