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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

At the1955 Cannes Film Festival "Marty" Won The Palme d'Or and Grace Kelly Met Her Prince

The Cannes Film Festival opens tonight amid a circus of directors, producers, studio executives, talent agents, sales reps, paparazzi, mimes and street performers, film critics (who isn't?), provincial tourists by the tens of thousands – and, of course, genuine movie stars and would-be stars from every country and every strata of the film business.

At the 1955 festival the mood was less frenzied, though still festive. Then, as now, film royalty from Sophia Loren to Grace Kelly to Brigitte Bardot descended on the Riviera to show off their wares.

It was a great year to be in Cannes:

Jeanne Moreau attended for the first time.

The first Palmes d'Or were handed out. Before that the top prize was called the Grand Prix.

The inaugural Palme d'Or went to Delbert Mann's Marty.

American films were strongly represented at the festival. Direct from Hollywood: Elia Kazan's East of Eden, John Sturges's Bad Day at Black Rock, Otto Preminger's Carmen Jones, Edward Dmytryk's The End of the Affair, George Seaton's The Country Girl, and Marty.

The U.K.'s Daily Mail reported that Sophia Loren was the most photographed star at Cannes in 1955. If so, she faced stiff competition from the likes of Bardot, Kelly, and Gina Lollabrigida.

Dino Risi, Vittorio de Sica, and Carol Reed also brought films to Cannes in 1955.

Grace Kelly, whose The Country Girl screened in competition, was introduced to Prince Rainier at the Carlton Hotel. A year later they were married.

Melina Mercouri traveled to Cannes for the Michael Cacoyannis film Stella and met her future husband, the director Jules Dassin. Dassin was named best director for his in-competition Rififi.

Other notables at Cannes in 1955: Gene Kelly with Betsy Blair, Silvana Mangano, Esther Williams, Olivia de Haviland, the French actors Eddie Constantine, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Nadia Gray, and directors Otto Preminger, Jean Renoir, Nicholas Ray.

The beloved novelist Marcel Pagnol served as president of the jury. Also on the jury: director Anatole Litvak, short filmmaker Juan Antonio Bardem (the uncle of actor Javier Bardem), and French playwright Marcel Achard, who would write the 1962 comedy l'Idiot on which the second Pink Panther film A Shot in the Dark was based.

Fifty-five years and another lifetime ago!

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