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Maybe it’s the setting. It’s probably the setting. It has to be the setting.
After all, Sundance has snow-capped mountains (lovely and picturesque). Berlin has the Brandenburg Gate (monumental and historic). Tribeca has those tall, orange-and-white steam-vent things on every street corner (Hollywood shorthand for “gritty urban landscape”). But of all the world’s great film festivals, only Cannes materializes each spring on the absurdly beautiful French Riviera; only Cannes manages to convey a sense of playful decadence lit by the Mediterranean sun, rather than by streetlights and camera flashes; only Cannes is . . . Cannes.
Here, as the 67th edition of the film extravaganza gets underway, LIFE.com presents a gallery of pictures, many of which never ran in LIFE, from Cannes five decades ago: photos that still, today, convey the glamour and the blithe sensuality that set the festival apart from all others.
Of the celebrated (or, at least, the time-honored) tradition of unknown and little-known actresses and models posing for hordes of photographers pretty much anywhere they can find a spot to stand, sit or sprawl, LIFE noted in its June 15, 1962, issue that “the hunt for attention becomes so fierce at Cannes that you can’t tell the hunters from the hunted.”
As for Natalie Wood, who appears in several photographs in this gallery, LIFE was positively fulsome in its praise of the 24-year-old star who, by the time she wowed the critics and crowds at Cannes in 1962, had already acted (and in many cases had starred) in more than 30 films: