José Pedro Infante Cruz better known as Pedro Infante, is perhaps the most famous actor and singer of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema and was the idol of the Mexican people, together with Jorge Negrete and Javier Solís, who were styled the Tres Gallos Mexicanos (the Three Mexican Roosters). He was born in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico. He was raised in Guamúchil. He died on April 15, 1957, in Mérida, Yucatán, in a plane crash during a flight that he was piloting himself en route to Mexico City.
His film career began in 1939 with him appearing in more than 60 films, and starting in 1943, he recorded about 350 songs. For his performance in the movie Tizoc, he was awarded the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 7th Berlin International Film Festival.
Son of Delfino Infante García, who played the double bass in a band, and Refugio Cruz Aranda, he was the third of fifteen children, of which nine survived. Although the Infante Cruz family stayed for some time at Mazatlán, in the early 1919 they moved to Guasave. Later in 1920, they moved to Rosario, Sinaloa.
From adolescence, Infante showed talent and affection for music. He managed to learn strings, wind, and percussion instruments in a short time. He was a guitar student of Carlos R. Hubbard.
His wife María Luisa León, who was somewhat well-off economically, convinced him of the need to move to Mexico City where they would find opportunities for this talented young man.
In Mexico City, he sang the songs of composers including Alberto Cervantes (Alberto Raúl Cervantes González), José Alfredo Jiménez, Cuco Sánchez, Tomás Méndez, Rubén Fuentes, Salvador Flores Rivera (Chava Flores) and others. His first musical recording El Soldado Raso (The Soldier) was made on November 19, 1943, for the Peerless Company. Infante first appeared as an extra in the movie En un Burro Tres Baturros (Three Men from Aragon on a Donkey). His career as an actor in leading roles started with La Feria de Las Flores (The Fair of Flowers) in 1943. In that same year, a friend and neighbor of Infantes' wife, Carmen Barajas Sandoval, offered to introduce them to Jorge Negrete, a singer whom he admired. Barajas, who knew people in the business as she was the aunt of the child actress Angélica María, worked then at the Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Producción Cinematográfica, S.T.P.C. (Workers of the Cinematographic Production Union). She succeeded in convincing Negrete to recommend Infante to the producer Ismael Rodríguez, and others. As a result, he was invited to appear in different pictures, such as Vuelve el Ametralladora (The Machine Gun Returns)
While married to María Luisa León, he met the dancer Lupita Torrentera, with whom he had three children, Graciela Margarita (b. 1947), Pedro Infante Jr. (March 31, 1950 - April 1, 2009) and Guadalupe Infante Torrentera (b. 1951), solidifying his reputation as a ladies man. Irma Infante was born from his relationship with the young actress Irma Dorantes, whom he met when she was only 16 years of age. Irma Infante has had a solid career as an actress and a singer.
His natural talent for acting was made evident in such pictures as:
Tizoc, along with María Félix, which gained him the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 7th Berlin International Film Festival.
The massive migration from the countryside to the cities (mostly to Mexico City) during the 1940s fed the required labor force for rising manufacturing industries. This urbanization created the "working neighborhoods" and the culture of "la vecindad" (group of small apartments around a common patio), and found in Pedro Infante an identifiable icon for these, the new urban working class, with his character Pepe el Toro (Pepe the Bull) in the melodramatic trilogy made up of Nosotros los pobres, Ustedes los ricos, and Pepe el Toro (We the Poor, You the Rich, and Pepe the Bull), costarring with Evita Muñoz "Chachita".
He worked with Sara García ("Mexico's grandmother") in many movies for Mexican cinema. Sara Garcia frequently played the role of his loving but "no nonsense" grandmother in their movies together, in which she constantly tried to get him to behave, but never succeeded.
If that same urbanizing population had the nostalgia for the rural life, and with it the popularity of ranchera music and the idealized charro, it was not until he played the poor carpenter with a strong chilango (Mexico City) accent that Pedro Infante achieved a status, at least in Mexico, at the same level of celebrity such as Cantinflas, the Soler Brothers and even Jorge Negrete and María Félix. Despite that, he kept on playing the role of the charro and even the northern Mexican rancher (perhaps his most authentic character) in Ahí viene Martín Corona (Here comes Martín Corona) in 1951 and Los Hijos de María Morales (The Sons of María Morales) in 1952. When Jorge Negrete died in 1953, Pedro was no longer in the shadow of the international idol, even though Pedro was very affected by the disappearance of his idol. During his burial service some saw him slightly inebriated, a rare sight given that Infante was not a drinker.
The Mexican child star María Eugenia Llamas, who was only four at the time, made her screen debut with him in the 1948 movie classic, "Los Tres Huastecos" ("The Three Men from Hausteca") as "La Tucita", a screen name she has used ever since. She played with him again under the sceen name La Tucita in his classic 1949 film comedy, "Dicen que Soy un Mujeriego" ("They Say I am a Womanizer").
One of his better roles was that of Juventino Rosas in the movie "Sobre las Olas" ("Over the Waves"), based on the life of the Mexican waltz composer. Infante's natural musical abilities contributed to helping him to get into character.
An important point in his career as an actor was winning the Ariel Award given by the Mexican Academy of Arts and Cinematographic Sciences for Best Actor for his role in La Vida No Vale Nada (Life is Worth Nothing, a line from the song Camino de Guanajuato).
Waltzes, cha-cha-chas, rancheras and boleros placed him among the most popular singers of the mariachi and ranchera music.
Some of his most popular songs include: Amorcito Corazón (approximately My Little Love and Heart), Te Quiero Así (I Love You Like This), La Que Se Fue (She Who Left), Corazón (Heart), El Durazno (The Peach), Dulce Patria (Sweet Fatherland), Maldita Sea Mi Suerte (Cursed Be My Luck), Así Es La vida (Life Is Like This), Mañana Rosalía (Tomorrow Rosalía), Mi Cariñito (My Little Darling), Dicen Que Soy Mujeriego (They Say I Am A Womanizer), Carta a Eufemia (Letter to Eufemia), Nocturnal, Cien Años (Hundred Years), Flor Sin Retoño (Flower Without Sprout), Pénjamo, and ¿Qué Te Ha Dado Esa Mujer? (What Has That Woman Given You?). He sang "Mi Cariñito" to his frequent on screen grandmother, Sara Garcia, so many times in so many of their movies together, that it was played at her funeral.
The world famous song Bésame Mucho ("Kiss Me a Lot", or more loosely translated to get its elusive Spanish meaning closer to its English meaning, "Give Me a Lot of Kisses"), from the composer Consuelo Velázquez, was the only melody that he recorded in English and he interpreted it in the movie A Toda Máquina (ATM) (At Full Speed), with Luis Aguilar.
"Amorcito Corazón", by Manuel Esperón is one of Infante's most famous interpretations.
Infante was very often accompanied by the great musical ensembles of the time like the Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, Noé Fajardo's Orchestra, the Trío Calaveras and Antonio Bribiesca, among others.
By then, Pedro Infante had already created his characteristic mariachi shout
Infante was a fanatic of aviation, a hobby that would lead to his death. According to Wilbert Alonzo-Cabrera, a very well known journalist from NY (who was born in Mérida, and who talked with Pedro on many occasions before the accident),investigating the biography of the actor found that he was piloting a Consolidated Aircraft X B-24-D (a variant of the B-24 Liberator),( the airplane was converted from heavy bomber war airplane to air cargo in San diego Caifornia) which crashed 5 minutes after take-off from Mérida, Yucatán, in southeast Mexico.
The death of Pedro Infante on the morning of April 15, 1957, was announced by radio personality Humberto Rodríguez, of radio station XEMH of Mérida, after one of the firefighters discovered the bracelet engraved with the name "Pedro Infante", plus the winged insignia that symbolized his aviator license. This was around 8:15 am; at 11:12 am, Manuel Bernal, of Mexico City radio station XEW, gave the news saying: "this Monday, April 15, 1957, Pedro, our beloved Pedro...this has been confirmed, has died in a tragic accident in Mérida, Yucatán". also in his investigation Alonzo-Cabrera found out that Luis Rivas Aguilar was the other person who broadcast the news en XEFC radio station only few minutes after Humberto Sanchez. Both persons are known living in Mérida as of the 25th of December 2009.
Year after year Pedro Infante attracts a great number of fans of every age to his shrine in the Panteón Jardín of Mexico City, as well as one at 54th through 87th streets in the center of Mérida. Pedro Infante died amongst friends: mechanic Marciano Bautista, and copilot Manuel Vidal. Many friends, family and fans still dress up as the characters that he played in film: Pedro Chávez, Pepe el Toro, Tizoc and a number of people incarnated from the Mexican culture that Infante symbolized. His fans honor him every year with a mass, honor guards, music and the songs made famous by the Idol of Guamúchil. Until now they have all been spontaneous, without any official authority or institution organizing them.
Four statues have been erected in his honor. The one in Mexico City was made out of thousands of bronze keys donated by his fans to a Mexico City TV station after a request by TV director Raúl Velasco. For the statue in Mérida another TV presenter (Manuel Pelayo) made a request and received keys. The third statue is in his birthplace, Mazatlán, Sinaloa. At the Paseo de Olas Altas at Mazatlán there is a statue of Pedro Infante on a motorcycle, in honor of his role in the movie A Toda Máquina ("ATM") with Luis Aguilar and "¿Qué te ha dado esa mujer?" also with Luis Aguilar, Rosita Arenas and Carmen Montejo. The fourth statue is in the town square of Guamúchil, his adopted home town.
Since the fatal plane crash, the anniversary of Pedro Infante's demise is observed at the estate of the prominent family of Don Rubén Canto Sosa and his wife, Doña María Remigia García Suaste. To this day, in Mérida, their son, attorney Luis Canto García, continues the commemoration.
The Mexican idol died intestate. Because of this, the main beneficiaries of his legacy have been the producers of the extremely successful movies in which he starred, as well as the "Peerless" music company (now associated with Warner Music), and thanks to the large income his pictures and songs still generate, they are the ones who have contributed greatly to promoting and updating him.
He represented not only the fun-loving and partying charro, but also the urban hero of the working class, and it was this character that won him the love and admiration of the public in Mexico and other countries, such as Venezuela and Guatemala.
According to producer Jorge Madrid y Campos, who was also his legal representative, Pedro Infante's fame has increased greatly since his death. The presence of so many admirers at his shrine on the anniversary of his death is remarkable, as are the musical tributes from singers of the ranchera and mariachi genres that pay homage to him. As Mexican American author, Denise Chavez, in her book "Loving Pedro Infante" put it humorously, "If you're a [Mexican], and don't know who he is, you should be tied to a hot stove with a yucca rope and beaten with sharp dry corn husks as you stand in a vat of soggy fideos. If your racial and cultural background ethncity is Other, then it's about time you learned about the most famous of Mexican singers and actors."
Some fanatics even speculated that his death was faked. They believed in the possibility that he was living "in hiding" somewhere; there have also been cases, reported in the Mexican press, of people who claim to be Infante. These cases are similar, in a sense, to other famous deceased celebrities, such as Elvis Presley, Anastasia, or Jim Morrison, with people claiming to be these individuals.
The constant broadcasting of his movies on television, and the broadcasting of radio programs dedicated to his memory and music, have contributed to prolonging the popularity of Pedro Infante for several generations of Mexicans, and fans in other Spanish-speaking countries. Similar phenomena have occurred with other late actors, such as Germán Valdés Tin Tán or Mario Moreno Cantinflas. The radio program La Hora de Pedro Infante (The Pedro Infante Hour) on the radio station La Más Perrona (Radio Sinfonola de NRM Comunicación, on AM1410) has had a run of 55 years on Mexican radio, with more than 20,000 hours on the air.