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The Illiterate One

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Illiterate One
Directed byMiguel M. Delgado
Produced byJacques Gelman
Screenplay byJaime Salvador
Carlos León
(additional dialogue)
Miguel M. Delgado
(technical screenplay)
Story byMarcelo Salazar
Juan López
(original story)
Lilia Prado
Ángel Garasa
Sara García
Music byManuel Esperón
CinematographyVíctor Herrera
Edited byJorge Bustos
Posa Films International
Estudios Churubusco
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • September 7, 1961 (1961-09-07) (Mexico)
Running time
128 minutes

The Illiterate One (Spanish: El analfabeto) is a 1961 Mexican comedy film, directed by Miguel M. Delgado, starring Cantinflas, Lilia Prado, and Sara García.[1][2] It is the second Cantinflas film presented by Columbia Pictures.


Inocencio Prieto y Calvo receives a letter telling him that he is the heir to his uncle's fortune of two million pesos, which he has only to claim by producing his baptismal certificate as proof of identity. However, as an illiterate, Inocencio has no idea of the contents of the letter. While waiting for the local druggist to wait on him so he can have the letter read to him, Inocencio is embarrassed to see that a customer's young daughter is already able to read while he, a grown man, cannot. He leaves without telling the druggist his problem, resolved to go to school and to wait to learn the letter's contents until he can read them for himself, so that never again will he have to share private matters with others because of his own ignorance. After registering at school, he stops by the local bank to ask for a job, having quit his previous employment that morning. Leaving the bank, he meets Blanca, an attractive young woman newly arrived in town, and shows her the way to her new place of employment, partly to avoid admitting he cannot read the written address. The daughter of Blanca's employer is entertaining her fiancé, Aníbal, who finds Blanca appealing and begins to make advances on her almost immediately. These advances are spurned each time; the final time, Aníbal warns her she will regret her refusals.

Over the course of the film, Inocencio gradually learns to read, courts Blanca, and makes both friends and enemies at the bank. He foils a robbery and then a plot to make him look guilty; the bank manager is so pleased with his honesty that he gives Inocencio a 1000-peso reward, which the grateful man proceeds to spend on a new dress for his godmother, a traditional regional dress for Blanca to wear in a beauty contest, and new shoes for himself. While going about his cleaning work in the bank, Inocencio unwittingly drops the lawyer's letter — which he still has yet to read — and Fermín, a fellow employee with a grudge against him finds the item on the floor. On the day of the contest, Aníbal and Fermín, who are revealed to be cousins, conspire to make it appear that Blanca has stolen her employer's jewels and passed them to Inocencio. Though both are arrested, the trial is cut short when Fermín discovers Aníbal has betrayed him and gone alone to claim the inheritance, leading him to reveal the whole plot. Inocencio and his friends rush to Mexico City to thwart the attempt and denounce Aníbal, who is arrested at the lawyer's office after he arrives to claim the funds. The film concludes with Inocencio's and Blanca's wedding.



In his Concise Encyclopedia of Mexico, Michael S. Werner considered the film as the one that marked the start of Cantinflas's creative decline, saying, "If one were forced to pinpoint the exact film that marked the start of Cantinflas's creative decline, one might choose El analfabeto." He further elaborated, "There, his character is incarnated as an illiterate who works as a bank guard and eventually learns to read and write, thanks to Mexican public education. However, Cantinflas is not the schrewd, if ignorant, peladito of yore; rather, he is a quasi-retarded child-like simpleton who is easily tricked. Gone are the affronts towards the powerful that characterized his former movies: the bank's owner is good while his employees are bad, and the Catholic Church is fundamental to the illiterate's 'salvation'".[3] In Cantinflas and the Chaos of Mexican Modernity, Professor Jeffrey M. Pilcher reached similar conclusions, saying, "A lack of artifice and sophistication had always been part of [Cantinflas's] wise fool character, but in El analfabeto, he no longer appeared wise, merely a fool", theorizing that Cantinflas "adopted the innocent simpleton" from his previous film Pepe "as the new identity for Cantinflas", and that in the film "the capitalist represented a benevolent guardian while the antagonist was a jealous fellow worker trying to sabotage his success." However, Pilcher also stated that "the movie featured Moreno's strongest supporting cast in decades", singling out Ángel Garasa, Carlos Martínez Baena and Sara García.[4]

DVD details

The film is available on DVD from Sony Pictures Entertainment, with Spanish audio and Spanish and English subtitles. This edition of the film is letterboxed and in widescreen format.


  1. ^ Rodríguez Terceño, pp. 218–219
  2. ^ Amador & Ayala Blanco, p. 84
  3. ^ Werner, p. 490
  4. ^ Pilcher, p. 189


  • Rodríguez Terceño, José. La imagen de los docentes en el cine. Asociación Cultural y Científica Iberoamericana (ACCI), 2017.
  • Amador, María Luisa; Ayala Blanco, Jorge. Cartelera cinematográfica, 1960–1969. UNAM, 1986.
  • Werner, Michael S. Concise Encyclopedia of Mexico. Taylor & Francis, 2001.
  • Pilcher, Jeffrey M. Cantinflas and the Chaos of Mexican Modernity. Rowman & Littlefield, 2001.

External links

This page was last edited on 16 February 2021, at 05:16
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