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August 3, 2018

The Scandal of Simone Silva Exposed Herself Topless in the Arms of Robert Mitchum During the 1954 Cannes Film Festival

In 1954 during the Cannes Film Festival, the English starlet Simone Silva exposed herself topless in the arms of actor Robert Mitchum; named “Miss Festival” that year, the actress caused a scandal with this series of photos.

Silva was asked to pose for press photographs with Robert Mitchum on a beach of one the French Riviera's Lérins Islands, near Cannes. The photocall turned into the story of the festival when Silva removed her top and posed cupping her bare breasts in her hands, while Mitchum played along.
“The photographers got down on their knees to plead with me to take the top off,” she was quoted as saying in Ohio newspaper.
Such was the scramble to get the best shots that several photographers were injured in the melée, with two reportedly suffering broken limbs.

The press loved it, and the photographs were published around the world. The festival committee, however, were horrified that what they considered a vulgar and cheap publicity stunt had completely overshadowed the serious business of the fortnight, and Silva was asked to leave the festival.

Silva left the festival a few days later, but remained defiant: “As long as sex is box office and I keep my figure, I'm out to be the sexiest thing on, oh, two legs. So I took off the scarf.”

Immediately after the Cannes furor, Silva traveled to the U.S., hoping to cash in on her new-found notoriety. However she soon ran into trouble with the Immigration and Naturalization Service when it was learned that she had entered the country on a tourist visa and had not applied for a work permit, although she had been offered a contract by an independent filmmaker, Al Petker, and was picking up a salary. In June 1954, the District Immigration Director in Los Angeles refused her retroactive application for a work permit, ordering her to leave the U.S. within 60 days, and observing that: “She did not make a sufficient showing to conclude if she was a person of unusual ability and talent, or professional attainment.”

After her return to England, Silva found it difficult to resurrect her fledgling film career. She made only one more screen appearance, in a small role in low-budget crime picture The Gelignite Gang in 1956. She briefly tried her hand at stage acting, with little critical success – a performance in Glasgow in June 1956 was described as “too brash, too strident”. Her last credit was two episodes of television adventure serial The Gay Cavalier in early 1957. Silva attempted again to garner some publicity by hinting to journalists that she was planning another audacious stunt for the 1957 Cannes Film Festival, but what she had in mind, if anything, is unknown as nothing materialized.

Silva was found dead in her London apartment on 30 November 1957, aged 29. An autopsy gave the cause of death as a stroke. Silva's struggles with her weight had been ongoing, and friends believed that her lengthy period of excessively rigorous crash-dieting had been a likely contributory factor in her premature death. Some said it was an inflicted suicide.

As for Robert Mitchum, the topless scandal added to his popularity and he was frequently cast as the macho hero of the leading sex symbols of his time, including Marilyn Monroe (River of No Return), Kim Novak (Halloween) and Rita Hayworth (Fire Down Below). Mitchum passed away at the age of 79 in 1997.



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