BIRTH OF A MYTH: THE CARLTON
On that 30th day of January in 1911, Henry Ruhl was a happy man. In a short while, he would be welcoming his first guests to officially inaugurate his new marvel: the finest hotel Cannes had even seen. He chose to call it Carlton Hôtel. The name originated in Scandinavia, where it means “City of the Free Man.” The choice was not made by chance. For the British aristocracy, that name is inseparable from elegance and reverie. On that 30 January, Ruhl was not the only one musing in front of the Carlton. Beside him on that day, as he had been for years, was the project’s key individual – the man who had found the way to turn the Londoner’s dream into reality: Charles Dalmas. The two men knew each other well, since the Englishman had already entrusted the Nice native with creating the architecture of two establishments in his home city.
The history of the Carlton is also intimately linked to an elite Russian clientele. That link was a vital one, since Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich had helped finance the construction of the edifice. He was also a regular guest of the Carlton and was in the habit of taking Five O’clock Tea at the hotel’s bar. But the imperial family were not the only habitués of Cannes in the late 19th Century. Numerous members of the Russian aristocracy frequented the grand hotels. The Russian colony was a driving force of Cannes high society, which spent a great deal of money as well as engaging in sporting activities such as golf and regattas.
THE FIRST CONFERENCE OF THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS AT THE CARLTON
Being a renowned international hotel does not only mean welcoming tourists from the entire world every day. Since 1922, the hotel has also had the distinction of welcoming personalities from the political sphere.
“Live with the times and leave a mark on history,” might be the Hotel’s motto. And it was in the context of the period between the wars that one of the Carlton’s most symbolic meetings was held: the first conference of the League of Nations in January 1922.
December 1921, London…
The British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, and his French opposite number Aristide Briand met to discuss the Treaty of Versailles, signed two years earlier. With 42 member countries at its founding, the goal of the League of Nations was to maintain peace in Europe. The two men agreed on a future meeting of the League – the ancestor of the United Nations – in Cannes. The city had the twofold advantage of being a resort favoured by the British and being easy to secure due to its size. The Carlton became the main theatre of the diplomatic summit, which would prove to be of capital importance for Europe’s future.
THE FIRST CANNES FILM FESTIVAL
Whilst it’s true that the hotel’s history has moved to the rhythm of love, what of the intimate relations it has had and continues to have with the cinema? Once a year, Cannes rolls out its red carpet to welcome the greatest stars of the Seventh Art. Indelibly linked to the Carlton, the Cannes Festival was launched in 1939 out of a desire on the part of the French government to organise a major worldwide cinema gathering in a location known for its sunshine and its enchanting environment. And yet the Cannes Festival did not fully burgeon until 1946. Since the construction of the Palais des Festivals was not yet complete, it was in the old Casino that the International Film Festival, the first major post-war international cultural event, opened on 20 September, 1946. The Carlton, rising majestically above the hubbub of Cannes, was itself to become a key player in the Festival, lending its exceptional décor to the meetings of the jury and offering its unique architecture to the greatest filmmakers of our time. And indeed, within a few years it had become one of the most coveted hotels for shootings...
HITCHCOCK FILMS TO CATCH A THIEF AT THE CARLTON
The films of the “Master of Suspense” are classics of the genre and bear his unique stamp. Alfred Hitchcock took part in building the Carlton legend in 1954 when he chose the hotel as the setting for his feature film To Catch A Thief. The casting was ideal – one of the world’s most beautiful regions, its most famous hotel, and two magnificent stars, Grace Kelly and Cary Grant.
The tale of a mythical shooting:
Hitchcock shot his romantic thriller, released in 1955, exclusively on the Côte d’Azur, in locations ranging from Saint-Jeannet to Monaco. But of all the décors that make it such a beautiful film, what audiences remember most is the Carlton. The British filmmaker made the mythical hotel on the Croisette the setting for key scenes in the film. The hotel’s beach was chosen for the shooting of an initial scene in which the two actors are seen in the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. Magnificent images were taken from their exchange. And, Hitchcock being unsurpassed at highlighting his actresses’ beauty, the dinner scene in the Grand Salon is one of the most elegant and glamorous in the film, centred on the heroine in a sumptuous blue bustier gown.
Illuminating the film from start to finish, Grace Kelly will remain forever linked to the Carlton; indeed one of its most prestigious suites bears her name.
INTERCONTINENTAL CARLTON CANNES
When two strong identities meet, the result is bound to be magic! For the Carlton, for its history, its memory and its soul, when the question of an acquisition arises, concern for image is uppermost. Thus when the InterContinental Group took an interest in the hotel in 1982, it was a perfect opportunity for both to share their legend.
In 1949, the InterContinental Hotels Corporation Group opened its first hotel in Belém, Brazil. During the 1950s many more entities were created in Latin American and the Caribbean. Then InterContinental moved into the Middle East, Asia and Africa during the 1960s. In 1963, four hotels opened their doors in Europe. The decade 1970-1980 was focused on North America. In 1982 came the purchase of the emblematic hotel on the Croisette, the Carlton, and it became the InterContinental Carlton Cannes. The Group holds strategic positions at the four corners of the planet and has succeeded in its ambition of winning the loyalty of a business and leisure clientele. In 2009 the Carlton unveiled an entirely renovated lobby and seventh floor, adhering to the codes: “light, transparency, elegance and modernity.”
THE G20 IN CANNES: THE GREAT POWERS MEET
Nearly 90 years after hosting the League of Nations, in 2011 Cannes was again chosen by France, who were then chairing the meetings, to host the G20 summit.
On 3 and 4 November 2011, it was not the stars of the Seventh Art but the twenty-five heads of state and government of the world’s major countries who arrived on the Croisette. The capital of the French Riviera had been chosen to host the largest international summit ever held in France. The member countries of the G20 in 2011 were: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Commission, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK, and the USA. The heads of state and government of Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Singapore, Spain and the United Arab Emirates were also invited.
On that occasion, many questions arose about the assignment of rooms to the various heads of state. President Barack Obama, for example, chose Suite 523, which had been occupied by the representative of the United States in 1922 at the opening conference of the League of Nations.
A Century of Elegance
One hundred years of history, one hundred years of elegance… A one hundredth birthday calls for a celebration. And a majestic one!
The InterContinental Carlton Cannes officially launched the celebration of its hundred years of elegance on 22 February 2013.
For the anniversary, the hotel organised a gala as spectacular as its famous façade. It included a press conference, a cocktail hour, and a dinner with 150 guests, including Lady Butter, a member of the British aristocracy and granddaughter of Grand Duke Michael, who had sponsored the hotel in 1913.
When he arrived in Cannes, the Grand Duke had built the Old Course golf links at Mandelieu-La-Napoule in 1891. A visionary, he promoted the city of Cannes under the slogan “Cannes, City of Elegant Sports.” The InterContinental Carlton wanted to pay him tribute and took inspiration from that image of elegant sports for the decoration of the cocktail room, creating an exhibit of vintage period golf clubs and tennis rackets!
For the Centenary dinner, Head Chef Laurent Bunel honoured period cuisine as well, with a centenary menu of twelve dishes and a nod to the three service styles (French, English and Russian).
The Mayor of Cannes, the President of the Film Festival and the President of the Festival Palace were all on hand to celebrate the centenary of the Croisette’s most mythical monument.
1911 - 1913 : BIRTH OF A MYTH: THE CARLTON
1922 : CONFERENCE OF THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS
1939 : THE FIRST CANNES FILM FESTIVAL
1954 : HITCHCOCK FILMS TO CATCH A THIEF AT THE CARLTON
1982 : INTERCONTINENTAL CARLTON CANNES
2011 : THE G20 IN CANNES
2013 : A Century of Elegance