The first annual Cannes Film Festival opens at the resort city of Cannes on the French Riviera. The festival had intended to make its debut in September 1939, but the outbreak of World War II forced the cancellation of the inaugural Cannes.
The world’s first annual international film festival was inaugurated at Venice in 1932. By 1938, the Venice Film Festival had become a vehicle for Fascist and Nazi propaganda, with Benito Mussolini’s Italy and Adolf Hitler’s Germany dictating the choices of films and sharing the prizes among themselves. Outraged, France decided to organize an alternative film festival. In June 1939, the establishment of a film festival at Cannes, to be held from September 1 to 20, was announced in Paris. Cannes, an elegant beach city, lies southeast of Nice on the Mediterranean coast. One of the resort town’s casinos agreed to host the event.
Films were selected and the filmmakers and stars began arriving in mid-August. Among the American selections was The Wizard of Oz. France offered The Nigerian, and Poland The Black Diamond. The USSR brought the aptly titled Tomorrow, It’s War. On the morning of September 1, the day the festival was to begin, Hitler invaded Poland. In Paris, the French government ordered a general mobilization, and the Cannes festival was called off after the screening of just one film: German American director William Dieterle’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Two days later, France and Britain declared war on Germany.
World War II lasted six long years. In 1946, France’s provincial government approved a revival of the Festival de Cannes as a means of luring tourists back to the French Riviera. The festival began on September 20, 1946, and 18 nations were represented. The festival schedule included Austrian American director Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend, Italian director Roberto Rossellini’s Open City, French director René Clement’s The Battle of the Rails, and British director David Lean’s Brief Encounter. At the first Cannes, organizers placed more emphasis on creative stimulation between national productions than on competition. Nine films were honored with the top award: Grand Prix du Festival.
The Cannes Film Festival stumbled through its early years; the 1948 and 1950 festivals were canceled for economic reasons. In 1952, the Palais des Festivals was dedicated as a permanent home for the festival, and in 1955, the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) award for best film of the festival was introduced, an allusion to the palm-planted Promenade de la Croisette that parallels Cannes’ celebrated beach. In the 1950s, the Festival International du Film de Cannes came to be regarded as the most prestigious film festival in the world. It still holds that allure today, though many have criticized it as overly commercial. More than 30,000 people come to Cannes each May to attend the festival, about 100 times the number of film devotees who showed up for the first Cannes in 1946.
First Cannes Film Festival
The first annual Cannes Film Festival opens at the resort city of Cannes on the French Riviera. The festival had intended to make its debut in September 1939, but the outbreak of World War II forced the cancellation of the inaugural Cannes. The world's first annual international film festival was inaugurated at Venice in 1932. By 1938, the Venice Film Festival had become a vehicle for Fascist and Nazi propaganda, with Benito Mussolini's Italy and Adolf Hitler's Germany dictating the choices of films and sharing the prizes among themselves. Outraged, France decided to organize an alternative film festival. In June 1939, the establishment of a film festival at Cannes, to be held from September 1 to 20, was announced in Paris. Cannes, an elegant beach city, lies southeast of Nice on the Mediterranean coast. One of the resort town's casinos agreed to host the event. Films were selected and the filmmakers and stars began arriving in mid-August. Among the American selections was The Wizard of Oz. France offered The Nigerian, and Poland The Black Diamond. The USSR brought the aptly titled Tomorrow, It's War. On the morning of September 1, the day the festival was to begin, Hitler invaded Poland. In Paris, the French government ordered a general mobilization, and the Cannes festival was called off after the screening of just one film: German American director William Dieterle's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Two days later, France and Britain declared war on Germany.
World War II lasted six long years. In 1946, France's provincial government approved a revival of the Festival de Cannes as a means of luring tourists back to the French Riviera. The festival began on September 20, 1946, and 18 nations were represented. The festival schedule included Austrian American director Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend, Italian director Roberto Rossellini's Open City, French director Rený Clement's The Battle of the Rails, and British director David Lean's Brief Encounter. At the first Cannes, organizers placed more emphasis on creative stimulation between national productions than on competition. Nine films were honored with the top award: Grand Prix du Festival. The Cannes Film Festival stumbled through its early years the 1948 and 1950 festivals were canceled for economic reasons. In 1952, the Palais des Festivals was dedicated as a permanent home for the festival, and in 1955, the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) award for best film of the festival was introduced, an allusion to the palm-planted Promenade de la Croisette that parallels Cannes' celebrated beach. In the 1950s, the Festival International du Film de Cannes came to be regarded as the most prestigious film festival in the world. It still holds that allure today, though many have criticized it as overly commercial. More than 30,000 people come to Cannes each May to attend the festival, about 100 times the number of film devotees who showed up for the first Cannes in 1946.
The following people were appointed as the Jury for the feature and short films: 
- (France) (historian) Jury President (USA) (Canada) (Czechoslovakia) (Netherlands) (Romania) (UK) (Soviet Union) (Poland) (Portugal) (Switzerland) (Italy) (Norway) (Belgium) (Sweden) (Mexico) (Egypt) (Denmark)
The following films competed for the Grand Prix:  
- The Adventurous Bachelor by Otakar Vávra
- Anna and the King of Siam by John Cromwell
- The Bandit by Alberto Lattuada
- The Battle of the Rails by René Clément
- Beauty and the Beast by Jean Cocteau
- Blood and Fire by Anders Henrikson
- Brief Encounter by David Lean
- Caesar and Cleopatra by Gabriel Pascal
- Camões by José Leitão de Barros
- The Captive Heart by Basil Dearden
- Dunia by Mohammed Karim
- The Queen's Flower by Paul Călinescu
- Gaslight by George Cukor
- Gilda by Charles Vidor
- Un giorno nella vita by Alessandro Blasetti
- Girl No. 217 by Mikhail Romm
- The Great Glinka by Lev Arnshtam
- Hello Moscow! by Sergei Yutkevich
- His Young Wife by Mario Soldati
- The Last Chance by Leopold Lindtberg
- Letter from the Dead by Johan Jacobsen
- The Lost Weekend by Billy Wilder
- A Lover's Return by Christian-Jaque
- The Lovers by Giacomo Gentilomo
- The Magic Bow by Bernard Knowles
- Make Mine Music by Joshua Meador, Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney, Robert Cormack, Hamilton Luske
- María Candelaria by Emilio Fernández
- Men Without Wings by František Čáp
- Mr. Orchid by René Clément
- Neecha Nagar by Chetan Anand
- Notorious by Alfred Hitchcock
- Patrie by Louis Daquin
- The Red Meadows by Bodil Ipsen, Lau Lauritzen Jr.
- Rhapsody in Blue by Irving Rapper
- Rome, Open City by Roberto Rossellini
- The Seventh Veil by Compton Bennett
- The Stone Flower by Aleksandr Ptushko
- Pastoral Symphony by Jean Delannoy
- Torment by Alf Sjöberg
- Três Dias Sem Deus by Bárbara Virgínia
- The Three Musketeers by Miguel M. Delgado
- The Turning Point by Fridrikh Ermler
- Wonder Man by H. Bruce Humberstone
- Zoya by Lev Arnshtam
The following short films were selected for the Grand Prix du court métrage: 
How World War II Created the Cannes Film Festival
T he official timeline of the Cannes Film Festival makes it clear that the glitzy celebration of cinema began in 1946. So why was TIME reporting in July of 1939 that the festival would take place that autumn?
The plans were even concrete enough to promise readers an exact set of dates:
For six years the world’s fair of the cinema world has been the International Film Festival at Venice. In the past this annual, late-summer gathering to pick the world’s best films has chosen such universally acclaimed cinemas as Man of Aran, Anna Karenina, Mayerling, La Kermesse Héroïque. But two years ago B. Mussolini began to take a personal, political interest in the cinema business, and last year cinemindustries not bedded in the Rome-Berlin axis began to feel its centrifugal force. The No. 1 prize, the Mussolini Cup, went jointly to Nazi Leni Riefenstahl’s 1936 Olympic Games film (four hours running time) and to Vittorio Mussolini’s Luciano Serra, Pilota, an ecstatic drama of Italian wings over Ethiopia. Walt Disney’s world favorite, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was favored with a special Hors Concours (out of competition) Medal.
Last week France, Great Britain and the U. S. decided to let Venice be bygones, were reported getting together on a new international film festival to be held this year at Cannes, September 3-17.
The September 1939 film festival, of course, never happened &mdash and, based on the reasons for the film festival’s establishment, it’s not hard to guess why. The coming of World War II derailed all plans to launch a rival to the Venice film festival, and it wasn’t until after the peace came that the festival in Cannes finally took place. As these photos show, the bash was, appropriately, a happy occasion.
The History of the Cannes Film Festival
How the world’s most famous film festival came to be what it is today.
Suzana Rabello de Souza
If you don’t know much about the Cannes Film Festival, then you might think it is simply this event where film directors showcase their movies and receive prizes for them, which is probably famous only because big celebrities attend to it… Oh, you couldn’t be more wrong! But worry not, FabUK magazine is here to tell you all the important bits of history surrounding this fascinating Festival. And what is more, this year the Festival celebrates its 70 th anniversary and FabUK will be there to cover it all for you.
Gina Lolobridgida Photo © Solange Podell
So let’s get started! Initially named Festival International du Film (International Film Festival), the event was an initiative of France Minister of Education and Fine Arts, Jean Zay. France, the United Kingdom and the USA felt the Venice Film Festival – which had been running for 6 years back in 1939 and was the world’s fair for cinema – was getting a little too… political on its choices. An article on the 1939 July edition of Time magazine read “In the past, this annual, late-summer gathering to pick the world’s best films has chosen such universally acclaimed cinemas as Man of Aran, Anna Karenina, Mayerling, La Kermesse Héroïque. But two years ago B. Mussolini began to take a personal, political interest in the cinema business, and last year cinema industries not bedded in the Rome-Berlin axis began to feel its centrifugal force.” It’s a strong statement and although it’s the voice of Time magazine, not the Festival organizers’ it’s still a report on how the film industry was feeling back then. The first edition of the Cannes Film Festival was supposed to take place in September of that same year. But instead, war happened. World War II. Only one year after the war ended did the Festival finally have its first edition, in 1946.
Princesse Gace And Hitchcock Photo © Solange Podell
In the first few years, the event did not have the size and reach it has now – most of the films presented would receive an award and the whole Festival felt more like a social convention. The 1948 and 1950 editions even got cancelled due to budgetary reasons – although in 1949 the event received an official home with the construction of the Palais des Festivals. Nevertheless, exactly because of its broad acceptance of film genres, encouragement of all forms of filmmaking and the spirit of collaboration among countries also interested in developing their film industry, the Festival started to draw the attention of world stars and media – the more it got covered, the more people wanted to know and be part of it.
Fellini Roma Photo © Solange Podell
The 1950s, therefore, saw the rise and broad internationalization of the Cannes Film Festival, with the attendance of big names like Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren, Alain Delon, Brigitte Bardot, Romy Schneider, Cary Grant, Simone Signoret, Kirk Douglas and many others. It was also in the 1950s, more precisely 1955, that the famous Palme d’Or was created to award the director of the best feature film screened at the Official Competition of the Festival – up until then the award was called Grand Prix, and even though it was resumed from 1964 to 1974, from 1975 on the Palm d’Or was reintroduced and is, still today, the symbol of the Cannes Film Festival.
Robert Redford And Wife Photo © Solange Podell
As years passed, more and more programs, sections and events were incorporated into the main agenda – reinforcing the Festival’s commitment to broad approaches on filmmaking. Hence the creation of the Marché du Film (Film Market), in 1959 – a market created to support and promote networking among all those involved in the film industry. On its first edition, the market was nothing more than a big fabric tent made screening room on the top of the Palais Croisette nowadays, it attracts over 12,000 participants in 34 screening rooms.
Robert Redford And Sydney Pollack Photo © Solange Podell
If the 1950s brought the Festival to the world’s attention, from the 1960s on it’s been steadily expanding. In 1962 La Semaine de la Critique (The Critic’s Week) was created. The idea actually came from the year before, when the Association Française de la Critique de Cinéma (French Association of Film Critics) brought to the Festival a screen adaptation of a theatre play. Produced by Shirley Clarke, The Connection was adapted from a Jack Gekber’s play produced by The Living Theatre. The screening of such an alternative production (keeping it in mind it was the early 1960s) was a huge success and thus, in 1962, a whole week parallel to the main event was created to support the diversity in filmmaking.
A similar thing happened in 1969, with the creation of the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs (Director’s Fortnight), though the events inspiring it was very different. The 1968 edition of the Cannes Film Festival was called off midway due to the protests and strikes that took place all around France. Dissatisfied with the traditional institutions, predominant values, consumerism and capitalism, hundreds of students started the occupation of universities while around 11 million factory workers engaged in strikes. Despite the intense violence, the protest was also an artistic movement leading to the creation of songs, posters, graffiti and slogans. There was no way the Festival could have continued whilst such mayhem and in solidarity, with the students and workers, it was cancelled. Therefore, in 1969, the Director’s Fortnight was created with the slogan “Cinema at Liberty”, which has been the underline propeller of the event throughout the years. According to Édouard Waintrop, Artistic Director of the Directors’ Fortnight, “Its concern is to bring new talents to the fore, surprise audiences with new and unknown facets of known talents to vary the pleasures, in a word, to show what’s most exciting in world cinema and what rises to the top among the new trends.”
Maria Melato Et Carlo Giannini Photo © Solange Podell
The Cannes Film Festival kept expanding and creating more awards to embrace all sorts of filmmaking and in 1978, 2 more awards were introduced. The Caméra d’Or (Golden Camera) was created to honour the best first feature film presented in any of the Festival’s selections. Now, the term “first feature film” might sound a bit confusing in this context, but it basically means a director’s first film, in whatever format, consisting of 60 minutes or more. The goal of the award was to encourage the directors to undertake the production of a second film. As for Un Certain Regard (A Certain Glance), the other award created in 1978, the aim was to recognize directors who can tell stories in non-traditional ways, using different styles and points of view.
P.O’ Toole Photo © Solange Podell
And the Festival does take filmmaking encouragement seriously. So much so, in 1991 it received its first Leçon de Cinéma (Film Masterclass) – a masterclass on the art of film directing. Every year, important names of the film industry are invited to deliver lessons and talk about their own views and opinions on filmmaking and directing. Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Wong Kar-wai, among many others have shared their knowledge and experience in this interactive section of the Cannes Film Festival.
Fortunately, this gorgeous idea of using the Festival as sort of an academy was so well received, that in 1998 the Cinéfondation was created to screen short and medium-length films produced by film schools from around the world. Dedicated to keeping an eye out for new talents, each year it receives more than 1,600 student films and the selected ones are presented in the official Cannes Selection. Its success made it possible, in 2000, to create the Résidence, a place for young directors to work and receive assistance on their projects. Over 170 filmmakers from a variety of countries have been welcomed in the Résidence du Festival since its creation. And if that wasn’t good enough, in 2005 the Cinéfondation received one more expansion: the Atelier. With the aim to secure funds for directors to complete their films, every year the Atelier selects about 15 to 20 projects and invites their directors to the Festival, putting them in contact with producers, distributors and other filmmaking professionals in order to boost their production process.
Jeanne Moreau Photo © Solange Podell
More than a festival to celebrate and recognize films and directors, the Cannes Film Festival became in itself a rich archive of the history of filmmaking around the globe. Many names and stories got recognized and shared thanks to Festival’s engagement in welcoming diversity, helping young talents, promoting networking and “simply”, providing a space where film lovers can present their works.
‘Cannes Uncut’ Documentary Set to Chart “Glorious Excesses, Triumphs and Failures” of Festival
Billed as the first major doc covering the history of Cannes, it is being made in time for the festival's 75th anniversary in 2022.
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The world’s most famous film festival is getting the documentary treatment, with a new feature set to chronicle three-quarters of a century of glitz, glamour and mayhem in the south of France.
Cannes Uncut &mdash which is being readied in time for the Cannes Film Festival’s 75th birthday in 2022 &mdash is billed as the “first major documentary covering the history” of the event, and will tell the story of festival’s “glorious excesses, triumphs and failures.”
The documentary’s creative and production team is made up of a quartet of Croisette veterans &mdash producer/PR consultant Colin Burrows, critic/consultant Mark Adams, photographer/director Chris Pickard and journalist/critic Richard Blanshard &mdash who will be filming and conducting interviews at the festival this year to sit alongside archive material.
“The Cannes Film Festival is famous as an event brimming with stories and characters as outlandish and dramatic as the films that have premiered there, and Cannes Uncut will celebrate the great films as well as the wild parties the spectacular promotional stunts as well as the iconic talents the glorious successes and the infamous failures,” they said in the film announcement. “This is the documentary that dares to detail all the glamour, red carpets, craziness, deals, parties, movies, and personalities that saw the business of show business implant itself at the Cannes Film Festival. It offers an exciting high-adrenaline, roller-coaster experience of what has played out over the years.”
Cannes Uncut is being production by Burrows’ Special Treats Production Company. Sales agents negotiations are reportedly currently being finalized.
First Cannes Film Festival - HISTORY
The 62nd Cannes Film Festival began last week on May 13 and runs through May 24th. The glamorous tradition has always attracted high profile celebs, models and film folk. Bikini clad beauties lounge on the beach, luxe shopping and an unbeatable venue have always made the festival a destination for the Uber cool.
Many bloggers and sites have great coverage, from the fashions to the films, videos, live feeds and more. All you have to do is google it. So, instead of covering that, I wanted to share with you some classic and fab historical photos from LIFE magazine and Getty Images over the years.
First off a few comparisons between then and now.
The very first Cannes Film festival Poster:
This Year's 2009 Cannes Film Festival Poster:
above: the official poster of the 62nd Festival de Cannes is inspired by a photogram of l’Avventura (1960), the timeless masterpiece of that master of film, Michelangelo Antonioni. The poster was created by Annick Durban. Poster Credit: L'Avventura - M. Antonioni. Société cinématographique Lyre - Cino del Duca ©AFFIF
The Festival International du Film was supposed to begin in Cannes in 1939, but due to the war, the launch date was put off. Finally, on 20 September 1946 the Festival de Cannes opened its doors, the first great international cultural event of the post-war period.
The Festival was organised as a non-profit organisation, managed by a Board of Directors and was to become "state-approved" as in 1972.
It has taken place every year - with the exception of 1948 and 1950 - first in the month of September, then in May as of 1952. After years of "Grand Prix", the Palme d'Or was created in 1955.
Here's a few photo comparisons of then and now for you.
The venue (Carlton Hotel) then:
The venue (Carlton Hotel) now:
At this years' festival:
The beach then:
The beach now:
factoid: The number of journalists has grown from just 700 in 1966 to 3541 in 2008.
Now, here are some classic Cannes photos from the days of true Hollywood glamour. The photo titles and captions are courtesy of LIFE.com:
Bardot on the Beach
French actress Brigitte Bardot sits on the beach during the Cannes Film Festival in 1953. The festival was started in 1939 as a response to the way the fascist governments of Italy and Germany interefered with a film festival in Venice. Photo: RDA/Getty Images, Jan 01, 1953
Arnold and the Cannes Starlet Flex
Arnold Schwarzenegger finds a unique way to promote "Pumping Iron" on May 19, 1977 at the 38th Cannes Film Festival. Photo: AFP/AFP/Getty Images, May 19, 1977
Grace Kelly Adores Boats
Grace Kelly poses dockside during the Cannes Film Festival on May 6, 1955. The first film festival was planned for September 1939. A little inconvenience called World War II nixed that idea. Photo: RDA/Getty Images, May 06, 1955
Easy Rider Kickin' Back
Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, and Jack Nicholson form up a kick line at the Cannes Film Festival to promote "Easy Rider" in 1969. Six years later, the Palm d'Or would finally be reintroduced. Photo: RDA/Getty Images, Jan 01, 1969
Sophia Loren Summons Her Inner Juliet
Sophia Loren poses with flowers on the balcony of her Cannes hotel on May 13, 1959. Years later, another Italian sex symbol, Monica Bellucci, would say, "When I have to go to Cannes, that is boring to me." Photo: RDA/Getty Images, May 13, 1959
Otto Preminger and Liza Minnelli Eat Cannes Up
Otto Preminger, Liza Minnelli, and Ken Howard enjoy a repast in between promoting "Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon" at Cannes on May 12, 1970. Photo: RDA/Getty Images, May 12, 1970
Alain Delon Goes Topless
Alain Delon and Bella Darvi go boating during the Cannes Film Festival on May 5, 1958. The festival was launched for real in 1946, and made a secret agreement to take alternate years off so as not to compete with the film festival in Venice. Photo: RDA/Getty Images, May 05, 1958
Jane Birkin on the Other Side of the Lens
Jane Birkin takes up photography at Cannes in 1975. Twenty years earlier, the festival had introduced the Palm d'Or award for the first time. Photo: Keystone/Getty Images, Jan 01, 1975
Merv Griffin Interviews John Lennon
Talk-show host Merv Griffin interviews John Lennon at Cannes for his show in May 1965. The year before, the festival had stopped handing out the Palm d'Or and resumed the Grand Prix award, because of a copyright issue. Photo: RDA/Getty Images, May 01, 1965
Natalie Wood Looks Up
Natlie Wood smiles upward at the Cannes film festival in 1962. That was the first year of the International Critics' Week sidebar. Photo: Paul Schutzer./Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images, Jan 01, 1962
Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty Step Out
Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood are caught by the paparazzi at the Cannes Film Festival in 1962. Photo: Paul Schutzer./Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images, May 01, 1962
Yves Montand Captains His Ship
Yves Montand regards his passengers on board his yacht at Cannes during a holiday on the Cote d'Azur on July 28, 1965. Photo: Keystone/Getty Images, Jul 28, 1965
Alfred Hitchcock Slays Himself
Alfred Hitchcock stages a suicidal pose on May 27, 1972 at Cannes. The master of suspense never won the Palm d'Or. Photo: AFP/AFP/Getty Images, May 27, 1972
Brigitte Bardot runs barefoot on the sands at Cannes in 1956. That year she appeared in the film that launched her to international stardom, "And God Created Woman." Photo: George W. Hales/Getty Images, Apr 28, 1956
Lollobrigida and Her Dalmatians
Gina Lollobrigida arrives in a dress that kind of matches her three dogs on May 17, 1972. She was there to promote "King, Queen, Knave," the film adaptation of the Vladimir Nabokov novel. Photo: RDA/Getty Images, May 17, 1972
Anita Pallenberg and the Rolling Stone
Anita Pallenberg and Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones attend a party in Cannes on May 6, 1967. That year, Pallenberg left Jones for bandmate Keith Richards while on holiday in Morocco. Photo: Keystone/Getty Images, May 06, 1967
Jayne Mansfield Shows Off Her Chihuahua
Jayne Mansfield strolls on the beach with her chihuahua on May 11, 1964. The year before, Mansfield had become the first mainstream American actress to appear nude in a film, in "Promises! Promises!" Photo: RDA/Getty Images, May 11, 1964
Geraldine Chaplin Smokes a Cigar
Geraldine Chaplin smokes a cigar at the Cannes Film Festival on May 2, 1967. Two years earlier, she was at Cannes to promote "Dr. Zhivago." "Although I went all over the world promoting it, I'd never got to see more than the credits before being whisked away. Finally, at Cannes, I was to sit through the whole thing through. When I appeared for the first time, I fainted from the shock -- and woke up in the ladies room," she said. Photo: RDA/Getty Images, May 02, 1967
Michael Caine Gives His Stamp of Approval
Michael Caine poses with models while promoting "Alfie" in 1966. That year, the Grand Prix was shared by an Italian movie and a French movie with very similar titles: "Signore e signori" ("Ladies and Gentlemen") and "Un homme et une femme" ("A Man and a Woman"). Photo: RDA/Getty Images, May 01, 1966
Kirk Douglas Lets His Feet Do the Talking
Kirk Douglas lets his feet do the talking on May 9, 1966. The word "ciao" ("hello" or "goodbye" in Italian) is written on the sole of his shoe. Photo: RDA/Getty Images, May 09, 1966
Hitchcock Amazes at Cannes
Alfred Hitchcock casts a spell at the Cannes Film Festival with his wife, Alma Reville, and actress Tippi Hedren to promote "The Birds" on May 11, 1963. Photo: RDA/Getty Images, May 11, 1963
Esther Williams Stays Dry
Esther Williams, famous for her swimming movies, throws autographs off a balcony to her fans during the Cannes Film Festival on April 27, 1955. Photo: RDA/Getty Images, Apr 27, 1955
Kim Novak Suffers No Vertigo
Kim Novak looks like she could use a break from the height of fame at the Cannes Film Festival on April 24, 1956. Photo: RDA/Getty Images, Apr 24, 1956
Robert Mitchum Keeps Hands Off Silva's Surprise
"Miss Festival" Simone Silva poses topless with Robert Mitchum during the Cannes Film Festival in April 1954. This pose caused a rush in which one photographer broke his arm and another his leg as the paparazzi scrambled for pictures. Actress Silva was subsequently asked to leave Cannes. Photo: RDA/Getty Images, Apr 01, 1954
Bergman Gets Ready
Ingrid Bergman adjusts an earring as she sits at a cocktail table at the Cannes Film Festival in 1956. Jacques Cousteau's "The Silent World" won the Palm d'Or that year, the only documentary to do so until 2004, when Michael Moore won for "Fahrenheit 9/11." Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images, May 01, 1956
Brigitte Bardot Arrives
Brigitte Bardot arrives at the Cannes Film Festival amid a flurry of admiring men in 1956. A few years later, tired of the scrutiny that her celebrity brought her, Bardot moved to southern France and became a recluse. Photo: Haywood Magee/Getty Images, May 12, 1956
The Cannes Film Festival's history began in fact. in Italy!
It all started just before WW2 when the German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini pressured the jury members of the Venice Film Festival (Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica di Venezia) in July 1938 so they have changed the award winners a few hours before announcing the official results in favour of the Nazi-Propaganda documentary “Olympiad” (about the 1936 Summer Olympics held in Berlin, written, directed and produced by Leni Riefensthal) and Goffredo Alessandrini’s war drama film “Luciano Serra, Pilot”.
Shocked by these events, American, British and French representatives decided not to take part in any further “Nazi-competition” and the French diplomat and historian Philippe Erlanger knew he had to do something to create a “Free Film Festival” with no pressure nor constraints. His idea became official when the French Ministry of Education and Fine Arts of that time, Jean Zay approved it. A new International Film Festival will take place in France. The only thing missing was the right location. A place that could host the event and turn it into a success. Out of a dozen nominated cities, only two were finally selected because they were able to match the splendour and glamour of Venice but also able to build in time all the infrastructure needed in just a few months. Philippe Erlanger’s finalists were Biarritz and Cannes. We all know who actually won. As Biarritz was already a well-known luxury seaside resort since the Second Empire as Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie loved to spend a lot of time there, it was decided this should be the right city. The “Basque’s prestige” won: The new Film Festival will be held every year in Biarritz.
Nevertheless, Cannes never gave up and, using their image of a luxury seaside resort since the 19th century loved by royalty and celebrities from all over Europe, the city decided to heavily invest in order to upgrade all the leisure and hospitality infrastructures. Cannes’ gamble paid as Biarritz was unable to match and finally decided to withdraw its candidacy by the end of May 1939, leaving Cannes as the effective choice for the French International Film Festival. The first edition was set to take place starting on 1st of September that same year with Louis Lumiere as president of the jury, the very same day as the opening of the 7th edition of the Mostra di Venezia.
Everything was on track and it was supposed to be a grandiose day until German troops invaded Poland on 1 September and two days later, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany pushing Europe into turmoil. The festival was initially postponed for 10 days, but as the situation dramatically worsened as a general mobilisation was declared, it became impossible for the festival to go ahead. Only a single screening was however privately organised. It was William Dieter’s film Quasimodo, for whose promotion a cardboard replica of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was built on the beach. Once the war ended the French State and the city of Cannes could no longer afford the costly expenses of a Film Festival so Philippe Erlanger raised the necessary funds through a public subscription and this is how the first Cannes Film Festival took finally place in 1946.
On 20 September and for the following 3 weeks, Cannes became the capital of cinema. Everything was just magnificent. American actresses arrived by seaplanes just on the bay and even an American submarine came.
There were flower parades, popular dances everywhere and fireworks, lots of fireworks lightening Cannes' streets.
Cannes: a potted history
Want an example of the gulf that divides "old Europe" and modern-day Hollywood? Simply compare the annual Cannes film festival with the Academy Awards ceremony.
For all its behind-the-scenes flutters, this year's Oscars passed without a hitch. As predicted, Return of the King won the bulk of the awards and winners' speeches were kept to a strict 45-second curfew. Despite a few half-hearted efforts from the likes of Sean Penn and Errol Morris, the ceremony came rigorously policed carefully navigating the off-camera explosions in Iraq and keeping the fluoride smiles and designer frocks to the fore.
But if Oscar night is a Hollywood production masquerading as a live event, Cannes presents an industry festival in the guise of a Dogme movie. It can be chaotic, passionate, and at times purely absurd. Had the Academy Awards had been held on the French Riviera, the speeches would have overrun, arguments would have broken out in the crowd and Bush effigies would have been burned at the podium.
Nothing about Cannes is simple. The festival is a ten-day vanity fair where porn stars, billionaire actors and art-house auteurs cram like sardines onto the same stretch of coastline, and where the primary awards can veer dizzyingly, year-to-year, between big-name American movies and the sort of obscure foreign-language treasures that would have a BFI researcher scratching his head. Remember Man of Iron? The Chronicle of the Years of Embers? The Ballad of Narayama? It turns out that all of them are past Palme d'Or winners.
Officially this year's event is known as the 57th Cannes international film festival. And yet we should by rights be up to number 66. The inaugural festival was all set to start in 1939. On the night of September 1, the guests were treated to an opening night gala screening of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring Charles Laughton. The next morning Hitler invaded Poland, and the festival was hastily abandoned.
Back it came in 1946, only to sputter fitfully through the next few years (there was no event, for financial reasons, in 1948 and 1950). In 1968 the festival was again cancelled eight days in due to the unstable climate in riot-torn France. With no films to show, Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard invaded the stage at the Cannes Palais and turned it into a political forum instead.
These days the festival is a shade more serene. It has bloomed down the years into one of world cinema's major selling grounds, a place where some 50% of industry business is conducted every year as international buyers congregate to snap up the produce on offer. And yet in amid the meals, deals and celebrity schmoozing, much of the old anarchy still remains. Police are still regularly called in to break up unruly punters at screenings, while audiences still react with a European passion that would be unheard of in Hollywood. Nobody ever boos at the Oscars. At Cannes they've never been shy about making their feelings known. In the past such controversial Palme d'Or winners as Under Satan's Sun, Dancer in the Dark and David Lynch's Wild at Heart found themselves hissed and whistled to the rafters.
Among the eclectic contenders at this year's festival are Walter Salles's Motorcycle Diaries, Wong Kar Wai's 2046, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 and the DreamWorks cartoon Shrek 2. Nobody knows just what will win, but you can be sure that they'll have something to say about the one that does. Like it or not, the old revolutionary spirit of 1968 is still alive and well at the Cannes of today.
Cannes Film Festival History
Every year, movie stars, famous directors, and other film industry heavyweights come together at the Cannes Film Festival to celebrate some of the year’s best cinemas. Developed as an alternative to the Vienna Film Festival, the Cannes Film Festival has become one of the most famous international film festivals in the world.
Cannes Film Festival
It all began on Sept. 1, 1939, but was canceled the next day in response to the beginning of World War II. From Sept. 20 to Oct. 5, 1946, the first official festival was held at a former casino in Cannes, France. Forty-six movies were screened here, and eleven of those films won the Grand Prix of the International Film Festival that year. Famous films that competed in that year included “Notorious” by Alfred Hitchcock, “The Lost Weekend” by Billy Wilder, and “Gilda” by Charles Vidor. Nine other awards in different categories were given, including a prize for best director, the International Jury Prize, and the FIPRESCI Prize.
Palais des Festivals
In 1949, the Cannes festival was held in a new building specially designed for the event. The Palais des Festivals, also called the Palais Croisette, lost its unfinished roof due to high winds the first year it was used. After a few decades, the increased popularity of Cannes led to the need for additional space. In 1979, officials decided to build a new Palais des Festivals. The new building was first used for the 1982 festivities and was expanded in 1999. Currently, the Palais des Festivals has eighteen auditoriums and 25,000 square feet of space for exhibitions.
The Palme d’Or
Until 1954, the top prize conferred at Cannes was the Grand Prix of the International Film Festival. Each year, this award was represented by a different sculpture designed by a contemporary artist. In 1954, officials decided to create the Palme d’Or as a tribute to the coat of arms of the City of Cannes to substitute for the original award. The board of directors for the festival asked jewelers to submit designs for the new award. Lucienne Lazon’s design was chosen, and a trophy was made by artist Sébastien. Director Delbert Mann won the first Palme d’Or in 1955 for his film “Marty.”.
Beginning in 1964, Cannes officials decided to award the Grand Prix of the International Film Festival instead of the Palme d’Or. However, the board of directors reversed their decision in 1975 and once again decided to use the Palme d’Or. The 1975 Palme d’Or was modified from the original 1955 version and was presented in a red leather case with a white suede interior. The design of Palme d’Or has been modified several times since its 1975 reintroduction, it still retains its iconic leaf design.
Over the years, critically acclaimed directors, such as Roman Polanski, Robert Altman, and Martin Scorsese, have won the Palme d’Or. New Zealand director Jane Campion won a Palme d’Or for her 1993 film “The Piano.” She remains the only female director to win the award.
Six male directors have won the Palme d’Or twice. Francis Ford Copolla won for “The Conversation” in 1974 and “Apocalypse Now” in 1979. Michael Hanake, Emir Kusturica, Bille August, Shoei Imamura, and the Dardenne brothers are the other directors who have achieved this milestone.
While the Palme d’Or is considered the most prestigious award, twenty films chosen to compete at Cannes can be recognized with one or more of seven other prizes. The Grand Prix, which was once called the Grand Prix Spécial du Jury, was first awarded in 1967. It is considered the second most prestigious award. The Prix du Jury is considered the third most prestigious award and has been awarded continuously since 1969.
Best screenplay, best actor, best actress, best director, and best screenplay prizes are also awarded to other films officially chosen to compete at the festival. Other prizes may be awarded to films other than the twenty chosen to officially compete at Cannes. These prizes include Caméra d’Or for best first feature film and the Cinéfondation prizes for student works.
Originally conceived as an alternative to the increasingly fascist Vienna Film Festival, Cannes has grown into one of the largest and most prestigious film festivals in the world. Over 30,000 people visit Cannes in the spring to see some of the year’s best films. Twenty films chosen to compete at Cannes often go on to win Academy Awards, BAFTA Awards, and prizes at other festivals.