If you got the sense that the once-revered Cannes film festival had eroded some of its much-celebrated luster, you're not alone. One of the reasons for that just might be the decline of the Carlton hotel, once the nerve focus and essential core of the famed festival, welcoming the world's biggest celebs, including Israeli model Bar Refaeli during her zenith.
During the illustrious hotel's waning, proceedings took their toll. Hollywood's elite preferred to rest their laurels in the nearby Martinez Hotel, as well as a few other esteemed locations in which they could escape the paparazzi.
Once prominently-featured bowls and celeb interviews began moving elsewhere. The management of the Carlton Hotel realized that something has to be done. This began an extensive reparation endeavor, which began five years ago.
They took advantage of the downtime, thrust upon everyone during COVID, in order to promote this new look. Last year, the hotel itself was still closed during the festival.
The Carlton legend began in 1901, When Mikhail, the Great Duke and grandson of the Russian czar, escaped the emperor's palace and settled in Cannes, focusing on realizing his forbidden love for the granddaughter of poet Alexander Pushkin. As the Duke had exiled himself away from Russia, he, in effect, relinquished his title. The things we do for love...
Since staying in Cannes at the time was not an option with which he could be accommodated with a type of lifestyle he had always enjoyed, especially when you take into account the events that he wanted to hold in that specific location, he chose to finance the construction of the Carlton Hotel almost single-handedly.
The grand opening took place on January 30 of 1911, and featured a tea party that included a performance. Among those invited to this exclusive event were Russian and British aristocrats. The hotel was established in a neoclassic type of architecture, and featured cream-colored walls and six floors containing a total of 250 luxurious rooms, each of which included a bathroom and a guest room, something that was almost unheard of at the time.
One of the main distinguishing features of the Carlton is the two domes that, according to legend, were Inspired by the breasts Spanish- Greek courtesan Carolina Otero, also known as Labelle Otero.
During winter, British aristocrats stayed at the hotel, escaping the cold and perpetual rain of the British climate, and when the Carlton launched the first beach club around 1930, It marked the city's summer tourism season.
That inspired other entrepreneurs to build rival hotels all along The Strip, but the Carlton had always remained the crowning Jewel.
Luxurious hotels or not, global events wait for no one. The First World War began shortly after the hotel opened, forcing a situation where part of that hotel had to be converted into a field hospital.
That meant that the Carlton lost its clientele, consisting of the Russian aristocracy. Business got so bad that in 1919, the hotel was offered up for sale for a million francs. That sum wasn't even enough to cover the debts compiled up until that point.
Things did turn around, though, once the war was over. Paul Doumer, a person who would one day become the French president, stayed at the hotel in the 1920s. And offered Carlton to have the hotel as the first meeting place for a geopolitical conference, where representatives of different countries could talk to each other in order to prevent further war and strife.
In 1922, the Grandiose Grand Salon had a historic conference. Curiously enough, during that meeting, a rambunctious Italian journalist had to be escorted off site. His name? Benito Mussolini.
Still, that geopolitical conference brought back much of the hotel's former luster, which meant anybody who's anybody wanted to stop by. Monarchs, Maharajas, actresses, bankers, industrialists and socialites. They all chose to make the Carlton their focal point of entertainment and leisure.
Believe it or not, that same rambunctious journalist was able to establish a huge army to follow him. Thus, in 1940, his troops conquered the hotel. That said, operations continued as usual, and were barely affected by food shortages that will rampant in other places at that time.
In June of 1944, though, the hotel was closed, and so were the joint beaches which became landmine fields. Come August, American troops came and the Carlton was reopened with two of its floors specifically designated for officers.
Jump forward almost a century, and the G-20 conference takes place In Cannes, featuring many world leaders, one of which was then-President of the United States, Barack Obama.
Footage of the Carlton Hotel is possibly the most ubiquitous of all hotels around the world, and it became the mainstay of the French resort town. Even horror film maestro Alfred Hitchcock filmed his movie "To Catch a Thief", featuring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.
While crafting the screenplay, Hitchcock was taken aback to discover that his writing partner, John Michael Hayes, had never set foot in southern France, let alone Carlton. Hastily, Hitchcock arranged a two-week trip to Cannes for Hayes and his wife in December 1953 and also secured a room for them at the Carlton.
By the way, Kelly encountered Prince Rainier III of Monaco at the hotel, married him, and departed from the cinematic realm. And it is precisely the place to mention that in the renovated hotel, the "To Catch a Thief" crew was immortalized in the rooms - Hitchcock in room 623, Kelly in room 760, and Grant in room 750.
Countless shows and movies seized the spotlight along the illustrious coastline of Cannes, where the Carlton Hotel stood out as a prominent figure. Some of these productions even took advantage of the hotel's photogenic allure. Among them, the notable gem was Elton John's triumphant comeback music video, "I'm Still Standing," filmed right on the hotel grounds during the mid-80s.
The guest list of luminaries who graced the Carlton and reveled in showcasing themselves on the legendary terrace is simply tantalizing. Here's a partial roster: Elizabeth Taylor, who brought along five of her spouses, Greta Garbo, Sophia Loren, Paul Newman, Pablo Picasso, Ava Gardner, Kim Novak, Walt Disney and Federico Fellini, to name a few.
During the height of the 2013 festival, a daring heist occurred, resulting in the theft of jewelry worth a staggering $1.4 million from the renowned jeweler "Chopard," intended to adorn the starlets on the red carpet.
Normally, both the jewels and the celebrities donning them are subjected to rigorous security measures. Therefore, it was quite astonishing that the thieves managed to breach the elaborate security system and plunder the contents of the safe. Some even wondered if it was an elaborate publicity stunt altogether.
Two months after the Chopard heist, in July 2013, an armed bandit stormed the Carlton, targeting and looting diamonds and jewelry worth 53 million euros. These precious treasures belonged to Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, who had organized a dazzling exhibition of diamonds at the hotel. The robbery lasted less than a minute but made sensational headlines.
Over the years, the Carlton has undergone various phases of ownership. Today, it is part of the prestigious "Regent" collection, one of the most luxurious hotel portfolios under IHG. The extensive renovation and expansion, as mentioned, took a remarkable five years and incurred substantial costs. Some speculate that the total sum reached a staggering $350 million.
These days, the Carlton features 332 rooms and suites, 72 of which have a coastal view. The suites that are named after celebrities have been reopened on the hotel's 6th and 7th floors, in honor of the festival.
Three restaurants currently operate inside the Carlton, one of which is the famed Riviera restaurant, well known for its Mediterranean cuisine. It offers three bars, a tea lounge and a cigar room.
A new restaurant named Ruya, which means dream in Turkish, has been launched and has been described as a wonderful take on Antalya cuisine, and is emphasized by warm Turkish hospitality.
Another newly established feature is bar 58, characterized by the ambiance brought about by The Great Gatsby, offering seasonal cocktails. The bar's pleasant design includes chandeliers and a ceramic bar.
Carlton's beach restaurant is excellent in case you wish to have some fun during the afternoon and evening, and even more prominently so for a couple who wish to enjoy a romantic sunset.
Now to the burning question, how much exactly would one have to shell out in order to enjoy the pleasure of staying in this new and rejuvenated Carlton Hotel? Upon examination, we found that a couple staying in a classic room after the festival is already over would have to fork out 1067 euros. Expect to add about €80 more in case you would like to have breakfast in Cage as well.
Obviously, the bigger the room and the more luxurious the accommodations, the numbers keep climbing, and it can actually reach 53,116 euros a night for the coastal suite.
Expectedly, during the festival, prices jump to a whole new level.