Wednesday, August 6, 2014

wacky tacky Icons: Cantinflas

Mario "Cantinflas" Moreno
August 12, 1911 - April 20, 1993

I don't know what it's like in the rest of the world, but in Southern California, one would be hard-pressed to channel surf through the often shallow waters of broadcast television (or even basic cable) at any time of the day and not find at least one channel playing any of the more-than-thirty films of Mexican cinema's greatest star, namely Cantinflas.

An iconic image of Mexico's greatest comedic character.

As an American, my first exposure to Cantinflas was as Passepartout, David Niven's valet, factotum, and all around right-hand man, in the Academy Award winning, Technicolor epic, Around the World in 80 Days (the star's only legitimate success in America).

Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

Once used by my dad as implements of childhood torture, the lengthy, epic, mid-century,
adventure movies (see: The Great Race, Casino Royale, Around the World in 80 Days, et al.)
 have mysteriously evolved into sentimental favorites.

It was a surprise thrill to become reacquainted with this international celebrity in the winding lanes and back alleys of Barcelona's Gothic Quarter during our High Rockabilly adventure of 2012.

He might have only had one hand (the statue not the man) but he sure knew how to keep a secret!

Born in Mexico City, Cantinflas' wacky tacky credibility stems from his unique physicality, his clever manipulation of language, his iconic mustache, and the indivisibility of his on-screen persona from himself.  

Who came first, the man or the saggy, baggy-pants comic?
Who cares, this poster art is unbelievable!!!

Like many classic comedians/comediennes, the wackiness
and lack of ego in every Cantinflas performance makes
audiences forget that he was a pretty smooth-looking fella
and an astute businessman, earning many writing and
producing credits.

Even though my Spanish is limited to schoolyard curses and practical words and phrases picked up during my after school job at a bakery, I always pause when I see a "pelicula de Cantinflas" in progress.  Part Charlie Chaplin, part Groucho Marx, and part Mr. Bean, the universality of his beguiling performances all but eliminates any language barrier (the occasional English subtitle doesn't hurt either).

A clip from Ahì Està El Deltalle (1940)

It is his enduring legacy of timeless comedy that has inspired a full-length feature film based on his life and career.  Unlike many big screen biopics, we are pretty excited to see Cantinflas.

Cantinflas trailer (2014)

As we approach what would have been his 103rd birthday, it seems especially timely to anticipate a silver screen celebration of his life and to reflect on his credo of happiness.

"The primary obligation of humanity is to be happy,
the second is to bring happiness to others." - Cantinflas
We think he was definitely on to something!

Are you a Cantinflas fan?  Is there a classic comedy star with whom you closely identify?  Are you currently considering the very real possibility of seeing Mr. Tiny transformed into Cantinflas (or at least his overweight, albino brother) this Halloween?


Mr. Tiny


  1. Oh how I love Cantiflas! He was my favorite followed by Tin Tan.

    1. He is a star! I can't wait to see the biopic!

  2. I've never even heard of him! I guess that's one of the differences between growing up in Northern California versus Southern. I've always been a sucker for a good mustache, so I will have to look up his movies now!

    1. I think that's the only difference. Other than that, we're all HELLA the same...did I use that correctly? Hahahaha!!!!

  3. Thank you for writing this. I love Cantinflas. I grew up with his films - along with films by Tin Tan and Capulina - great stuff! You should check out the films of another Mexican film icon - the great Mauricio Garces.

    1. My pleasure; thanks for the leads on the other movie stars! I hope this movie lives up to his legacy.