At the end of the 1930s, shocked by the interference of the fascistgovernments of Italyand Germanyin the selection of films for the Mostra del cinema di Venezia.Jean Zay, the French Minister of National Education, decided to create an international cinematographic festival in France, on the proposal of Philippe Erlangerand the support of the British and Americans. Many towns were proposed as candidates, as Vichy, Biarritzor Algiers, although finally Cannes was the chosen one; thus, Le Festival International de Cannes was born.
In June 1939, Louis Lumièreagreed to be the president of the first festival, set to be held from 1 to 30 September 1939. The Germanattack on Polandon 1 September 1939, followed by the declaration of waragainst Germanyby France and the United Kingdomon 3 September, ended the first edition of the festival before it started.
The festival was relaunched after World War IIin 1946, in the old Casino of Cannes, financed by the French Foreign Affairs Ministryand the City of Cannes. Although the initial spirit of the French festival was to compete with its Italian counterpart, a secret agreement took place between both nations, so that they will celebrate their international festivals in alternating years. The first Cannes Festival had a considerable success, so when the Franco-Italian agreement was made public it was heavily criticised and considered as a "capitulation of France".
The next year, in 1947, the festival was held again as the Festival du film de Cannes, dropping the international nature, but only in name, as films from sixteen countries were presented. Moreover, the principle of equality was introduced, so that the jury was to be made up only of one representative per country. Also, this year the festival was held at the made-for-the-occasion Palais des Festivals, although the roof was unfinished and blew off during a storm.
The festival was not held either in 1948 or 1950 on account of budgetary problems, offering no competition to the Venetian festival those years. In 1951, owing to better relations between France and Italy, the Cannes Festival was moved to Spring, while the Mostra remained in Autumn.
In 1955 the Golden Palmwas created, replacing the Grand Prix du Festival which had been given until that year. In 1959 the Marché du Film(Film Market) was founded, giving the festival a commercial character and facilitating exchanges between sellers and buyers in the film industry. Today it has become the first international platform for film commerce.