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Mario Moreno Cantinflas’s full name was Mario Fortino Alfonso Moreno Reyes. He was professionally called Cantinflas. He was a Mexican comic film actor, screenwriter, and film producer. His roles were mostly impoverished peasants. He also forayed into Hollywood and was an iconic figure in Latin America and Mexico. He has been nicknamed as ‘Charlie Chaplain of Mexico’. He received an award for his acting in the film Around the World in 80 Days.
He was Mexico’s business leader and involved deeply in its labor politics. He would always speak for the downtrodden.
His early years
Born in Mexico City, he was raised principally in the tough neighborhood of Tepito. He was 1 of 8 children of his parents. His father was a poor mail carrier named Pedro Moreno Esquivel. His mother was Maria de la Soledad Reyes Gulzar.
He had the comic personality and this was useful to him. There is not much revealed about his career but it is said that he had explored other potential careers such as medicine and professional boxing before ultimately settling in for entertainment.
The entertainment career
Mario first joined the traveling tent circuit and he began first by his imitations of Al Jolson, the American comedian. Here, he danced, performed acrobatics, and also acted varied roles.
In the 1930s he came in contact with the producer and publicist Santiago Reach with whom he partnered to form their production company. Mario would act while Reachi would produce, direct, and distribute. In 1936, Mario began acting before he met Reach. His films in the 1940s became hits. His role as a police officer was highly appreciated. This continued in the 1950s and these are considered his heydays.
His theater roles and step into Hollywood
In 1953, he began performing in theater productions as well. In 1956, he debuted in Hollywood doing the film Around the World in 80 Days which earned him an award. He became the world’s best-paid actor due to this role.
However, his second Hollywood venture Pepe was a box office disaster. But his role still earned him a nomination for the Golden Globe. He stated in a later interview that the language barrier was the biggest hurdle for him in American cinema.
The return to Mexico
He returned to Mexico and continued to star in a number of films and parodies. He was a social satirist like Charlie Chaplain. Charlie Chaplain had a deep influence on Mario’s mind right from the start. Cantinflas Films was founded and this continues to draw revenue from Columbia Films which distributed Mario’s films in the USA.
He was good with the use of words and used it to break the pretensions of the wealthy and powerful, the police, and the government.
His marriage, wife, son
Mario married Valentina Ivanova Zubareff who was of Russian ethnicity. They tied the knot on 27 October 1936. She died in January 1966. In 1961, a son was born to Mario by another woman whom later Valentina adopted.
Mario was a chain smoker. He died on 20 April 1993 due to lung cancer. His funeral was attended by thousands of his fans.