The first annual International Cannes Film Festival opened 70 years ago - seven years late and at the dawn of the Cold War. The birthday celebration will also be late: the organizers are saving the parties for the May 2017 festival.
Had Hitler not invaded Poland the day before, it would have been held at the French Riviera city on 2 Sep 1939.
The need to lure tourists back to the French Riviera after World War II gave rise to the plan to revive the festival. Spanning 15 days the event screened some 40 feature-length films from 18 nations. They included Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious and Roma Citta Aperta by Roberto Rossellini. The Rossellini film was the first Official Selection of the annual competition. Nine films received the top award - Grand Prix du Festival. Some 50 short films included entries from Walt Disney and Luigi Comencini.
The New York Times reports that the Soviet-United States tensions began showing up at the first festival. A representative of the American film industry, Harold Smith, recalled that "when the production Gaslight was scheduled, the Russians invited everyone to a last-minute party to keep away representatives of 23 nations at the festival and the showing had to be rescheduled." Smith also complained that the Soviet delegates usually walked out of the hall when American films were shown.
The festival had money problems in its early years and had to be canceled in 1948 and 1950. It began thriving soon after, and the Palais des Festivals was dedicated as a permanent home for the festival in 1952. The Palme d'Or award for best film of the festival was introduced in 1955. In the 1950s it came to be regarded as the most prestigious film festival in the world, and it has maintained its allure: some 40,000 people attend the festival each year, more than 100 times the number at the 1946 event.
Date written/update: 2016-08-10