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The Golden Age of Mexican Cinema
Remind Me

Ahi Esta el Detalle

Mexican clown Cantinflas (Mario Moreno) became an international star with the 1940 farce, Ahi esta el detalle, spurring continued growth in the Mexican film industry and winning a place in film history as his country's answer to Charlie Chaplin (who would later call him "the world's greatest comedian"). He even won a listing in the dictionary.

It was hardly an overnight sensation. For years, Cantinflas had been developing his character, the peladito (the literal translation is "hairless," but the colloquial term means a penniless nobody or urban tramp). He had started out performing in traveling tent shows called campas, where he picked up his stage name when a heckler shouted "En la cantina, tu inflas" ("In the bar, you drink!"), a comment that tickled him so much he took it as his professional name. He first developed a following as a bullfighting clown, helping to distract raging bulls in the ring. He then turned to filmmaking in 1937 with a series of shorts. By 1940 he was ready for his first feature, and Mexican cinema would never be the same.

By the time Cantinflas made Ahi esta el detalle ("That's the point!"), he had already developed the screen persona he would play for the next four decades. Wearing baggy pants, a small cap set at an angle and a tiny moustache over the corners of his mouth, he invaded the worlds of propriety and middle class hypocrisy, leaving a trail of anarchy in his wake. In his first feature, he plays a simple lout whose attempts to please his girlfriend by getting rid of a vicious dog lead to his being mistaken for her brother and a bloodthirsty killer. When the story climaxes with his trial for murder, he displays another of his trademarks, his ability to confuse even the sagest opponent with a hyperactive barrage of doubletalk. In Ahi esta el detalle, he even gets the judge and prosecuting attorney talking nonsense on his level in spite of themselves.

Cantinflas's comedy proved a hit with audiences of all classes. The working poor saw him as their champion, the little man taking on the establishment, while more educated audiences delighted in his attacks on pomposity and the cleverness of his verbal displays. Eventually the Spanish Royal Academy of Language accepted variations on his name as part of the language, with cantinflear meaning to talk a lot while saying nothing; cantinflada, nonsensical chatter; and cantinflismo, a story which does not have a point. Although historically all of the focus on Ahi esta el detalle centers on Cantinflas it's important to note that several other cast and crew members contributed to this film's success and the rapidly growing Mexican film industry. The film's director, editor and co-author, Juan Bustillo Oro was a respected theatre artist who was responsible for some the period's most successful films. Co-star Joaquin Pardave was also a respected theatrical star who would come into his own as a comic actor, director and writer two years later with El Baisano Jalil (1942). Sara Garcia, although only 45, was already earning a reputation as the "granny" of the Mexican cinema. Like Walter Brennan in the U.S., she could perform with or without her false teeth, thus opening the door to a string of prominent supporting roles.

Ahi esta el detalle was part of a string of successful Mexican films that started the '40s off with a bang for the nation's cinema. Where only 29 films were made there that year, the number jumped to 37 the next year and over 100 by the decade's end. Cantinflas and other local comedians who achieved stardom during this period were largely responsible for this success story. Little wonder the nation declared a period of national mourning when he died in 1993.

Producer: Jesus Grovas
Director: Juan Bustillo Oro
Screenplay: Humberto Gomez Landero, Juan Bustillo Oro
Cinematography: Lauron 'Jack' Draper
Art Direction: Carlos Toussaint
Music: Raul Lavista
Cast: Cantinflas (Cantinflas), Joaquin Pardave (Cayetano Lastre), Sara Garcia (Clotilde Regalado), Sofia Alvarez (Dolores del Paso), Dolores Camarillo (Pacito), Manuel Noriega (Juez).

by Frank Miller



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