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Pedro Infante: 1917-1957: Actor, Singer

Became The Common Man's Star

The 1930s to the mid-1950s was the golden age of the Mexican film industry. Five major Mexican film studios pumped out thousands of films "[spreading] tales of machismo, glamour and rustic innocence to every corner of the Latino world," according to an article in The Buffalo News. Infante had arrived in Mexico City, the center of the country's film industry, at a perfect time to become a star. He had roles in two short films before appearing in his first feature as an extra in 1942. He appeared in three more films that year, including a starring role in Jesucita en Chihuahua. Over the next five years he starred in or had major roles in over a dozen more films including the 1946 comedy Los tres García and its sequel Vuelven los García released that same year. In 1947 the film that catapulted Infante to stardom and is still considered a must-see of Mexican cinema, Nostros los pobres, was released. In Nosotros los pobres Infante introduced the poor-but-proud character Pepe el Toro, struggling haphazardly through his urban life. The film combined musical comedy with gritty imagery and drama and was so popular that two sequels were made. The film is also a good illustration of Infante's acting style. Rather than lose himself in a role, he remained very connected to the audience. During songs he would often look straight at the camera and wink. His fans loved it. It also didn't hurt that he was dashingly handsome, often eliciting comparisons to Clark Gable.

Infante often portrayed the common man that everyone could relate to. "He was the good friend, the good son, the romantic in love, the caring father, the sexy singer, the 'macho' with a heart," noted a biography of Infante on the Lonestar website. Infante's rise from poor carpenter to cinema star was well-known and it seemed as if onscreen he were portraying himself—the good-hearted worker eager to succeed. He was so revered for these types of characters that movies were specifically written for him with just these sorts of roles in the lead. They proved to be a sure-thing at the box office and continued to draw fans nearly fifty years after his death. They also helped propel Infante to superstardom, making him the most famous Mexican in recent history. Though many of his films were limited to strictly popular success, several also garnered critical acclaim. In 1947 Infante received the nomination for best actor from the Academy of Cinemagraphic Science and Art of Mexico for his role in Cuando lloran los valientes. He was again nominated in 1948 for Los tres huastecos and in 1953 Un rincón cerca del cielo. He finally won the prestigious award in 1956 for his portrayal of Pablo in La vida no vale nada. In all Infante appeared in 59 films, including Tizoc a color film made just before his death for which he received the Best Actor nod at the Berlin Festival in 1957.

Like many stars, Infante was larger-than-life off screen as well as on. He was known as quite the ladies man and by some accounts fathered over a dozen children. Three of them, Pedro Infante Jr., Cruz Infante, and Irma Infante, followed their father's footsteps into acting. He divorced María Luisa, his first wife from Sinaloa and married Lupita Torrentera with whom he had two children. When that relationship ended, he married Irma Dorantes, a fellow actor with whom he also had children. However, being a firmly Catholic country, his divorce from María Luisa was never legal and following his death, his marriage to Irma was challenged, most likely in the course of the division of his estate. Though he made a lot of money during his career, his parents, 14 brothers and sisters, three wives, and many children, relied on him. "His bills were exorbitant," noted Virtualorbe. "During the 1950s he was signing over 50 checks a month for his relatives' personal expenses." Nonetheless, Infante found funding for his two hobbies—his Harley Davidson motorcycle and flying. He often said it was his first wife who made him an actor when she insisted he leave Sinaloa for Mexico City, but that it was God who had made him a pilot. That is questionable as he was not a very good pilot. He flew recklessly and had two accidents by 1949, one quite serious. He had crashed his plane and suffered head injuries that nearly killed him. Mexico prayed during a tricky three-hour operation and finally breathed a sigh of relief when Infante came out of it okay.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: James Heneghan (1930-) Biography - Personal to Rick Jacobson Biography - PersonalPedro Infante: 1917-1957: Actor, Singer Biography - Came From Talented Family, Became The Common Man's Star, His Death Mourned, His Legacy Launched