The History of Cannes
Lord Brougham, a former Lord Chancellor of England is the person that is credited with "inventing" Cannes when he was detained there while on a trip to Italy in 1834, because an order prevented him from crossing the Var River to Nice. He liked the place so much that he built an Italianate villa on a hill jut outside the town and persuaded his friends to live there. His friends enjoyed the winters because the climate was so mild. Other of his friends built homes and the village later became a town.
Forty-five years later Cannes acquired many spacious villa almost fifty hotels and a had a very good thriving market in house-and-estate building. On the hundreth birthday of Cannes the citizen had made a statue of Lord Brougham and celebrated with a week of festivities. Important members of Queen Victoria’s court visited for some of the holidays. When these people arived the citizens of Cannes would stop practicing some of their costumes such as carrying the dead uncovered through the street for burial.
The Film Festival
As time past more and more people became attracted to Cannes. Famous stars of the 30’s came and decided to make a film festival in 1938. But it wasn’t officially done until 1946. Internationalism and postwar optimism characterized the first festival. In later years the selection of entries for prizes reflected more commercial interests and the festival soon acquired its current reputation as a fashionable professional event. By this time the festival was more concerned with the advancing the film industry that the art of film. Francois Truffaut addressed these issues in 1956 and the festival was almost destroyed. The festival survived. In 1959, Traffaut was awarded the prize for best screenplay for Les Quatre Cent Coups or The Four hundred Blows. Despite the financial interest and the and political overtones the Cannes Film Festival remains an essential showcase for international cinema.
Up until 1954, the jury of the Cannes Festival awarded a "Grand Prix du Festival International du Film" to the best director. The prize-winners of the "Grand Prix" and other main awards would receive the work of a contemporary young painter or sculptor.
At the end of 1954, the Festival's Board of directors decided to replace the "Grand Prix" with the "Palme d'Or", in reference to the City of Cannes' coat of arms. Legend has it that the original drawing of the palm leaf was done by Jean Cocteau. Reality is more prosaic than the myth. In 1955, the Board of directors asked several jewellers to present their projects of a palm leaf for the awards to come. Lucienne Lazon was the winner of the contest. The project became the "Palme d'Or", the highest reward given annually to the best director. Since then the "Palme d'Or" has become the Festival's logo.
Originally, the palm's stem rested on a heart-shaped pedestal made of a sculpture in terracotta by Sébastien. Since the early 1980's the round-shaped pedestal has been progressively transformed and by 1984 took the shape of a pyramid.
In 1992, Thierry de Bourqueney redesigned the palm leaf, placing it on a hand-carved crystal pyramid. The "Palme d'Or", presented in a red morocco casket with white suede lining, is given to the prize-winner during the awards ceremony. The "Palme d'Or" is the most valued and long-awaited of all the Cannes prizes and is announced at the end of the ceremony.
On occasion the "Palme d'Or" award has been shared by two directors, as was the case in 1961 with Luis Bunuel's "Viridiana" and Henri Colpi's "Une aussi longue absence", and more recently in 1993, for Jane Campion's "The Piano" and Chen Kaige's "Farewell to my Concubine".