You won’t believe it, but one of the closest friends of Mexican film icon Cantinflas was U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson.

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Born Mario Moreno, Cantinflas was a notable figure of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. The actor amassed a vast fortune as well as worldwide acclaim that, at one point, earned him an invitation to spend the night at the White House.

While Cantinflas’ humor and endearing character were his ticket to fame, his commitment to politics and the friendships he garnered along the way were also part of his legacy.

All of Cantinflas’ Presidents

One of Mario Moreno’s most important political friendships was with Mexican President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz. However, one of the most surprising was with U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Cantinflas and Johnson met through Diaz Ordaz, who organized a dinner for the trio before either politician took office. The meeting was a great success, and Lyndon and his wife, Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Johnson, became ardent admirers of Cantinflas.

Back then, political figures were not accustomed to an entertainer who satirized political figures so openly and unabashedly.

In fact, Cantinflas and Johnson had such a rapport that the American President supposedly stated that he would willingly retire from his political career if the Mexican actor ever ran for office.

However, the celebrated actor preferred to “poke fun at presidents than run against them,” as Lady Bird wrote in her diary.

A political ally with a good sense of humor

The friendship between Cantinflas and Lyndon Johnson officially took root in 1961. As vice president of the United States, Johnson sought Cantinflas’ help for the campaign of Henry B. Gonzalez, a Mexican-American running for a seat in Congress.

Cantinflas threw his support behind Gonzalez, establishing a frequent dialogue with Johnson. Their friendship solidified during these interactions, including two stays at Johnson’s residence during election season.

A few years later, when Johnson became the 36th president of the United States after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, he invited Cantinflas to the White House. Mario Moreno thus earned the distinction of being the first Mexican to spend a night at the presidential residence.

In her diary entry in the fall of 1967, Lady Bird recalled when Johnson informed her that he had invited the beloved comedian to stay at the White House. Her husband asked her to “make room.”

Cantinflas and Johnson’s powerful friendship

Johnson’s esteem for Cantinflas went beyond mere political and social interaction. When Cantinflas sought effective cancer treatment for his wife, Valentina Ivanova, in Texas, Johnson had a compassionate gesture that spoke volumes about their friendship.

In 1966, when Cantinflas’ flight to Texas for his wife’s treatment was canceled due to technical problems, Johnson diverted one of his planes to pick him up.

The couple was taken to Johnson’s ranch and then flown to Texas on the presidential plane. The actor and his son, deeply touched by the President’s kindness, presented him with an Aztec medal as a token of gratitude.

This story of an unlikely but profound friendship between a comedian and a President is a testament to the human capacity to bond over shared respect and admiration. It is an iconic story of mutual support and friendship that the world should remember.