Cantinflas was a funny man. So funny that Charlie Chaplin once called the Mexican comic actor and philanthropist “the world’s greatest comedian.”
Cantinflas (pronounced cahn-TEEN-flas) charmed generations of Latino filmgoers in dozens of movies before catching the attention of American audiences with his portrayal of Passepartout, Phileas Fogg’s bumbling valet in the 1956 film Around the World in 80 Days.
Google dedicated its Doodle to Cantinflas on the beloved actor’s 107th birthday.
Born Mario Moreno in a Mexico City slum in 1911, Cantinflas was the son of a postal worker. Cantinflas was beloved by audiences for his el peladito, a character similar to Chaplin’s Little Tramp that reflected his impoverished upbringing. Cantinflas’ signature character was an underdog who used his wit and good luck to overcome the challenges of life in the slums.
Cantinflas’ name has no literal meaning; he adopted the stage name to prevent his parents from knowing he was in the entertainment business. His name would come to be identified as a colloquialism, meaning idle chatter of one who talks a lot but says little.
Although he’d helped usher in Mexico’s golden era of cinema, Cantinflas’ popularity grew beyond Spanish-speaking audiences only after the release of Around the World in 80 Days, winner of five Academy Awards, including best picture. Cantinflas’ second Hollywood film was 1960’s Pepe, a multimillion-dollar epic that included cameo appearances from dozens of popular actors, failed at the box office and led Cantinflas to abandon Hollywood and return to the Mexican cinema.
Despite Pepe’s famous failure, Cantinflas was wealthy, earning more than $1.5 million a year at the peak of his career in the late 1950s. But like his famous character, he never forgot his roots — or the people still suffering a similar plight. During his lifetime, he’s said to have donated half his fortune to charity.
A lifelong smoker, Cantinflas died of lung cancer in 1993 at the age of 81.
Sunday’s Doodle highlights several of his iconic roles, including as Cantinflas in 1940’s Ahí está el detalle, Margarito/El Siete Machos in 1951’s El Siete Machos, and Padre Sebastián in 1964’s El padrecito.
Doodling our world: Check out Google’s previous celebrations of people, events and holidays that impact our lives.
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