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By: Marcela Saldivia
For: Red Rock News
Date: June 17, 2011

Cantinflas Movie Festival at the Library

If you do not know who “Cantinflas” is you must come to Sedona Public Library and get to watch some of his most hilarious movies. And if you are familiar with this amusing icon of Mexican cinema you will be happy to know that every Friday at 5 p.m. during the months of June and July, Mario Moreno “Cantinflas” will be on the Library’s screen.

Mario Moreno (1911-1993) began his career as an entertainer in the 1930s. Everything started at a circus where he performed as an acrobat and a dancer. His admiration of Charlie Chaplin and imitations of the Lithuanian singer, comedian and actor Al Jolson laid the groundwork for Moreno's eventual move into acting. As an actor Moreno created his own comedian identity, the comic personage “Cantinflas.” 

Cantinflas’ character came to represent the essence of the Mexican city slum dweller. His trademark costume of a t-shirt with holes, low-hip baggy pants, a rope for a belt and his distinctive mustache and the funny way in which he held a cigarette became his iconic imprint. But Cantinflas’ signature was his most particular way of speaking in a stream of seemingly unintelligible riddles. In the late 1930s Mario Moreno met the Russian filmmaker Jacques Gelman and together they started producing their own movies. By the 1940s Cantinflas became a movie star whose popularity spread from Mexico to the rest of the Spanish-speaking countries with staggering success.

One of the unique traits of Cantinflas was his comic use of language in his films. Cantinflas would personify a variety of different characters such as a photographer, a policeman, a handyman, or just a city “bum” who would strike up a normal conversation and then complicate it to the point where no one understood what he was talking about. The public particularly enjoyed Cantinflas as an uncanny hero because of his ability to confuse the conversation in all sorts of embarrassing situations. He talked his way out of trouble with the authorities, or with somebody he owed money, or with bandits when he played the hero, or when he was courting a pretty girl. Cantinflas movies always show a humane and sentimental side in addition to the comic routines with the gestures and language that are his signature. He was a social satirist and in many of his films criticized the inequalities of society and for that reason he has been identified as “Mexican Charlie Chaplin.”
Although Cantinflas never achieved the same success in the United States as in Mexico and Latin America, he co-starred with David Niven in the film “Around the World in 80 Days” (1956). The main drawback was the language: Cantinflas couldn’t play his unique linguistic riddles in English. As a matter of fact, his character Passepartout in “Around the World” is mute. In spite of not being well-known in the United States he was honored with a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He earned two Golden Globe nominations, winning one for best actor, and the Mexican Academy of Film Lifetime Achievement Award. His handprints have been imbedded onto the “Paseo de las Luminarias” (the Mexican equivalent of the Hollywood Walk of Fame) for his work in motion pictures.

Latino Services has acquired a number of classic Cantinflas new releases from Columbia Pictures in the black and white originals in Spanish with English subtitles for the enjoyment of all. Get out of the heat in the summer and come to Sedona Public Library every Friday at 5 p.m.  Don’t miss this extraordinary opportunity to revive a part of the Mexican Cinema Golden Era!

Marcela Saldivia
Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News and is also presented on: Gateway to Sedona and Sedona Biz.
Marcela Saldivia, PhD, is Latino Services Librarian of the Sedona Public Library.