Cantinflas was considered by Charlie Chaplin “the greatest comedian alive”, and the new biopic Cantinflas, based on the private life and career of Mexico´s most famous and beloved comedian began showing in the US on Friday, August 29 in 382 cinemas in the U.S., but nowhere around Metro Detroit.
In fact, most of the Mexican population in Michigan was unexpectedly left waiting for the movie, with the exception of the small rural area of Grandville, MI.
Brilliantly performed by Spanish actor Óscar Jaenada, even though the movie was shown in only a few select movie theaters (in cities with a large Hispanic audience), it grossed $2,625 million on the first day.
How is it that thousands of Mexicans in Michigan were left waiting to watch a film that was to be a sure success? Lack of market research seems to be responsible for this oversight.
Mario Moreno “Cantinflas” was born in 1911 in Mexico City. He began as a humble performer at small “carpa” (tent) theater in his hometown. His peculiar colloquialisms and iconic body language made him a an absolute success. In fact, as time went by, derivatives of the nickname Cantinflas, such as cantinflear or cantinfladas were incorporated into the Dictionary of the Royal Academy of Spanish.
Cantinflas starred in over 50 films in Mexico, and he jumped to international fame in 1956 for his successful role as Passepartout, Phileas Fogg´s loyal, albeit comic French valet in “Around the World in 80 Days” in 1957. The film, based on a novel by Jules Verne, received five Academy Awards, including Best Film. Cantinflas himself received a Golden Globe for his role as Passepartout in 1960.
As the result of his success, Cantinflas became the best paid comedy actor in the world.
However, in spite of his fame and fortune, Cantinflas never stopped helping others.
Cantinflas was not only a great comedy actor. He was also a strong philanthropist. He not only donated money to help build hospitals and maternity clinics for the poor in Mexico. As Union Leader of Mexico´s National Actors’ Association (ANDA), in 1944 he founded La Casa del Actor (The Actors’ Home) in Mexico City, a beautiful and elegant senior residence for retired Mexican actors, that still stands today, and is consistently expanded and improved. Cantinflas also established the custom to organize Christmas Dinner at La Casa del Actor every year, free of charge, and with the collaborative participation of other actors who perform and attend this event on behalf of his retired colleagues.
Cantiflas received — and presented — numerous international awards during his long career. In 1966, The Inter American Council of Music presented him with an Honorary Diploma, and in 1969, he received Mexico’s Silver Goddess. Later, in 1970, Cantinflas presented Ray Charles with Mexico’s Heraldo Award.
“Every time you come to this country, never forget that the Mexican people love you!”, said Cantinflas in English, as he presented the award to Ray Charles.
Also, according to Encyclopedia.com, back in 1966, when Cantinflas’s wife Valentina developed cancer, it was President Lyndon B. Johnson, a close friend of the comedian who “sent a U.S. government plane to Mexico City to rush Valentina to a Houston hospital for treatment”.
Through his work on behalf of others and for his promotion of peace among nations, in 1983 Cantinflas was honored by the Organization of American States (OEA) as Peace Ambassador, and was named “Symbol of Peace and Happiness of the Americas”.
So, Cantinflas the movie is eagerly awaited by Mexicans everywhere in the world. Hopefully in the next few weeks, it will be available to the rest of the State of Michigan, in particular to the population of Southwest Detroit.