How Cantinflas Brought Comedy to Mexico's Golden Age of Cinema

He was the Charlie Chaplain of Mexican comedy. 


During Golden Era of Mexican Cinema that stretched from the 1930s to the 1960s, movie stars like María Félix, Pedro Infante, and Luis Aguilar commanded a presence on stage and swooned moviegoers with their good looks. But it was Mario Moreno Reyes, better known by his stage name of Cantinflas that brought the funny to the theaters. Sunday’s Google Doodle celebrates what would be his 107th birthday.

Born in Santa María la Redonda, Mexico on August 12, 1911, Cantinflas’ beginning wasn’t much different than many iconic American comedy actors. He lived in a tough neighborhood and left school to go join the circus. It’s here where he developed his persona of a poor slum dweller with a rope for a belt and a unique mustache. He transitioned into movies in 1937 with No Te Engañes Corazón (Don’t Fool Yourself Dear), but it was 1941’s Ni Sangre, Ni Arena (Neither Blood, nor Sand) that made him a blockbuster star. That film also earned him a compliment from Charlie Chaplin who said Cantinflas was the best comedian alive.

Cantinflas has been compared to Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Groucho Marx, and Jerry Lewis with his combination of slapstick, athletic, and fast-talking comedy. With a movie career spanning five decades, Cantinflas appeared in three movies in the US, including 1956’s Around the World in 80 Days. His performance as Passepartout earned him the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture or Comedy the same year. His other two American movies did not have similar success, but in Mexico, he continued to be a star.

“He’s so recognizable, a cinema icon, not only for Mexicans and Latin Americans,” Rogelio Agrasánchez, film expert and operator of the Agrasánchez Film Archives in Harlingen, Texas, told the San Antonio Express-News in September 2012. “In the ‘40s, he was more authentic as far as portraying the downtrodden and the poor, the people on the street. They speak differently. They do jokes with double meaning.”

Over his career, Cantinflas acted in more than 50 movies and his own cartoon series, garnering him numerous acting awards and his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He died on April 20, 1993. A film about his life came out in 2014 starring Óscar Jaenada titled Cantinflas.

Back in April, Google celebrated another start of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema, María Félix, who inspired artists and commanded respect both on-screen and off-screen.

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