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Cannes Heat

May 04, 1997

In 1994, when Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" is awarded the Golden Palm, the production's victory party at the Eden Roc Hotel gets seriously out of control, and the hosts are presented with a $40,000 bill for the wreckage.

A terse Cannes mission statement: "To defend an independent cinema that also appeals to a broad public, or, as Preston Sturges said, 'Movies that are both artistic and popular,' " says Cannes organizer Gilles Jacob.

This year, film buffs the world over can visit Cannes, in English and French, via the Internet, at or

In May 1968, as revolt and challenges to authority sweep France, Cannes agonizes over what to do. There are demonstrations in front of the Palais, debate within. Louis Malle resigns from the festival jury, followed by Monica Vitti, Roman Polanski, Terence Young and Serge Roullet. No prizes are given for the year.

"Cannes is a zoo. Too bad the actors and directors are on the wrong side of the bars."--Polish-born director Roman Polanski

"One day, people come, and they leave as somebody, or as somebody different, at any rate."--French film critic and juror Pierre Billard

Bring seagulls to the Mediterranean coastal resort of Cannes? It's what Alfred Hitchcock does, by the hundreds, to promote his movie "The Birds" in 1963.

In 1955, eagerly seeking work, a 20-year-old English starlet named Simone Syvla doffs her top during a festival picnic and asks a startled Robert Mitchum to replace it with his hands. He obliges as photographers snap away. Outraged decency leagues in the United States call for a boycott of Mitchum's movies and of Cannes itself. Syvla, expelled from Cannes, gets a Hollywood contract, but commits suicide in Ohio at the end of the summer.

Italian screen siren Sophia Loren, one of the most popular actresses to appear at Cannes, causes one of the largest traffic jams in memory on the French Riviera when she is escorted by more than 300 scooters and automobiles in the early 1960s.

The first festival was in 1946, so why is the 50th in 1997? Because in 1948 and 1950, it wasn't held for lack of money.

At Cannes's closing gala in 1954, Gina Lollobrigida and Elizabeth Taylor undergo every female partygoer's nightmare: with a shock, the two actresses discover they are wearing the same white lace gown sewn by Paris couturier Christian Dior.

Romance, a constant companion at the Cannes Festival, takes a fairy tale turn in 1955 when a journalist escorts Grace Kelly 30 miles down the French Riviera to the gaming resort of Monte Carlo. Twelve months later, the actress from Philadelphia weds a local resident: Prince Rainier of Monaco.

Top screen heavyweight at Cannes? Dumbo, Walt Disney's floppy-eared cartoon elephant, who in 1947, at the second festival, charms the jury into creating a onetime animation award so they can give it to Disney.

Danish director Bille August has won two Golden Palms (in 1988 and 1992); better-known moviemakers such as Ingmar Bergman, Stanley Kubrick and Woody Allen have won none.

Some public events have bombs scares; Cannes has had a bomb. In 1975, the year an Algerian movie about the bloody independence struggle from France, "Chronicle of the Years of Embers," wins top honors, a 1.5-kilo charge of plastic explosive is detonated against a side door of the Palais on opening day.

During military rule in his country, Turkey's Yilmaz Guney writes "Yol" in prison, then escapes and exiles himself to France. In 1982, he comes to Cannes to pick up his Golden Palm, with French police under orders not to arrest him.

Cinema titan Orson Welles was awarded a Grand Prix at Cannes in 1952--as a representative of Morocco for his innovative filmization of "Othello."

In 1960, in a Greek-style outpouring of joy, 500 bottles of ouzo and 50,000 glasses are smashed during the reception for blacklisted Hollywood director Jules Dassin's "Never on Sunday." Melina Mercouri, film's female lead and Dassin's wife, shares best actress prize.

Is a Golden Palm box-office magic? Not in France, anyway. The 1958 Soviet World War II tear-jerker "Cranes Are Flying" is the most-watched of all Cannes honorees in the festival's home country, with more than 5.4 million spectators. In contrast, the 1992 winner from Sweden, "The Best Intentions" by Bille August, has sold 90,987 tickets to date.


Compiled by John-Thor Dahlburg.

Sources: The books "Citizen Cannes," "Le Festival de Cannes" and "Le Roman de Cannes," and Le Monde.

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