French thesp, model, singer, activist and all-around sex kitten Brigitte Bardot was Cannes’ first ingenue. Her bikini-clad arrival in 1953 brought out hordes of photographers, but fellow Gallic actress Simone Sylva, by baring her breasts to Robert Mitchum in 1954, gave Cannes its most fabled image.
Over the years, the scene-stealing field expanded internationally. In ’58, Russian newcomer Tatyana Samojlova stole the limelight, getting notices for her work in Palme d’Or winner “The Cranes Are Flying” and described by reporters as “Audrey Hepburn with some meat on her.”
In ’63, a 25-year-old Natalie Wood posed in Cannes for Life Magazine while reclining on a divan wearing a push-up bra. Yet the most famous brassiere to hit Cannes belonged to Madonna. In 1992, when the European version of “Truth or Dare” premiered, the singer-turned-starlet strapped her amplitude into a pair of Jean-Paul Gaultier-designed pointed cones. Some 20,000 fans showed up to see her.
Ever since, designers have seen Cannes as a heaven-sent branding opportunity, and what was worn became more important than what was bared. (The most recent Cannes mammary moments were more about wardrobe malfunctions: for Sophie Marceau in 2005 and Alexandra Kerry in 2004.)
Pedro Almodovar racked focus on the topic again last year with this comment about his “Volver” star: “Penelope (Cruz) has got one of the most spectacular cleavages in world cinema.”