Simone Silva at Cannes

The Cannes Film Festival, originally envisioned in 1939 after the censorships became more intense in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, ironically came into existence only after the Second World War. It is 64 years old this year. Since its early days, stars, starlets, journalists and photographers would take a cruise from Cannes and spend a day on Ile Sainte-Marguerite, where Robert Mitchum and Simone Silva gave the world an iconic and risque moment in 1954.

Silva was a pin-up actress who was known primarily for her ample bosom. Photographers shouted: “Take the top off!” and Cairo-born Greco-French actress obliged by unhooking her bra and nesting her bosom in the hands of Robert Mitchum. Mitchum gallantly embraced the B-listed starlet, pressing her bare breasts against him. Rushing to take photos, a photographer broke his arm, another his leg, and many their lenses. Immortalized in a series of widely-distributed photos, Mitchum and Silva’s seaside sojourn caused a big scandal. Despite having being chosen recently as ‘Miss Festival’, Silva is asked to leave Cote d’Azur in the morning.

Silva later recalled that she thought it would be good for her career to be photographed with Bob Mitchum that way. People didn’t think so. Mitchum and Silva were denounced by cinema’s then restrictive moral codes, and the Congress even debated on whether to allow American films being promoted in Cannes. Publically vilified, Silva saw the studios turning their backs on her. Her appeals for a U.S. residency were repeatedly rejected, and Silva was found dead in her Mayfair apartment in 1957. She had suffered a stroke from a severe diet she took to return to cinema in perfect shape. Some said it was an inflicted suicide.