History of Venice Film Festival

by Simona P.K. Daviddi
Venice Film Festival in 1947 © courtesy La Biennale di Venezia, ASAC, Fototeca, serie Cinema Photo: Studio fotografico Giacomelli

The first edition of the Venice Film Festival was held at the Excelsior hotel in 1932, on the Lido. Today, it still transforms Venice into a Mecca of international cinema and also a glamorous extravaganza, with its exclusive premieres, auteur films, movie stars, gossip and paparazzi

When the Story Began

Few people know that the first edition of the festival – held in 1932 – featured the Excelsior hotel as its beautiful backdrop. However, as the festival’s reputation grew, it became necessary to build a separate, equally prestigious building. As a result, the Palazzo del Cinema, which is the location still used as the main headquarters of the event, was built between 1937 and 1938.

The Palazzo del Cinema at the Lido of Venice, photo credits ASAC
The Palazzo del Cinema at the Lido of Venice, photo credits ASAC
Jane Fonda in Venice, photo credits ASAC
Jane Fonda in Venice, photo credits ASAC

Following a period of upheaval, including the outbreak of the Second World War, it was finally acknowledged as an event of international scope due to its winning formula – a combination of superior artistic talent and the undisputed glamour that has characterized the event since its inception. Many of those who were destined to become the icons of the new international film scene made their debut at the Lido.

Italian and International Stars in Venice

Since its inception, the Venice Film Festival has been attended by almost every major name in the world of showbiz and the list of anecdotes is endless.

From the divine Marlene Dietrich, who graced the red carpet in 1937, to Sean Connery, who in 1967 sped into the Lido, 007-style, at the helm of a water taxi; from the proverbial fights between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton to the former King Edward VIII, who arrived in 1956 on the arm of his wife Wallis Simpson, for whom he had abdicated the throne of England.

The Excelsior hotel today
The Excelsior hotel today
Brigitte Bardot in 1958, photo credits © courtesy ASAC - La Biennale di Venezia
Brigitte Bardot in 1958, photo credits © courtesy ASAC - La Biennale di Venezia

From Brigitte Bardot’s whirlwind romance with French jazz guitarist/singer Sasha Distel in 1958 to Paul Newman, who in 1963, while riding on a water taxi was immortalized in a photograph that was destined to become one of the most popular and captivating shots ever taken of the handsome actor.
More recently, there was the former Jolie-Pitt couple, who for days in 2007 overshadowed all the other stars present; a heavier-looking Johnny Depp, now typecast in the role of Captain Jack Sparrow; the unpredictable Madonna, who in 2011 attempted for the ninth time to convince the critics of her talent as a director and actress.

Alberto Sordi and Anna Magnani in 1956 photo credits © courtesy ASAC - La Biennale di Venezia
Alberto Sordi and Anna Magnani in 1956 photo credits © courtesy ASAC - La Biennale di Venezia

Find the current Venice Film Festival in our event section!

Related Articles