Today we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mexico’s most endeared actor and comedian Cantinflas (born Mario Fortino Alfonso Moreno Reyes, usually just called Mario Moreno). Growing up watching him on my grandma’s television set while sipping on her rompope was pretty cool – bonding with grams and getting my first dose of Mexico’s golden age of cinema. I always thought this guy ruled. El bolero de Raquel and El analfabeto were always some of my personal favorites, among the over fifty films he appeared in. Then there’s that style he had: the weirdly interesting mustache, and the sagging pants that may have inspired a whole generation of cholo fashion. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the Real Academia Española has officially recognized the word “cantinflear” to mean “Hablar de forma disparatada e incongruente y sin decir nada,” a reference to Cantinflas’ mastery of comic obfuscation.
Last year when I was interning for a magazine company and was on my way to make a delivery, I was chatting with the taxi driver, who was Dominican. After finding out I was Mexican, he blabbed about his great affection for this legendary comedian and told me something about Cantinflas that resonated. I actually don’t know if this is factual, but he said that, before beginning his career, Mario Moreno was a janitor working on set. When the main actor for that set didn’t show up, Mr. Moreno jumped on it and nailed every single part. He was so good he replaced the leading man, becoming the next iconic comedian. Maybe it went something like this:
Ok, that was just my excuse to show you that scene. And however that went, the facts are that he made his debut working on a provisional tent theatre in DF’s Plaza Garibaldi, where he somehow gained the peculiar name of Cantinflas – it’s said that it might just be nonsense, or that it might be a mashup of something an audience member yelled at him, either “Cuanto inflas!” or “En la cantina inflas!”
Tepito-born (that says a lot coming from that neighborhood!), and the oldest of eight kids, this comic genius definitely made his mark in history and we honor his works. Even though Cantinflas is not necessarily a musician, as Remezcla’s music editor I’ll say his acting skills proved otherwise, so I’ll leave you with this video of a singing duel between Cantinflas and a mariachi.
Happy 100 years, Cantinflas!