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Mario Moreno Cantinflas – Biography, Facts About The Late Mexican Film Actor



Mario Moreno popularly and professionally known as Cantinflas was a Mexican actor, screenwriter, and Producer who is well-celebrated all over Latin America and also in Spain. His acrobatic skills and comedic prowess distinguished him exceptionally in the entertainment industry. Moreno was known for his excellence at combining some meaningless talks and blending them in such a way that they can crack up anyone.

He was famous and became an iconic figure in Mexico and other parts of Latino America for portraying Cantinflas, a peasant of pelado origin, who wears a rugged coat, a battered hat with his trousers always held up with a rope. The role of Passepartout he played in the epic Hollywood movie ‘Around the World in 80 days’ made him a world-famous comedian at that time.

He gained some popularity and recognition over his long career and he was able to release about 45 films. After his death, the new verb ‘cantinflear’ was added to Spanish dictionaries in his honor. It means ‘talking a lot without actually saying anything’.

Biography of Mario Moreno Cantinflas

He was born as Mario Fortino Alfonso Moreno-Reyes on 12th August 1911 at Santa Maria la Ribera Mexico City as the fourth out of the eight children of Pedro Moreno Esquivel, his father who was a postal carrier and Maria de la Soledad Reyes Guizar, his mother. His parents, though not financially buoyant, enrolled him in a good school. As a child, he was interested in watching street plays and when he was old enough, he was imitating the actors he watched.

At the age of fifteen, he ran away to the Pacific shores of Jalapa, from the government agricultural school where his parents enrolled him and there at Jalapa, his career as an actor started when he joined the Mexican tent show ‘carpa’.

Facts About The Late Mexican Film Actor Mario Moreno Cantinflas

How the Name Cantinflas Came about

After Moreno left home and joined the tent show, he needed an alias and a stage name especially because he was convinced that his parents would never approve of his chosen career path. It happened that one night he heard the shout of a drunken heckler saying ‘En la cantina, tuinflas’ which means ‘in a bar, you drink’. The clause stuck in his head and he used it to coin the Cantinflas which became the name he was most known by.

First Career Endeavors

The early years after he left home were not rosy for Mario Moreno Cantinflas and this had him trying his hands at all possible career endeavors. He tried specialties like boxing, medicine, but none of that worked out for him. Moreno later became a dancer in the tent show, and in one of the ‘carpa’ shows, he was the master of the show, and as he was doing that, he became so nervous and he began to speak continuously and rapidly, saying whatever thing that crossed his mind. The audience was first amazed but as he kept talking, shock gave way to laughter. This became the early beginnings of his comedic career.


Moreno’s career comedic and acting career kicked off when he met Santiago Reachi in the mid-1930s. Reachi was a producer and publicist and together with Moreno, the founded a movie production company. Moreno was to act the movie while Santiago produced, directed and distributed. It was practically a joint business.

Mario Moreno Cantinflas in 1936 made his first movie appearance in a movie titled No te engañes corazón which was translated as ‘Don’t Fool Yourself, Dear’. Some of the films he acted in include Ahi Esta el Detalle translated as ‘There’s the rub’ (1940). This is the first movie that brought the name ‘Cantinflas’ to the fore and he continued to develop the Cantinflas character. Next came El Gendarme Desconocido’ translated as ‘The Unknown Police Officer’ (1941). He received praise and honor for this movie from the police forces all over Latin America for his positive portrayal of law enforcement.

As a star of repute, he served in the Independence Film workers union ‘Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Producción Cinematográfica’ (STPC) as the first secretary and also served as the president of the Mexican actors guild’s ‘Asociación Nacional de Actores’ (ANDA). Moreno was known even after retirement for being charitable and engaged himself in many humanitarian works especially to children. He made several donations and contributions to the orphans and to the Roman Catholic Church.

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Wife and Children

Mario Moreno Cantinflas met Russian beauty Valentina Ivanova Zubareff while he was working at the Valentinacarpa. They dated briefly and on 27th October 1936, they got married and remained as husband and wife until January 1966 when she died. While their marriage lasted, the two did not have any biological child together, However, it is known that his wife Valentino Ivanova adopted a son Moreno had with another woman while they were married. The child eventually became known as Cantinflas’ adopted son.

Moreno was known to be a smoker and he died on the 20th of April 1993 in Mexico City after suffering from cancer of the lungs.

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