1946: LE PREMIER FESTIVAL DE CANNES

The first ever Cannes Film Festival was a resounding success in spite of some chaotic moments - like when the reels of Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious were reversed.

By Balthazar Malevolent

1946: LE PREMIER FESTIVAL DE CANNES

France was about to welcome an armada of both French and foreign films on a chartered ocean liner directly from the American company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on 1 September 1939. The city of Cannes bubbled with excitement: its luxurious hotels and, above all, its screening room with almost 1000 seats, which is why it was selected to host the first foreign film competition in France over Biarritz or Vichy. Obviously the film business's cream de la crème was set to arrive on the Croisette, formerly known as the Boulevard de l'Impératrice. But the festival was canceled against all odds: the German army invaded Poland, secured by the German-Soviet Pact of 23rd August 1939. The French entertainment industry floored, having attempted for the past ten years to plan a film festival. The Italians had hit hard with their Venice Film Festival which had been awarding prizes since 1932, when the American director Rouben Mamoulian's first-ever film to be shown at the event was Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But France refused defeat, and a few years later, while nursing its wounds, benefited from the geopolitical context. After the Second World War, Italy was not quite so proud and its fascist regime persuaded the Anglo-Saxons to boycott the Mostra. The Cannes Film Festival could dream big, far from being a simple substitute!

Cannes Film Festival, 1946.

Fireworks, fights for trees, television stars and fashion shows: Cannes was buzzing from 20 September till 5 October 1946. The first international film festival was just inaugurated in France, and it showed the work of 21 participating nations. The two watchwords were: "party" and "pacifism." The Palais des Festivals was still incomplete at the time, and it wasn't until 1972 that the official selection committee emerged. To avoid offending someone, 11 films were awarded, including Jean Delannoy's La symphonie pastorale - an adaptation of André Gide's novel that also saw her actress Michelle Morgan win an award, Jean Cocteau and Rome's Beauty and The Beast, Roberto Rossellini's Open City. Ray Milland won the Best Actor Award for his role in Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend, an adaptation of the book written by Charles R. Jackson two years ago. It was René Clément's The Battle of the Rails which won the festival's first-ever Cannes Jury Prize. The French director told the story of a station master, Camargue, who helped Jews flee the Nazi-occupied areas. This film, which is often considered today by some spectators as a caricature and bordering on propaganda, obviously did not receive the same reception in 1946.

Cannes Film Festival, 1946.Cannes Film Festival, 1946.

Fashion designers are frequent visitors to the Cannes Festival. Last year, designers Rick Owens with his wife Michele Lamy, Victoria Beckham, Alexander Wang have been spotted in front of the Palais des Festivals.

Cannes Film Festival, 1946.Cannes Film Festival, 1946.
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