Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Films of Cantinflas

Tonight at the Hibbleton Gallery film series, we're continuing our Introduction to Mexican Cinema with an evening celebrating the Mexican movie star Cantinflas (aka Mario Moreno), who has been called "The Charlie Chaplin of Mexico." Cantinflas became famous during the "Golden Age" of Mexican cinema in the 1940s. His comic genius involved rapid-fire wordplay, slapstick comedy, and a fumbling naivete that always gets him out of precarious situations. In preparation for this event, I decided to research the rather large filmography of Cantinflas.  Here it is, with some images and brief descriptions...

1.)  Ahi Esta el Detalle (Here's the Point) -- 1940.  Directed by Juan Bustillo Oro. A domestic comedy about mistaken identities, jealousy, and a rabid dog named Bobby.

2.) El Gendarme Desconocido (The Unknown Policeman) -- 1941.  Cantinflas captures three bank robbers. Considered a hero, he is given the title of Agent 777 because of his ability to disguise himself in many different forms. In his ultimate assignment, he transforms himself into a wealthy jewel collector to set up a group of gangsters.

 3.) Ni Sangre Ni Arena (Neither Blood nor Sand) -- 1941.  Directed by Alejandro Galindo.  A parody of the big-budget Hollywood film Blood and Sand, which portrays the world of bullfighting.

4.) Los Tres Mosqueteros (The Three Musketeers) -- 1942.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  Cantinflas and three friends return a stolen necklace to an actress who invites them to be extras at a movie studio. While on the set, he falls asleep and dreams that he is D’Artagnan fighting on behalf of Queen Anne.

5.) El Circo (The Circus) -- 1943.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  In this version of Charlie Chaplin's The Circus (1928), Cantinflas is a cobbler who gets a job in a circus as a janitor, but ends up hilariously performing dangerous feats, such as the trapeze.

6.) Romeo y Julieta (Romeo and Juliet) -- 1943.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  A comedic adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.  Like the play, the dialogue is done in verse, but usually ending with Mexican slang that rhymes, which is the source of much humor.

7.) Gran Hotel (1944) directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  After failing as a waiter, Cantinflas gets a job as a bellboy in a fancy hotel, by recommendation of his girlfriend. He has to deal with upper class people and nobility. One day, an expensive and rare relic, property of a noblewoman, disappears, and Cantinflas is the only one who knows where it is. But he gets amnesia caused by a big blow to his head. Will he remember the real location of the relic?

8.) Un Dia Con El Diablo (One Day with the Devil) -- 1945.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  A newspaper boy mistakenly joins the army.  After dying during a mission, he visits the afterlife and has funny interactions with the Prince of Darkness.

 9.) Soy Un Profugo (I am a Fugitive) -- 1946.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  A janitor in a large bank is accused of pulling of a major heist. He is forced to become a fugitive while hunting for the real culprits.

10.) A Volar Joven! (To Fly Young) -- 1947.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  Cantinflas is a soldier who doesn't know anything about discipline or following rules and only wants to think about his girlfriend, the maid in an opulent hacienda. The owner has an ugly and shy daughter, who is in love with Cantinflas. Problems arise when the family arranges a wedding between the ugly girl and Cantinflas, who in order to avoid the commitment causes himself to get arrested. During his punishment, Cantinflas will learn to fly with a silly and not too capable instructor.

11.) El Supersabio (The Genius) -- 1948.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  Cantinflas is the apprentice of a renowned scientist, Prof. Arquimides Monteagudo. Unfortunately, Cantinflas has the soul of a poet rather than a serious researcher, and he wants to find the formula that achieves the immortality of roses. Nevertheless, after the death of Prof. Monteagudo, Cantinflas will be chased by a greedy corporation, who wants to steal the secret formula for a cheaper fuel named "carburex", because they think that Cantinflas is the only person who knows the formula.

12.) El Mago (The Magician) -- 1949.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  A lookalike (Cantinflas) is hired by an agency to take the place of a magician while he goes on holiday.

 13.)  El Portero (The Porter) -- 1949.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  Cantinflas works as a porter/student, who writes letters and speeches on his old writing machine to earn an extra money. He falls in love with a pretty girl, who is handicapped and unable to walk.  A young military man also has feelings for the girl.  Wanting to see her happy, he becomes a sort of Cyrano De Bergerac, writing love letters to her signed by the young soldier. His plan is simple: to win money at the horse races in order to pay the operation which will make her walk again.

14.) El Siete Machos (The Seven Macho-Men) -- 1950.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  A parody of “charro” (singing cowboy) films, Cantinflas moves to a rancho as a macho hero, singer, braggart, and womanizer (like Jorge Negrete or Pedro Infante).

15.) El Bombero Atomico (The Atomic Firefighter) -- 1950.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  Cantinflas is a clumsy fireman, who one day receives a visit from his little goddaughter, whose mother recently died in the jungle. Cantinflas decides to quit and become a policeman, because it seems less dangerous. Everything goes well until a gang kidnaps the girl, and Cantinflas must save the day.

16.)  Si Yo Fuera Diputado (If I Were a Member Of) -- 1951.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  Tired of the same politicians, who never do anything to improve their welfare, people from a poor neighborhood decide to support the local shoeshine boy (Cantinflas) for public office.

 17.) Lluvia de Estrellas (Starfall) -- 1951.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  I was unable to find a description of this film's plot.

 18.) El Senor Fotografo (Mr. Photographer) -- 1952.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  Cantinflas, a photographer, is captured by gangsters while trying to steal flowers for his girlfriend. The gangsters mistake him for the assistant to a scientist who has discovered a formula for a new atomic bomb. Cantinflas convinces the gangsters that a rubber ball he is holding is the real atomic bomb.

19.) Caballero a la Medida (1954).  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  Cantinflas works as a tuxedo model for a prestigious store. He  wanders the streets, wearing the tuxedo and a big ad on his back. The tuxedo allows him to access to exclusive places, where he meets important and rich people. During his free time, he is the manager of an amateur boxer, assists an attractive nurse and occasionally helps a priest run a poor orphanage. However, one day Cantinflas, wearing the tuxedo, meets a rich man, who falsely believes that our friend is also a millionaire.

20.) Abajo el Telon (Drop the Curtain) -- 1955.  Directed by Miguel M.  Delgado.  Cantinflas works as a window cleaner with a small stall in a neighborhood of the city, who gets the opportunity to clean the windows of a famous theater actress.

21.) Around the World in 80 Days (1956).  Directed by Michael Anderson.  An adaptation of the novel by Jules Verne, this was Cantinflas' first foray into Hollywood films.

22.) El Bolero de Raquel (Raquel's Shoeshiner) -- 1957.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  His first Mexican color film, Cantinflas is a down-on-his-luck but affable shoe shiner who must care for the child of his friend’s widow.  In order to find a better job, Cantinflas goes to school, where he tries to learn but, instead, falls in love with Raquel Saavedra, an attractive teacher who works there. While in school, he tries finding more jobs, with comic results.  El bolero de Raquel satirizes the lifestyles of the rich with their bodyguards, managers, etc. through scenes set in posh nightclubs.

23.) Ama a Tu Projimo (Houswife to Your Neighbor) -- 1958.  Directed by Tulio Demichelli.  A succession of short stories set in a Red Cross hospital.

24.) Sube y Baja (Up and Down) -- 1959.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  Cantinflas plays a non-athletic guy who works at a sporting goods store.

25.) Pepe (1960).  Directed by George Sidney.  In his second Hollywood film, Cantinflas plays Pepe, a hired hand, employed on a ranch. A boozing Hollywood director buys a white stallion that belongs to Pepe's boss. Pepe, determined to get the horse back (as he considers it his family), decides to take off to Hollywood. There he meets film stars including Jimmy Durante, Frank Sinatra, Zsa Zsa Gsbor, Bing Crosby, Maurice Chevalier, and Jack Lemmon, in drag as Daphne from Some Like It Hot.  He is also surprised by things that were new in America at the time, such as automatic swinging doors. When he finally reaches the man who bought the horse, he is led to believe there is no hope of getting it back. However, the last scene shows both him and the stallion back at the ranch with several foals.

26.) El Analfabeto (The Illiterate One) -- 1961.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  Cantinflas receives a letter stating that he is the heir to his uncle's fortune of two million pesos, which he has only to claim by producing his birth certificate as proof of identity. However, being illiterate, he has no idea of the contents of the letter.   Over the course of the film, he gradually learns to read and makes both friends and enemies at a local bank.

27.) El Extra (The Extra) -- 1962.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  Cantinflas plays a guy who practically lives on a movie set. He goes from set to set as an extra or observer but mostly bothers the directors. On every set, he imagines himself as the main actor.


 28.) Entrega Inmediata (aka Agent XU 777) -- 1963.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  Cantinflas plays a postman who unknowingly gets involved in a spy caper.

29.) El Padrecito (The Good Priest) -- 1964.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  Cantinflas is a young priest assigned to a parish in where he is not welcomed by the community, particularly the resident priest Father Dami├ín. The newcomer gradually earns the trust of the people through humor, but firmly captures their hearts by saving the town fiesta by fighting a bull when the hired bullfighter fails to show.  The film is also a commentary on catholicism, morality, and modern society.

30.) El Senor Doctor (Mr. Doctor) -- 1965.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  Cantinflas plays a small town doctor who decides to move to the capital in order to advance her career. There he finds a world unknown to him: X-rays, electroencephalograms and many sophisticated medical technologies and techniques that he doesn’t understand. 

31.) Su Excelencia (Your Excellency) -- 1967.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  The film is set in a fictional dystopia where "Red" and "Green" countries are the political equivalents of the socialist and capitalist countries of the Cold War, which the film satirizes. Cantinflas plays a representative of the Republic of the Coconuts who attends an international conference, where he must make the pivotal choice of joining the "Reds" or the "Greens", therefore deciding the fate of one hundred nations.  The film is famous for Cantinflas’ speech near the end.

32.) Por Mis Pistolas (By My Guns) -- 1968.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  Cantinflas goes to Arizona in search of an old silver mine that belonged to his great-grandfather.

33.) Un Quijote Sin Mancha (A Quixote Without La Mancha) -- 1969.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  Cantinflas plays a law student at the University of Mexico.  At the same time, he works as an intern helping people who have no money to pay a lawyer.  After graduating, he decides to continue fighting on behalf of the poor.


34.) El Profe (The Professor) -- 1971.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  A teacher (Cantinflas) arrives in the little town of El Romeral, where he faces many challenges, especially the wealthy who don’t want the children be educated, so they can continue exploiting them.

 35.) Don Quijote Cabalga de Nuevo (Don Quixote Rides Again) -- 1973.  Directed by Roberto Gavaldon.  Based on Miguel de Cervantes’ classic novel Don Quixote, Cantinflas plays the loyal sidekick Sancho Panza.

36.) Conserje en Condominio (Condominium Concierge) -- 1973.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  Cantinflas gets a job as caretaker of a luxurious apartment building inhabited by a motley crew of people: a professional model, a spiritualist, and hippies, who all turn to him to solve their problems.  When someone in the building is kidnapped, Cantinflas becomes a private investigator.

 37.) El Ministro y Yo (The Minister and I) -- 1975.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  Cantinflas is a notary public and scribe for the illiterate people of Santo Domingo, a neighborhood north of Mexico City’s Zocalo.  After getting a job working for a government minister, he tries to reform the bureau, and lectures the officials on their duties in a democratic society. At the end, he gives up the post, returning to Santo Domingo to help its poor residents. 

38.) El Patrullero 777 (Patrolman 777) -- 1978.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  The final film in Cantinflas “police” trilogy, which began with El Gendarme Desconocido and El Bombero Atomico.

39.) El Barrendero (The Sweeper) -- 1981.  Directed by Miguel M. Delgado.  Cantinflas plays an honest public sweeper who becomes the only witness to the theft of a valuable painting.  The thieves, pursued by the police, hide the painting in a dustbin which our hero must collect. Cantinflas is chased by the bandits who are trying to find out at all costs the whereabouts of the famous painting. Suspicions fall on Cantinflas.

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