Editorial path

1952-1959: Celebrities, politics and the film world

Céline Keller

Festivities

The Festival was first and foremost a tourist attraction and a showbiz event. Its legendary status was based on the endless parties, the stream of starlets parading on the beaches, the excesses, and the luxury. In 1952, the Spanish delegation visiting Cannes had top chefs in Madrid prepare a gigantic dish of paella to be flown to Cannes to serve to their guests. It arrived very late because the plane was blown off course by a violent storm. Such tales were lapped up by the journalists, who were now flocking to La Croisette in great numbers. A daily television programme was devoted to the Festival and the main radio station from the neighbouring principality of Monte Carlo came to cover the event, not forgetting the International press. The stories of the showbiz scandals in Cannes soon spread around the world, with the Simone Silva affair being one of the most tragic examples. In 1954, this starlet with a promising career ahead of her whipped off her bra and was photographed with Robert Mitchum's hands covering her breasts. When they returned to the United States, the two actors were hounded by American moral defence groups. Simone Silva was particularly targeted and the big film studios stopped offering her roles. Her career was destroyed and she sunk into depression before taking her own life not long afterwards. The following year, the Festival was the setting for a legendary love affair. Grace Kelly met Prince Rainier of Monaco during a visit to his palace. In 1956, the opening date of the Festival was postponed to allow the cream of society to attend the wedding.

Opening of the 1954 festival

Opening of the 1954 festival

Opening of the 7th Cannes festival: Michèle Morgan and admirers, Robert Mitchum on la Croisette, and the Palais steps.

01 avr 1954
46s
Info (00015)
Edwige Feuillère on the subject of the Cannes Festival

Edwige Feuillère on the subject of the Cannes Festival

Interview with Edwige Feuillère, who gives her impressions of the Cannes festival, which she is attending for the first time.

01 avr 1954
01m 46s
Info (00016)
Opening of the 1958 festival

Opening of the 1958 festival

Climbing the Palais steps for the 11th Cannes film festival, with Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco.

07 mai 1958
01m 01s
Info (00045)

The artistic aspect takes precedence

Although celebrity gossip continued to dominate the film world, the importance of the artistic aspect was growing at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1952, the selection committee was beset by controversy, the problem being that excellent films such as Golden Helmet or Forbidden Games were excluded from the competition. To resolve this problem, a "counter prize", which would become the Critics' Prize, was created to reward more original films. In 1954, the first Special Jury Prize was attributed to René Clément's film Knave of Hearts . The aim was to recognise the more daring filmmakers. Jacques Tati received the prize for My Uncle in 1958. Cannes was also a major outlet for Italian neo-realism which was in its heyday at that time. The master of the genre Vittorio De Sica was selected eight times and received the Grand Prix on his first selection for Miracle in Milan in 1951.

Opening of the 1955 Festival

Opening of the 1955 Festival

Opening of the 8th Cannes Festival: placing the first stone of a statue celebrating the Lumière brothers, stars on the Croisette, first press conferences and cliwalking up the steps.

05 mai 1955
01m 35s
Info (00023)
Jacques Tati on the subject of <i>My Uncle</i>

Jacques Tati on the subject of My Uncle

Interview with Jacques Tati, who talks about his first day at Cannes, his photo session with Jayne Mansfield and the origins of the film he is presenting at Cannes this year, My Uncle.

14 mai 1958
07m 48s
Info (00048)
René Clément talks about the films

René Clément talks about the films

René Clément gives some reflections on the "Italian" film he presented at Cannes, the reasons why some films age badly and the future of the cinema-television coupling.

13 mai 1961
04m 44s
Info (00071)

But diplomatic obstacles remain

For a few years, the competition was all about surrealism. Jean Cocteau was president in 1953, 1954 and 1957. During this period the least that can be said is that the prizes were very inventive. In 1953, La Red, a Mexican film, received the "International prize for the best film told through images". In 1956, Louise de Vilmorin invented a tailor-made prize for Smiles of a Summer Night by Ingmar Bergman entitled the 'Award for Poetic Humour'. It was in 1955 that the first Palme d'Or in the history of the Festival was attributed to Delbert Mann for his film Marty . But these new awards could not hide a more disturbing reality. Diplomacy still had a strong influence at the Cannes Film Festival in the fifties. In 1954 Jean Cocteau drew a little demon with the caption 'The Cannes Festival should be a no man's land in which politics has no place. It should be a simple meeting between friends.' But this was still impossible at that time. In 1956, the Festival decided not to present Night and Fog to avoid displeasing the German delegation. In 1959, another film by Alain Resnais, Hiroshima, My Love, was excluded from the competition, this time to keep the United States on side. Nevertheless, diplomatic pressure didn't always have the last word. In 1951 the Soviet delegation pushed for the exclusion of a Swiss film in 1951, but ultimately it was their film, New China, that was refused after being described as 'pure propaganda'. Therefore some hope remained for André Bazin's wish that the Festival would concern itself "a little less with parties and diplomacy, and a little more with film".

Jean Cocteau and Luis Bunuel about the jury at the Cannes Festival

Jean Cocteau and Luis Bunuel about the jury at the Cannes Festival

Interview with Jean Cocteau, president of the jury, and Luis Bunuel, member of the jury at the 7th Cannes international film festival. Cocteau mentions the role of the jury and the 1954 selection, Bunuel talks about his visit to Cannes and the atmosphere of camaraderie in the jury.

01 avr 1954
07m 32s
Info (00017)
List of winners of the 1956 Festival

List of winners of the 1956 Festival

Reading of the list of winners of the 9th Festival by the jury president Maurice Lehmann.

10 mai 1956
02m 50s
Info (00401)
Emmanuelle Riva , principal actress in <i>Hiroshima, My love</i>

Emmanuelle Riva , principal actress in Hiroshima, My love

Emmanuelle Riva talks about the films she acts in, Hiroshima, My Love. She talks about her work with Resnais, her desires as an actor and her artistic loves.

15 mai 1959
09m 22s
Info (00057)

"The 400 Blows"

In 1959, the scandals were blown away by the first film hailing a completely new genre. With The 400 Blows, François Truffaut, who had made headlines the previous year in the Arts review with his announcement that the Cannes Film Festival was condemned, received the award for Best Film, and the festival goers enthusiastically hailed the natural presence and unaffected ease of the young Jean-Pierre Léaud. In the same year, the Film Market which was taking place unofficially in the cinemas of the rue d'Antibes became an official event that has increased the influence of the Festival ever since by creating a commercial context that facilitates meetings and exchanges between the global film industry's buyers and sellers. An extra source of hope for those with a passion for film as an art form, in 1959, French cinema escaped the clutches of the Ministry of Industry and became part of Ministry of Cultural Affairs.

Jean-Pierre Léaud and <i>The Four Hundred Blows</i>

Jean-Pierre Léaud and The Four Hundred Blows

Interview with Jean-Pierre Léaud, leading role in The Four Hundred Blows. The young actor talks about how this filming experience changed the way he sees the cinema.

02 mai 1959
06m 32s
Info (00051)
François Truffaut presents his film <i>The Four Hundred Blows</i>

François Truffaut presents his film The Four Hundred Blows

Triumph of The Four Hundred Blows when shown at Cannes and interview with François Truffaut, who talks about his opinions on the Festival and what is known as the New Wave.

09 mai 1959
04m 38s
Info (00055)

Related videos

List of award-winners at the 1952 Cannes Festival

List of award-winners at the 1952 Cannes Festival

Prize-giving of the 5th Cannes international film festival.

15 mai 1952
40s
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Opening of the 1953 festival

Opening of the 1953 festival

Opening of the 6th Cannes festival, with special guest Walt Disney is awarded the Legion of Honour.

23 avr 1953
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Opening of the 1952 Festival

Opening of the 1952 Festival

Opening of the 5th Cannes festival.

01 mai 1952
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Last preparations before the opening of the 1955 Festival and speech by Marcel Pagnol.

Last preparations before the opening of the 1955 Festival and speech by Marcel Pagnol.

François Chalais comments on the opening of the eighth Cannes Festival: stroll behind the scenes at the Palais des Festivals, visit to the offices of the employees and the General Delegate, presentation of the television studio installed for the occasion. Then, the journalist presents the president of the jury Marcel Pagnol who talks about the role of the Festival de Cannes.

23 avr 1955
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Interview with Jules Dassin

Interview with Jules Dassin

François Chalais interviews Jules Dassin about his first film shot in France, "Rififi" set in night-time Paris, and his plans for future films.

01 mai 1955
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Sophia Loren and the photographers

Sophia Loren and the photographers

Presentation of the new young Italian beauty, Sophia Loren, who poses for the photographers.

27 avr 1955
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Presentation of the jury of the 1955 festival

Presentation of the jury of the 1955 festival

Under the leadership of Marcel Pagnol, the jury met at Auribeau to discuss the future winners over lunch.

05 mai 1955
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List of award-winners at the 1953 Cannes Festival

List of award-winners at the 1953 Cannes Festival

Closing of the 7th festival: cheese fondue and prize-giving.

15 avr 1954
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Interview with the members of the jury Arletty and Henri Jeanson

Interview with the members of the jury Arletty and Henri Jeanson

Humorous interview with Henri Jeanson and Arletty about their role as jury members at the 9th Cannes Festival

28 avr 1956
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Opening of the 1954 Festival

Opening of the 1954 Festival

Launch of the 7th festival: stars are chased on la Croisette, Daniel Gélin goes for a walk in the port, Gina Lollobrigida tries her hand at petanque, then climbs the Palais steps in her evening gown.

08 avr 1954
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Jacques Yves Cousteau talks about <i>The Silent World</i>

Jacques Yves Cousteau talks about The Silent World

Interview aboard La Calypso with Jacques-Yves Cousteau, whose film The Silent World was highly successful at the festival. The captain explained how he uses the cinema to make the public aware of conquering the sea.

02 mai 1956
06m 14s
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Opening of the 1956 festival

Opening of the 1956 festival

Opening of the 9th festival: the jury with Jean Cocteau and Marcel Pagnol; the stars with Brigitte Bardot and Kim Novak, in front of an audience of photographers.

02 mai 1956
01m
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Last moments of the 1955 festival

Last moments of the 1955 festival

Chronicle of the last days of the 8th Cannes festival: arrival of Marcel Carné, last evening at the palais des festivals, press conference with Stanley Kramer, photo session with the young American sex-bomb Dorothy Dandridge, finally it all ends with a firework.

11 mai 1955
05m 58s
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Should the Festivals be banned? Chronicle, 1956.

Should the Festivals be banned? Chronicle, 1956.

Tender and sharp chronicle by François Chalais on the atmosphere at the Cannes Festival 10 years after its creation.

26 mai 1956
04m 06s
Info (00034)
Jury at the 1957 Cannes festival

Jury at the 1957 Cannes festival

Presentation of the members of the jury for short films and feature-length films at the 10th Cannes Festival

10 mai 1957
01m 52s
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Opening of the 1957 festival

Opening of the 1957 festival

Climbing the Palais steps for the 10th Cannes film festival, with Elizabeth Taylor.

08 mai 1957
46s
Info (00035)
Federico Fellini and Giulietta Masina

Federico Fellini and Giulietta Masina

Federico Fellini and his wife Giulietta Masina came to present their latest film at Cannes, "Nights of Cabiria": al fresco meal and photo session in the gardens of la Napoule.

15 mai 1957
38s
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Closing evening of the 1956 Festival

Closing evening of the 1956 Festival

Last climbing of the steps of the 9th Cannes Festival, with Ginger Rogers, Susan Hayward, Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rosselini.

11 mai 1956
03m 57s
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Interview with Michèle Morgan

Interview with Michèle Morgan

During an interview granted to François Chalais, Michèle Morgan explains her choice of films.

26 avr 1956
06m 19s
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Interview with an atypical actor: James Robertson Justice

Interview with an atypical actor: James Robertson Justice

Quirky interview with James Robertson Justice, a multi-talented Scottish actor who shows François Chalais how to take snuff.

17 mai 1957
05m 56s
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Interview with Maurice Ronet

Interview with Maurice Ronet

Maurice Ronet explains how he views his job as an actor

17 mai 1957
04m 36s
Info (00040)
Atmosphere at the 1956 festival

Atmosphere at the 1956 festival

Atmosphere at Cannes after a week of festival - autograph-hunters, photographers and celebrities on the steps of the palace.

02 mai 1956
03m 19s
Info (00031)
Elie, receptionist at the Carlton

Elie, receptionist at the Carlton

Quirky interview with Elie, a receptionist at the Carlton, who talks about her job and the film "The Man with the Golden Keys".

02 mai 1958
03m 12s
Info (00044)
20 years ago, the idea for a Cannes festival was born.

20 years ago, the idea for a Cannes festival was born.

Interview with Philippe Erlanger, the creator of the Cannes festival, who recalls the events surrounding the creation of the Festival.

02 mai 1958
03m 03s
Info (00043)
A political journalist at Cannes

A political journalist at Cannes

France Roche interviews the political journalist Henri de Turenne, who is at Cannes for the first time. He mentions the differences between international political events and festive events such as the Cannes Festival.

08 mai 1958
04m 46s
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List of winners of the 1957 festival

List of winners of the 1957 festival

Reading of the list of winners of the 10th festival by the president of the jury André Maurois.

17 mai 1957
02m 27s
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Interview with William Wyler

Interview with William Wyler

Interview with William Wyler, who evokes his youth in France, his choices as a film-maker and the film he is presenting at Cannes this year, "Friendly Persuasion".

15 mai 1957
05m 57s
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List of winners of the 1958 festival

List of winners of the 1958 festival

The president of the jury Marcel Achard reads the list of winners of the 11th festival.

18 mai 1958
02m 36s
Info (00049)
Celebrities at the 1958 Cannes festival

Celebrities at the 1958 Cannes festival

Jean Giono strolls on la Croisette, Jacques Tati signs an autograph, Charles Boyer chats with Yul Brynner and Jayne Mansfield poses for the photographers.

14 mai 1958
01m 18s
Info (00047)
Opening of the 1959 festival

Opening of the 1959 festival

Opening of the 12th festival, with the jury presided by Marcel Achard, the starlets on la Croisette and Zsa Zsa Gabor, Edward G Robinson and the young Jean-Pierre Léaud climbing the steps.

06 mai 1959
01m 11s
Info (00054)
Simone Signoret on Yves Montand and her career

Simone Signoret on Yves Montand and her career

Interview by François Chalais with Simone Signoret on her life with Yves Montand and then her career, her films abroad and the status of star.

02 mai 1959
04m 39s
Info (00053)
Arrival of the celebrities in Cannes

Arrival of the celebrities in Cannes

Arrival of celebrities at the 12th Cannes festival, by plane and by car, and the first climbing of the steps amidst the flashes of the photographers.

02 mai 1959
02m 01s
Info (00052)
Closure of the 1958 festival

Closure of the 1958 festival

End of the 11th festival: on la Croisette with Orson Welles, Martine Carol, Gina Lollobrigida and the Russian delegation, winner of the Palme d'Or.

21 mai 1958
56s
Info (00050)
The Cannes Festival explained to novices, by Jean-Claude Brialy

The Cannes Festival explained to novices, by Jean-Claude Brialy

Quirky interview between Philippe Bouvard and Jean-Claude Brialy, who explains with humour what the Cannes Festival is, how a film is made, what an "intellectual" director is, etc.

30 mai 1959
08m 02s
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List of award-winners at the 1959 Cannes Festival

List of award-winners at the 1959 Cannes Festival

Last climbing of the steps and award ceremony of the 12th Cannes festival, in the presence of André Malraux.

20 mai 1959
55s
Info (00059)
List of winners of the 1959 Festival

List of winners of the 1959 Festival

Reading out of the winners of the 12th Festival and comments from the journalist François Chalais, who this time approves of the jury's choices.

15 mai 1959
02m 40s
Info (00056)
Interview with Giulietta Masina

Interview with Giulietta Masina

On the Croisette with Federico Fellini and Giulietta Masina who then talks about her role as Gelsomina in "The Road" and her next film with Fellini, "The Swindlers".

08 mai 1955
10m 05s
Info (00400)