May 9, 2024

hotel du cap-eden-roc, antibes, under the cherry moon

As Cannes’ Palais rolls out the red carpet, the grift begins for everyone from bellboys to producers trying to seal a deal over a glass of rosé and the roar of the crowds lining the Croisette. This gem of the French Riviera has become a hot spot for the jet-set and Hollywood since the first festival of 1938, when France wanted to create an answer to the longer-running Venice Film Festival. However, nestled south of Nice and above Monaco, Cannes is not the only glitzy Mediterranean spot with ties to cinema. Hollywood Authentic picks the movie vacation spots worth visiting on and off screen. 

the carlton hotel, to catch a thief, cannes

1. TO CATCH A THIEF (1955)

By the 1950s, the Cote d’Azur was having a growth spurt, and into this post-war uptick came Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief, featuring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Grant plays villain John ‘The Cat’ Robie who, on the run, tries to clear his name. He meets heiress Frances Stevens (Kelly), who falls for the cravat-clad rat. The ensuing fun is a travelogue showing the Riviera at its finest. There’s much action in the Carlton Hotel, the classic 1913 pile designed by Nicoise architect Charles Dalmas (whose belle époque edifices pepper the coast), which is now home to much of the fest bustle during the month of May. Hitch’s film romps through the hotel, past the striped loungers at its Beach Club, along its jetty, and also takes in Nice, Cannes and Monaco – much of it in Stevens’ powder-blue convertible 1953 Sunbeam.

Grace Kelly’s links to the town and hotel are indelible – she met Prince Rainier there during the 1955 festival and married him a year later. Tragically, she died on a nearby corniche in 1982. Since 1989, the Carlton has been a historical monument and when it was refurbished last year for Regent Hotels, interior designer Tristan Auer referred to Hitch’s classic in his staff uniforms: pleated skirts for women, seersucker blazers for men.

A convenient stone’s throw from Le Palais, it offers peace from Croisette promotion in light and airy rooms (the suites are named for movie stars who have stayed), boasts the largest infinity pool in Cannes and the brioche lobster rolls at the Beach Club are justifiably famous. The perfect spot for people-watching – and when the show’s in town, what a promenade.


hotel la ponche, saint-tropez, and god created woman


Few films have had such an impact on a place as Roger Vadim’s And God Created Woman. The breakthrough for both starlet Brigitte Bardot and St Tropez itself, it charted the town’s Riviera trajectory from fishing village through demimonde hangout to pastel-splashed resort. Vadim’s zeitgeist film concentrated on both siren-like starlet and sexuality in the context of an awakening town. As a prurient New York Times review sniffed at the time: ‘This round and voluptuous little French miss is put on spectacular display…’ The same could be said of St Tropez’ roofs, cafes and Tahiti Beach.

During filming the cast and crew, including Bardot and her director beau Vadim, stayed at the Hôtel La Ponche, a block from the water since its opening in 1938. Anyone looking for their own work/play haven can now enjoy its refurbishment by designer Fabrizio Casiraghi as a 21-room Provencal townhouse that boasts A-list monikered suites (the ‘Jack Nicholson’ gazes over La Ponche beach) and the Prestige, that was favoured by Bardot back in the day – perhaps because it promises guests the ability to sunbathe on its hidden balcony ‘out of sight’. French novelist and playwright Françoise Sagan was so enamoured of the view she sped there in her Jaguar X/440 and wrote: ‘I got up from my bed, I opened the shutters, and the sea and the sky threw the same blue, the same pink, the same happiness in my face.’ If you drive, the hotel has a car park away from the sea, but guests are ferried to reception via the cute cream Petit Piaggio scooter, and you can swap your motor with a boat for a nautical day trip complete with a picnic created by the hotel’s celebrated chef. Run by Simone Duckstein (whose parents established the hotel), La Ponche has always lived up to the promise of Vadim’s trailer, which described Saint-Tropez as ‘the pagan paradise of the French Riviera’. Duckstein attests that at its most pagan the hideaway was host to ‘men only loyal to their room key’.


hotel du cap-eden-roc, antibes, under the cherry moon


F Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night describes a fondant of a hotel for his central couple to frolic in and the jewel in the crown of Riviera luxe hotels, the 1870 Hotel du Cap, was his inspiration. He’s not the only artist to have been bewitched by it: Marlene Deitrich conducted a love affair with Joseph Kennedy under its roof in 1938, the menu was sketched by Picasso in 1955, Ernest Hemingway sipped nightcaps looking at the sea, Rita Hayworth met Prince Aly Khan over dinner and most Hollywood players have sat in the famous restaurant or dived into the pool carved into the craggy basalt cliffs. 

Discreet, chic and timeless (idio-syncratically, the ‘Cap’ only started taking credit cards in 2006), it’s little wonder it was the perfect location for Prince’s 1986 cinematic French fancy, Under The Cherry Moon – a monochrome doomy romance that saw the purple one as a gigolo out to seduce then-newcomer Kristen Scott Thomas out of her family cash. He teased her, wooed her and whisked her round the balcony at the Eden-Roc restaurant – the venue for many a Cannes Film Festival party, including the first in 1946 when a host of film stars (including Norma Shearer, Douglas Fairbanks and Gary Cooper) were brought from America on a liner that dropped anchor in the bay. 

Part of its appeal is the approach to the hotel, a driveway through the lush gardens and a breathtaking descending path – la grande allée – to the sea (and hideaway cabanas) through the palms and wisteria. There’s also the privacy: the Cap has a private shoreline, hidden villas and is far enough away from the Cannes hubbub to feel like a retreat. Though behind its gates lies every amenity for tennis fans, gastro-geeks, wild swimmers and those who seek the recalibration of a wind-down. Order the house cocktail, the Eden-Roc Splash, and relax.


testament of orpheus, welcome hotel, villefranche-sur-mer


Polymath Jean Cocteau came from a difficult background in Paris and flew south to reinvent himself as the dandy of the Cote d’Azur. The town of Villefranche-sur-Mer was his favourite spot and it plays a part in his final film, Testament of Orpheus,starring his muse Jean Marais alongside cameos from Charles Aznavour, Brigitte Bardot, Yul Brynner, even Pablo Picasso.

When he stayed and subsequently lived in Villefranche, he holed up at the peach-coloured Hotel Welcome, writing that these were the ‘best moments of my life’. That quote is rendered in mosaic in reception and the auteur’s favourite room, number 22 (he smoked opium in another), is decorated with one of his murals and an armchair showing one of his signature profiles. Opposite the hotel is the Cocteau-decorated Saint-Pierre des Pêcheurs Chapel – for which he was given a gold sardine by the local fishermen – and a car trip away, the Jean Cocteau Museum in Menton has a 1,000-strong Cocteau collection. But will you want to tear yourself away from walks to Cap Ferrat and tipples at the hotel’s wine pier? Dean Martin, Jeanne Moreau, Jack Warner, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor enjoyed its quiet charm – and Cary Grant and Debra Kerr filmed An Affair to Remember in town, while Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas blew up a yacht in the bay for scenes for The Jewel of the Nile. Both couples’ autographs are in the Welcome’s lobby.


day for night, hotel boscolo, nice

5. DAY FOR NIGHT (1973)

Nice’s legendary Victorine Studios have been home to numerous films, including François Truffaut’s film-within-a-film classic dedicated to the Gish sisters. The auteur wanted to make the movie in ‘the spirit of friendship for all the people in the movie industry’, showing the tribulations of cast and crew in making a project (and starring as the director onscreen). Steven Speilberg loves it so much he programmed it during his TCM residency, saying it is ‘one of the most accurate portrayals of what it’s like to make one movie, telling one story, casting one film, where nothing goes right – which is so often the case’. 

Though the interiors were filmed at Victorine, external shots travelled around the area: movie star Julie (Jacqueline Bisset) conducts a press conference at the entry point for most Cannes Film Festival visitors, the Côte d’Azur International Airport, and the cast of the fictional film stay at the Atlantic Hotel on boulevard Victor Hugo. Another Neoclassical wedding-cake by Charles Dalmas, it is now the Boscolo Nice and like Cannes’ Carlton, a listed national monument.

Julie and her cast would likely enjoy the loungers and view at the private Ruhl Beach, a ten-minute stroll from the hotel. Some of their mid-production angst might be tampered by the hydromassage tub and treatments in the 500-square-foot spa.


la piscine, villa ramatuelle, ramatuelle

6. LA PISCINE (1969)

The Cote d’Azur is one of the world’s finest backdrops for scenes of jealousy and lust, and this film steps up, making the swimming pool of a swanky villa the focus of a Gallic crime of passion starring Romy Schneider, Jane Birkin and Alain Delon. Capturing a fashion moment, with costumes and swimsuits by designer André Courrèges, it has been homaged by an ad campaign for Dior’s Eau Sauvage. The acting boasts a certain intensity, no doubt assisted by the fact that Delon and Schneider had been lovers – and that Delon’s infamous bodyguard Stevan Marković was found dead during the shoot. But part of the appeal of La Piscine is the role of the glamorous villa and pool as a setting for beautiful people misbehaving. A big hit, the film was so tantalising that Luca Guadagnino loosely based his A Bigger Splash on the project.

It was filmed almost entirely at a villa, Domaine de l’Oumède, in Ramatuelle, complete with covetable mid-century furniture and a view of the twinkling sea from beyond the ledge of the pool. The languid charm of toasting in the French sun wearing shades, a hand trailing the water like Delon, can be reenacted at various villas nestling on hills around the village. The Villa Ramatuelle has seven en-suite rooms and a large terrace and gardens, and the heated pool has a wine fridge in the pool house so lounging does not have to be disturbed.



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