65 Years of the Cannes Film Festival: An Early Photographic History Part I.

The 65th Cannes Film Festival is currently underway and I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane and share some early photos of the classic film stars and directors who have attended this prestigious event. Cannes is one of the oldest film festivals in existence and undoubtedly the most glamorous. Photographers from around the world converge on the French Riviera every year to snap photos of well-heeled celebrities who are eager to sell themselves and their latest movies to their adoring public.

Just like today, the Cannes Film Festival of yesteryear was attended by high-profile Hollywood couples often more in love with the cameras than one another as well as sexy starlets willing to bare all in order to get noticed and directors engaged in ridiculous publicity stunts for profit. The only things that have really changed in the last 65 years are the hairstyles and the fashions but while browsing though these old photographs it’s easy to become mesmerized by the charismatic faces that stare back at you. As Norma Desmond famously said in SUNSET BLVD. (1950), “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces!” Norma may have been talking about silent film stars then but those infamous lines haunted me while I was compiling these images. Of course there’s an element of nostalgia in my opining because these are some of the faces that made me fall in love with the movies and they’re faces that I never get tired of looking at.


1939: Filmmaker Louis Lumière met with the mayor of Cannes in 1939 to set the groundwork for the first Cannes Film Festival. Unfortunately WW2 would delay their plans for another six years.

1946: Director David Lean and actress Celia Johnson board a train in London on their way to the Cannes Film Festival where they’ll receive the Palme d’Or (Cannes highest honor) for their work on BRIEF ENCOUNTER.

1946: Actors Maria Montez and  Jean-Pierre Aumont dance the night away. The young couple had recently celebrated the birth of their daughter (actress Tina Aumont).

1946: Actress Michèle Morgan sets her eyes on an advertisement for Billy Wilder’s THE LOST WEEKEND, which shared a Palme d’Or win with Lean’s BRIEF ENCOUNTER that year.

1947: Actress Martine Carol and Orson Welles enjoy a smoking break together.

1947: Erich Von Stroheim looks on (apparently a bit bored by his company) while actress Denise Vernac seems to be having a good time.

1951: A young Elizabeth Taylor attracts the attention of photographers & onlookers while strolling the beach in Cannes. She was there supporting the release of A PLACE IN THE SUN, which was nominated for a Palme d’Or.

1952: Gene Kelly avoids the crowds at Cannes and relaxes in his hotel room. His film, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951), was nominated for a Palme d’Or but lost to Orson Welles’ OTHELLO and Renato Castellani’s DUE SOLDI DI SPERANZA.

1952: Filmmaker Mack Sennett nurses a pricked finger after receiving a special lifetime achievement award at Cannes that came with some prickly roses.

1953: Actors Olivia de Havilland and Edward G. Robinson stroll the sidewalks at Cannes. Robinson was a member of the Cannes Jury that year, which awarded the Palme d’Or to Henri-Georges Olivia Clouzot’s THE WAGES OF FEAR.

1953: A dashing Gary Cooper and Jean Marais surrounded by other festival attendees.

1953: Brigitte Bardot made her debut at Cannes in 1953 and attracted a lot of attention from photographers. The actress seems to positively glow while chatting with handsome Errol Flynn and who can blame her?

1953: Kirk Douglas was also taken with Bardot and the two actors goofed around on the beach for photographers. Douglas told reporters that Bardot was wearing the first bikini he’d ever seen and he was obviously impressed with her sexy new beachwear.

1953: Federico Fellini and his wife Giulietta Masina look like their being guided around Cannes by Jean Cocteau, who served as the President of the Cannes Jury from 1953-1954.

1953: Anne Baxter and Orson Welles dance while exchanging some private jokes. Baxter was there to support Hitchcock’s I CONFESS, which was nominated for a Palme d’Or.

1953: Zsa Zsa Gabor dances with husband George Sanders.

1954: Doris Day relaxes on the beach.

1954: One of Cannes most notorious incidents occurred when budding starlet Simone Silva decided to drop her top during a photo session with a surprised Robert Mitchum. Photographers rushed to snap photos of the two and a few were injured in the process. Cannes officials asked Silva to leave the festival afterward but Hollywood offered her a contract. Unfortunately all the publicity didn’t help Silva who ended up committing suicide just a few short years later but Mitchum walked away from the event with the Etoile de Cannes award.

1954: Grace Kelly and Gene Kelly chat.

1956: Susan Hayward & Ingrid Bergman share a drink and celebrate Hayward’s Best Actress win for her performance in I’LL CRY TOMORROW.

1956: Diana Dors and Ginger Rogers pose for photographers.

1957: Director William Wyler receives the Palme d’Or for FRIENDLY PERSUASION.

1957: Mike Todd and his new bride Elizabeth Taylor arrive in Cannes to promote his latest film, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS. Unfortunately this was the last Cannes Film Festival  Mike Todd attended. He was killed the following year in a horrible plane crash that left Taylor a widow.

1957: Dorothy Dandridge prepares to take a swim.

1957: Henry Fonda gets stuck in Cannes traffic while driving and is swarmed by the paparazzi as well as curious onlookers.

1958: Alain Delon carries actress Bella Darvi down the beach at Cannes.

1958: Jeanne Moreau, Anouk Aime and Maurice Ronet share some laughs.

1958: Jayne Mansfield and husband Mickey Hargitay dazzle the crowds.

1959: Yves Montand and his wife Simone Signoret share a private joke. Signoret won the Best Actress award in 1959 for her performance in ROOM AT THE TOP.

1959: Sophia Loren waves to photographers & onlookers from the balcony of her hotel room.

1959: One of the big news stories at Canne in 1959 was the blossoming relationship between Cary Grant and Kim Novak. The two actors were inseparable during the film festival much to the delight of photographers. Novak was there to help promote Delbert Mann’s MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, which was nominated for a Palme d’O but lost to Marcel Camus’ BLACK ORPHEUS.

*Coming Soon: 1960-1969*

Further Reading:
- Offical Site of the Cannes Films Festival
- Fifty Years of Sun Sex & Celluloid at Cannes by the Editors of Variety
- Cannes Cinema by Serge Toubiana

0 Response 65 Years of the Cannes Film Festival: An Early Photographic History Part I.
Posted By Juana Maria : May 17, 2012 4:44 pm

Love the photos! The celebs look amazing!! I love to see when stars actually looked healthy and curvy! For us real women, that means a lot! I really love the photo with Sophia Loren,who I compared myself to when we all played “Who Am I? Cinematically Speaking”. That was fun! I like the quizs and games you come up with on here. Thanks a ton. Adios.

Posted By Juana Maria : May 17, 2012 4:44 pm

Love the photos! The celebs look amazing!! I love to see when stars actually looked healthy and curvy! For us real women, that means a lot! I really love the photo with Sophia Loren,who I compared myself to when we all played “Who Am I? Cinematically Speaking”. That was fun! I like the quizs and games you come up with on here. Thanks a ton. Adios.

Posted By HollywoodLegacy : May 17, 2012 5:33 pm

What a wonderful collection of behind-the-scenes photos. Fabulous job! Thanks for sharing.

Posted By HollywoodLegacy : May 17, 2012 5:33 pm

What a wonderful collection of behind-the-scenes photos. Fabulous job! Thanks for sharing.

Posted By swac44 : May 17, 2012 10:24 pm

My favourite of the bunch is Fellini and Cocteau, two men who would change cinema forever, and Giulietta is just radiant. It’s nice to see her looking glamourous.

Posted By swac44 : May 17, 2012 10:24 pm

My favourite of the bunch is Fellini and Cocteau, two men who would change cinema forever, and Giulietta is just radiant. It’s nice to see her looking glamourous.

Posted By dukeroberts : May 18, 2012 12:42 am

I can’t tell if that look on Mitchum’s face is one of shock, surprise or fear.

Posted By dukeroberts : May 18, 2012 12:42 am

I can’t tell if that look on Mitchum’s face is one of shock, surprise or fear.

Posted By Paula : May 18, 2012 5:09 am

Hi, nice pics but you actually managed to get about five names wrong. Jean Mairas is Jean Marais, Anouk Aime is Anouk Aimée, and it is Federico Fellini. Maybe you want to look up all the names in a movie data base to get them right? If only out of respect to the celebrities…

Posted By Paula : May 18, 2012 5:09 am

Hi, nice pics but you actually managed to get about five names wrong. Jean Mairas is Jean Marais, Anouk Aime is Anouk Aimée, and it is Federico Fellini. Maybe you want to look up all the names in a movie data base to get them right? If only out of respect to the celebrities…

Posted By Paula : May 18, 2012 5:10 am

Oh yes, and the actess is called Olivia de Havilland

Posted By Paula : May 18, 2012 5:10 am

Oh yes, and the actess is called Olivia de Havilland

Posted By swac44 : May 18, 2012 7:56 am

I doubt it was the first two, by this point in his career Mitchum was used to surprise busts.

Posted By swac44 : May 18, 2012 7:56 am

I doubt it was the first two, by this point in his career Mitchum was used to surprise busts.

Posted By marty : May 18, 2012 9:50 am

I think the what impresses me most about these pictures from Cannes. These stars look like stars, not real people. Their clothing is beautifully tailored and coordinated. Their carriage matches their personas…and most of all…they look like they are enjoying themselves. Sure people were taking their pictures both staged and impromptu and throngs were greeting them in streets andn cafes…but they look like they really had fun in those days…they wore their fame and stardom well. I really don’t believe that many “stars” today have any fun at all. The men dress very poorly and the women are competing for skeleton on the year.

Posted By marty : May 18, 2012 9:50 am

I think the what impresses me most about these pictures from Cannes. These stars look like stars, not real people. Their clothing is beautifully tailored and coordinated. Their carriage matches their personas…and most of all…they look like they are enjoying themselves. Sure people were taking their pictures both staged and impromptu and throngs were greeting them in streets andn cafes…but they look like they really had fun in those days…they wore their fame and stardom well. I really don’t believe that many “stars” today have any fun at all. The men dress very poorly and the women are competing for skeleton on the year.

Posted By Jenni : May 18, 2012 10:31 am

That picture of Mitchum and that young actress is priceless! I bet he was truly surprised when she dropped her top. The look on his face! Lol!

Posted By Jenni : May 18, 2012 10:31 am

That picture of Mitchum and that young actress is priceless! I bet he was truly surprised when she dropped her top. The look on his face! Lol!

Posted By caseycarroll : May 18, 2012 11:32 am

I love this article! It’s great seeing all these old photos, can’t wait for more

Posted By caseycarroll : May 18, 2012 11:32 am

I love this article! It’s great seeing all these old photos, can’t wait for more

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : May 18, 2012 1:57 pm

Juana, Hollywood Legacy, swac44, Jenni & casey – glad you all like the photos!

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : May 18, 2012 1:57 pm

Juana, Hollywood Legacy, swac44, Jenni & casey – glad you all like the photos!

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : May 18, 2012 1:58 pm

duke – There a series of photos from the same shoot and Mitchum was obviously enjoying himself. I’m sure he got a kick of being part of the “show.”

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : May 18, 2012 1:58 pm

duke – There a series of photos from the same shoot and Mitchum was obviously enjoying himself. I’m sure he got a kick of being part of the “show.”

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : May 18, 2012 2:14 pm

Paula – Corrections have been noted & made. Thanks. Unfortunately when you compile over 55 names for one piece, occasionally typos happen and I made 4. Just ask the nice folks who run the official Cannes website where I got many of the photos. They spelled the names incorrectly there and I made the mistake of following their lead on a few by assuming they’d gotten the names right and you should never assume anything. But I highly doubt that the folks who run the Cannes website were trying to “disrespect” the people who they misnamed by accident. I’ve written Federico Fellini’s name thousands of times but as they say,… s*@t happens. Typos aren’t personal attacks on someone’s celebrity. By the way, I’m sure you can find information on good manners and how to hold a polite conversation on some website database as well.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : May 18, 2012 2:14 pm

Paula – Corrections have been noted & made. Thanks. Unfortunately when you compile over 55 names for one piece, occasionally typos happen and I made 4. Just ask the nice folks who run the official Cannes website where I got many of the photos. They spelled the names incorrectly there and I made the mistake of following their lead on a few by assuming they’d gotten the names right and you should never assume anything. But I highly doubt that the folks who run the Cannes website were trying to “disrespect” the people who they misnamed by accident. I’ve written Federico Fellini’s name thousands of times but as they say,… s*@t happens. Typos aren’t personal attacks on someone’s celebrity. By the way, I’m sure you can find information on good manners and how to hold a polite conversation on some website database as well.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : May 18, 2012 4:12 pm

Marty – I understand what you’re saying and agree to an extent. I’m sure today’s stars have fun at Cannes but I do love your line: “Their carriage matches their personas.” That’s a key difference to me. There’s a lot of different ages, sizes and shapes in the photos above but not much color. Cannes was a very white festival back then and that’s undoubtedly changed for the better. It’s also important to point out that women were often given secondary status. They were rarely allowed on the Cannes jury and rarely awarded for anything besides their acting abilities. That’s changed for the better too. But on a purely aesthetic level, I look at photos of today’s stars and they’ve all gone to the same plastic surgeons and they’re being dressed by the same stylists so I have a hard time telling them apart.

Nepotism has reached epic proportions in Hollywood as well and I honestly think that’s a factor that contributes to the “same same” look and minimal skills of so many performers today. Many of the actors seen in the above photos led complex unsheltered lives before they made movies which shows on their faces and can be found in their performances. Today it’s a different world.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : May 18, 2012 4:12 pm

Marty – I understand what you’re saying and agree to an extent. I’m sure today’s stars have fun at Cannes but I do love your line: “Their carriage matches their personas.” That’s a key difference to me. There’s a lot of different ages, sizes and shapes in the photos above but not much color. Cannes was a very white festival back then and that’s undoubtedly changed for the better. It’s also important to point out that women were often given secondary status. They were rarely allowed on the Cannes jury and rarely awarded for anything besides their acting abilities. That’s changed for the better too. But on a purely aesthetic level, I look at photos of today’s stars and they’ve all gone to the same plastic surgeons and they’re being dressed by the same stylists so I have a hard time telling them apart.

Nepotism has reached epic proportions in Hollywood as well and I honestly think that’s a factor that contributes to the “same same” look and minimal skills of so many performers today. Many of the actors seen in the above photos led complex unsheltered lives before they made movies which shows on their faces and can be found in their performances. Today it’s a different world.

Posted By The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of May 18 | Parallax View : May 18, 2012 4:29 pm

[...] at the Morlocks, Kimberly Lindbergs offers some of her favorite photographs chronicling the Cannes festival, from Louis Lumière meeting in a train station with the town’s mayor to a lovely 1959 image [...]

Posted By The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of May 18 | Parallax View : May 18, 2012 4:29 pm

[...] at the Morlocks, Kimberly Lindbergs offers some of her favorite photographs chronicling the Cannes festival, from Louis Lumière meeting in a train station with the town’s mayor to a lovely 1959 image [...]

Posted By Heidi : May 22, 2012 8:33 pm

Great post! I love the images! The Cary Grant and Kim Novak is just wonderful, and they really look happy. My favorite guy, Errol Flynn looks so handsome and dashing! And Grace Kelly was always so beautiful, and with Gene Kelly, she looks to be having a ball too! And Elizabeth Taylor and Mike Todd, what makes this image stand out to me is the fact that he was taken from her not long after this. But, the stars then did seem much more comfortable in their stardom. They oozed class and charm, something today’s “stars” could learn from.

thanks for the images, they are fantastic.

Posted By Heidi : May 22, 2012 8:33 pm

Great post! I love the images! The Cary Grant and Kim Novak is just wonderful, and they really look happy. My favorite guy, Errol Flynn looks so handsome and dashing! And Grace Kelly was always so beautiful, and with Gene Kelly, she looks to be having a ball too! And Elizabeth Taylor and Mike Todd, what makes this image stand out to me is the fact that he was taken from her not long after this. But, the stars then did seem much more comfortable in their stardom. They oozed class and charm, something today’s “stars” could learn from.

thanks for the images, they are fantastic.

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