When I went to Cannes a couple of years ago I sat on the beach and watched paparazzi patrolling up and down (they didn't spot me as I was incognito - the old Posh Spice disguise always works). It cost something like 20 euros to have a plate of frites delivered to your sunlounger by a handsome waiter. I took the ubiquitous photo of the facade of the Carlton Hotel which actually includes other people taking a photo of the Carlton Hotel - and generally walked along La Croisette feeling a bit shortchanged. Not that I expected to see Gregory Peck emerging from the sea and jumping into a convertible with Grace Kelly or anything. I would have been just as disappointed if I'd seen Puffy or Diddy or whatever his name is today.
Born in the wrong era...sigh.
If only I'd just watched Riviera Cocktail. It's a funny little film, since it's full of stills photos, taken by Edward Quinn, who basically hung around on the Cote d'Azur subtly charming all the major stars of the silver screen of the '50s and '60s into being photographed by him. It all sounds so civilised: in the days when stars were able to function without an entourage of agents, PRs, stylists, make up artists and handlers, that he was able to pop up to Sofia Loren's room at the Carlton, tap on the door, introduce himself and ask her if she fancied doing a few pictures. And she said yes. Can you imagine anything like that happening today? His name actually didn't immediately ring a bell at first but his pictures are certainly iconic.
It's testament to Edward "Ted" Quinn's subtle charm and integrity that he was able to have such unrestricted access to people and as a result, his pictures look almost like snapshots of friends, at dinner, laughing, dancing, being themselves. They are comfortable with him being around with a camera. He also took the only photos that exist of Grace Kelly meeting Prince Rainier for the first time. Quinn also became close to Pablo Picasso and took all those famous pictures of him at work in his studio and at home.
Grace Kelly - I've obviously got a thing about sunglasses indoors.
The film is a very personal one and at times, a little odd; mostly due to the jazz band that kind of jams along to the pictures as they're shown. Edward Quinn was a musician before he was a photographer so I don't know if they were guys he knew or what, but I didn't quite get that. The music was great, but to have the band actually discussing the photos? Odd.
Anyway, what was lovely was Gret Quinn, Edward's widow who had spent most of her life sorting and archiving his work. She talked about how he started photographing pin-ups on the beach, how he approached people and got to know them. When he first photographed Brigitte Bardot she was very young, an ingenue and more than happy that he wanted to shoot her. A young Audrey Hepburn was ecstatic as she was finding it hard to get press interest at the time.
It's these little bits of info that make Riviera Cocktail such a gem and makes me wonder why it seems to have quietly been released last year and I just chanced upon it, as with the name of Edward Quinn - I wonder why, judging by this amazing body of work, his name isn't instantly recognisable (maybe just to me)?
The film was made after he died, although there was some footage of an earlier interview with him, where he seemed quite lovely. The kind of honourable chap who sadly, like the era he captured is pretty much extinct.
Photos are all (c) Edward Quinn from the Edward Quinn archive.