< FRANCE | CANNES: InterContinental Carlton Cannes
Since the mid 19th century, thanks to its mild climate, Cannes has attracted the elite who wish to spend the winter away from the cold and the mists of the
North. Alongside Trouville and Biarritz, Cannes, once a small fishing port, became a seaside holiday resort. Arrival of the railway around 1865, announced an important expansion
for the town: the clientele became international.
Envisioned by Henri Ruhl, a genius hotelier, the Carlton was designed according to plans of the architect Charles Dalmas. With Tea & Concert party, it opened its doors on 30 January 1911, welcoming British and Russian aristocrats. In the face of its immediate success, the hotel grew, acquiring the neighbouring Hotel de la Plage which was then demolished. Since 1913, its famous silhouette rising above the Croisette Avenue has now become the defining symbol of Cannes. The join between the two wings is still visible today. The enormous facade was enhanced by two corner domes which, at least according to legend, were inspired by the breasts of the most sought after woman in all of Europe - Carolina “La Belle” Otero.
The hotel’s grand opening was quite an event, although the months that followed were less than glorious. The World War I broke out shortly after the opening, and part of the hotel was
converted into a hospital. Ruined by the October Revolution, the Carlton lost its clientele of Russian aristocrats in 1917. Business was so bad that in 1919 the hotel was put up for sale
for a million francs, which was not even enough to pay off all its debts.
The post-war period was kinder to the Carlton: Paul Doumer, who was later President of France, stayed at the hotel at the start of the 1920s and suggested to Aristide Briand that the hotel should be completely requisitioned in order to receive the United Nations Security Council and to organize the conference which aimed to bring lasting peace throughout the world. The meeting took place from the 4th to the 13th January 1922. One by one they arrived at the Carlton: Lloyd George for England, Harvey for the United States, Briand for France, followed by representatives from Belgium, Italy, Japan and Germany. During this meeting it was found necessary to expel an undesirable Italian journalist for his noisy behaviour. His name was Benito Mussolini.
Thanks to the prestige gained from this conference, the Carlton regained its old aura: Royalty in exile, lords, maharajahs, actresses, bankers, industrialists and socialites, they all chose the Carlton.
In those days the Carlton was only open during the winter season. As soon as the weather started getting warmer, the guests all departed and the staff were transfered to the Grand Hotel in Cabourg or the one in Dinard, all managed by the same company. That year the rain was so heavy in Cabourg and Dinard that the management of the hotels in those two resorts decided to close them and set out on a new adventure: The risk paid off and the Carlton has remained open all year round ever since. 5th August 1930 marked the beginning of the summer season on the Côte d’Azur. It was a great success.
In 1940, Cannes was occupied by Mussolini’s soldiers, but the hotel continued to function normally, hardly affected by the food rationing. In June, 1944, the hotel closed and the beach was sealed off and turned into a mine-field. However, relief was in sight: in August, the Americans landed at Saint-Raphael and De Lattre’s troops came ashore at Saint-Tropez. In order to welcome the Americans, Carlton reopened: two floors were made available to officers from the general staff. Maurice Chevalier and Line Renaud put on shows for the soldiers. Mistinguett, the Queen of the French music hall gave gala concerts in the lobby to help the orphans of the Resistance. Former guests returned and new guests arrived in their hordes.
Since 1946, the image of the Carlton has always been linked to the greatest international events in particular to the “Cannes film Festival”. The hotel was associated from the beginning, welcoming the most prestigious stars. No media reports of these events is done without the characteristic silhouette of the Carlton against a clear blue sky.
The 1950s were a particularly dazzling period. At the Carlton there was the “Paul” room where Paul Doumer, Paul of Yugoslavia and Paul Derval, the director of the Folies Bergères all stayed.
The 50s and the 60s were the heyday of the starlets. During the same period, Ava Gardner, Kim Novak and Claudia Cardinale practically set off riots when they appeared on the balconies of the Carlton, as did Sophia Loren, Jane Mansfield and Gina Lollobrigida. Other famous guests included the singer Edith Moineau known as “la môme Moineau,” who was formerly a flower seller whose talent was discovered by Paul Poiret and subsequently became a millionaire, Hitchcock, Dior, Princess Soraya, Raimu, Fernandel, Picasso, Greta Garbo, Serge Lifar, Porfirio Rubirosa, Erroll Flynn, Cocteau, Onassis, Sacha Guitry, Rita Hayworth, Lily Pons, Elsa Maxwell, Paul Newman, Walt Disney, Fellini...
While staying at the Carlton during the 1955 Cannes Film Festival, Grace Kelly had an arranged meeting and photo shoot with His Serene Highness (HSH) Prince Rainier III of Monaco which eventually resulted in their marriage in 1956.
Bought out by the Intercontinental hotel group, the Intercontinental Carlton Hotel has been given a luxury makeover, keeping the essence of its Belle Époque decor including the sumptuous Grand salon on the ground floor, one of the most beautiful rooms on the whole of the Côte d’Azur.
Spectacular work was carried out as part of the building and bedrooms renovation and refurbishment programme which began in June 2000. It all began with the restoration of the façade under the aegis of Bâtiments de France (the State’s architects). Over the course of eighteen months, highly skilled craftsmen worked painstakingly to restore the magnificent façade (registered as a historical monument since 1989), to its former glory.
In 2004, seven sumptuous panoramic suites were inaugurated on the 7th floor. Combining tradition and modernity, these suites also boast magnificent terraces which offer an unrivalled view out over the Mediterranean. While it is still the legendary hotel of the stars of Hollywood of yesteryear, the Carlton is now paying tribute to the stars of today by naming its suites after Elton John, Sofia Loren, Alain Delon, Sophie Marceau, Sean Connery and Sharon Stone.
Over the course of years, Carlton was often used as a filming location: "To Catch a Thief" by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Cary Grant & Grace Kelly; "A Star for Two" with Lauren Bacall & Anthony Quinn, "La Bonne Année" by Claude Lelouch; "Grosse Fatigue" by Michel Blanc with Carole Bouquet; "French Kiss" with Meg Ryan & Kevin Kline, "Anthony Zimmer" by Jérôme Salle starring Sophie Marceau; "4 Etoiles" by Christian Vincent, with José Garcia & Isabelle Carré.
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