Couldn’t you just die for the French Riviera? I fell in love with the Cote d’Azur aged five when I first saw Cary Grant’s dashing jewel thief and Grace Kelly’s American heiress play cat and mouse in Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief in 1955. I’m referring to the TV repeat, I hasten to add, not the premier. To Catch A Thief is that rare Alfred Hitchcock film that doesn’t have an undercurrent of darkness, mania and murder.
The director saturates the screen with light and colour and captures the French Riviera as a Raoul Dufy come to life. I will never forget the scene when Frances (Kelly) is sunbathing a the Cannes Beach Club on the Croisette, with the palatial Carlton Hotel as backcloth, and first spies John Robie (Grant). Grace Kelly sits poised like a leopardess staring from behind cat’s eye shades and Grant is at his most debonair. They are surrounded by beautiful people as brown as berries and toned like thoroughbreds in beachwear that belonged in a Horst fashion plate. Frankly darling, Scarborough was never the same again.
Though Edith Head dressed Grace Kelly like a dream in Rear Window, she was like a butterfly caught in the claustrophobic apartment belonging to Jimmy Stewart. In Thief Kelly is dressed for the Croisette, the ballroom, the coast road to Monte Carlo and hilltop villas above Nice and never looked lovelier. Kelly’s character is defined by her refusal to wear jewellery except for a garland design diamond festoon necklace when, in Head’s white chiffon goddess dress, she tries to seduce retired cat burglar Robie. She does of course wear jewels with an audacious strapless gold lame Louis XVI-style crinoline for the climactic masquerade ball scene of which more anon.
For all my mooning over the Cote d’Azur in To Catch A Thief I never did get to Cannes. No, I don’t want pity. There were a couple of press trips to Monaco over the years and last summer’s sojourn in Nice. But I haven’t as yet sported a striped Breton sweater on the Croisette like Cary. Perhaps you’ve guessed where this is going. A couple of years ago, La Farmer invited Vogue’s Jewellery Editor Carol Woolton and I on a diamond expedition to South Africa and Botswana for De Beers. Since christened Carry On Up the Chobe, the trip saw us hurled down open mines, charged by elephants in Chobe National Park and our bones shaken in light aircrafts held together by Bostick. I couldn’t have liked it more.
Most hilarity was had at the Chobe Game Reserve – the mis-en-scene of Elizabeth Taylor’s second wedding to Richard Burton – where hazards included grilled crocodile steaks on the running buffet, black mambas in the bushes and a family of tame warthogs roaming free in the grounds. I remember saying to La Farmer, ‘Imagine leaving the door to your cabana open and waking to find one of those snuffling round the hem of your muumuu’. Anyway, I digress. The American press contingent on the Botswana trip was led by the remarkable Sally Morrison who has had a million lives not least working with Harvey Weinstein and Elizabeth Taylor as well as De Beers.
Both Sally and La Farmer are now allied to the World Gold Council and invited me to write a new column this year for Love Gold. If you’re as much as a magpie as me, you’ll adore Love Gold, Rowley. The first ditty went up on www.lovegold.com this week. Let me know what you think. The layouts are fantastic, don’t you think? I was chatting to a PR girlfriend last week and likened the move from print to digital journalism to 1920s Hollywood when the silent movie stars had to adapt to the talkies or watch their careers fade. I don’t think newspapers – or god forbid books – will ever die but don’t want to be the Norma Desmond of the digital world swooping round in a turban saying ‘I am big, it’s the papers that got small’.
Anyway, long story short (too late!) Love Gold is sponsoring the annual amfAR fashion show, dinner and auction at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Cannes. The event is 20-years old and has become the hottest ticket during the Cannes Film Festival. To say I was thrilled to be asked to attend this year is rather like saying Elizabeth Taylor had a passing interest in jewellery. So before the month’s out you should be getting a letter or two from the Croisette. I do hope there will be time to don a pair of lemon Orlebar Brown swimming trunks in homage to Grace and Cary and hit the Cannes Beach Club for an afternoon.
Carine Roitfeld and Naomi Campbell are the hostesses with mostest for the 2013 Cinema Against AIDS gala and will style the fashion show as a tribute to amfAR Queen Mother Elizabeth Taylor – the first Hollywood superstar to shine the spotlight on AIDS awareness – with gold gowns from Dior, Tom Ford, Gucci, Armani, Vuitton, McQueen and Burberry. Let’s hope Sharon Stone will be on hand again this year to help auction the gowns at the gala dinner styled by Roberto Cavalli. Having never been to the Hôtel du Cap, I don’t care whether I’m seated next to the hat check girl on the big night. I’m just thrilled to be asked. Until next time…