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Mario Moreno, the revered Mexican film star and comic known across Latin America as "Cantinflas," denied on Wednesday that an American woman awarded $26 million in a divorce case against him was ever his wife.

"It's simple blackmail," Moreno was quoted as saying in an interview with the government news agency Notimex when asked about the $26 million ruling against him by a state district judge in Houston on Tuesday.

"It's all a lie and that's my defense," the 79-year-old actor told Notimex. He did not contest the divorce because he insists he was never married to the woman, who identifies herself as Joyce Jett-Moreno and claims she was his wife for 22 years.

Moreno acknowledged in an the interview that he knew Jett and was a close friend of hers about 20 years ago.

But he insisted that he never remarried after the death of his first wife.

Cantinflas, who played a riotous courtroom scene in "Ahi Esta El Detalle," one of his many hit films of the 1940s, is better-known to the English-speaking world for co-starring with David Nivens in "Around the World In Eighty Days."

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