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Cantinflas: 1911-1993: Actor, Comedian

Came From Humble Beginnings

Cantinflas was born Mario Moreno Reyes on August 12, 1911, in Mexico City, Mexico. Moreno was the sixth of twelve sons and three daughters born to Jose and Maria (Guizar) Moreno. Although he grew up in a poor section of Mexico City, Cantinflas was privileged enough to attend good schools, like the Bartolome de las Casas School. More interested in the street life than in his books, Cantinflas often cut class to watch street performers and eventually performed himself. It was here that he found the skills that he would later need in a career of entertaining audiences.

As a child in the streets, Cantinflas learned how to play to the crowds. He won several contests with the valero, a ball-and-stick toy, and made small change as a child by singing and dancing. More importantly, he became closely familiar with the effects of destitution and the ravages of poverty. Both lessons would influence his work as a performer.

At fifteen, he entered the national agricultural school at Chapingo, but soon was tempted back to performing. He ran away from the school to join a carpa as a dance performer. In the carpas, Cantinflas found the excitement he desired. Colorful characters, loud, raucous audiences, and the reward of a clapping hand held the young performer captive for the rest of his life. He attempted to return home, but soon ran away again and joined the Campania Novel in Tacambara as a dancer.

At a Glance . . .

Born Mario Moreno Reyes on August 12, 1911, in Mexico City, Mexico; died on April 20, 1993, in Mexico City, Mexico; married Valentina Subareff, 1937 (died 1966); children: one son.

Career: Stage and screen actor, 1935-93.

Awards: Special Prize, Ariel Awards, Mexico, for "work on behalf of the Mexican cinema," 1950-51; Golden Globe for Best Actor, for Around the World in Eighty Days, 1956; Special Award, Golden Globe, 1960; Special Prize, Mexican Silver Goddesses, 1969; named "symbol of peace and happiness of the Americas," by the Organization of American States, 1983; Diploma of Honor, Inter-American Council of Music, 1983; honored for lifelong contribution to Mexican cinema, by the Mexican Academy of Cinemagraphic Arts and Sciences, 1988.

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