I have in my 1958 yearbook, a picture of the famous Mexican celebrity, Mario Moreno “Cantinflas”, visiting Lanier high school. In fact, almost everybody was there to greet him. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there.
I had seen his old films on television but never on a big screen. I was seeing most the American westerns and serials at the Joy or the Obrero theater across the street. My wife, however, was opposite. She went to the Nacional theater to see her Mexican movies along with her grandmother and sisters. If I ask her today, she’ll remember all her Mexican movie stars by name and the movies they made.
Growing up in the West Side of San Antonio., especially in the Alazan Apache courts area, most everybody would visit the Guadalupe and Progreso theaters which showed the latest Mexican movies. (The admission was cheaper than the downtown theaters.) I happen to catch some of them especially the ones with Pedro Infante. They were mostly Mexican westerns or so called “rancheras”.
However, I avoided the romantic movies. But I was captivated by one singing movie star whose hour glass figure was shown in a very tight fitting dress when she sang. Her name was Maria Victoria. Rumor is that she had to be picked up and place on stage before she sang because the dress went all the way to her ankles and she couldn’t walk. When she did sing, she sang with a lot of sex appeal. Later she stared in telenovelas where she played herself singing and a character, Inocencia in the telenovela “La Craida Bien Criada”. She is equal to Pedro Infante in her song portfolio.
Our diet of Mexican movie stars went whether we enjoyed rancheras, comedy or rumbas. The latter starred Maria Antonieta Pons who danced her way in every rumba movie with other stars like Tin Tan. Of course, Tin Tan was a comedian who was known to dance rumbas, jitterbugs and sing rock and roll style. Other notables were Jorge Negrete, Javier Solis, Miguel Aceves Mejia, Demetrio Gonzales and many others.
Once in a while we would see a specific Mexican drama with Maria Felix or Pedro Armendariz. These were mostly Oscar winners, if they had Oscars in Mexico. The most prominent would be the trilogy, “Nosotros Los Pobres” with Pero Infante which is still seen today. Pedro is still revered today as the most loved by the Mexican people.
There were female Mexican Rancheras singers also. Lola Beltrán, Rosita Quintana and Lucha Villa. They formed the most movies starring themselves along with Javier Solis, Pedro Infante and Luis Aguilar.
I failed to mention that one of the idols of Mexican cinema was Jorge Negrete. He was a tenor and He and Pedro Infante came out in several movies together. They were always trying to best each other in singing and with the women. Jorge, unfortunately was pelted with tomatoes here in San Antonio for whatever reason, I don’t know. Anyway, that’s the story I heard. When he passed away, Mexico honored him with a huge funeral.
Beside Pero Infante, Luis Aguilar came to mind because when he started in the movies as a drama actor they found out he could sing. so they starred him in his own ranchera movies. He also teamed up with Pedro Infante in a trilogy of Motorcycle Cop movies. Later in life, he went back as a dramatic actor in a telenovela popular today.
My most exciting event with Mexican actors came when I was stationed in the Republic of Panama. I had found out that Miguel Aceves Mejia was going to have a concert in one of the theaters downtown. I invited our friend Charles Valdez, who had never ventured outside Ft. Clayton due to the hostilities of the Panamanian. He relented and went with us and we were very wary about how they would view us. However, it was a great concert and everybody enjoyed it, especially me, who had never attended a concert like that.