Riviera Cocktail

  • Heinz Butler
  • 2006

The golden years of Hollywood gave us the first cinematic stars of a lifetime in the shape of Orson Welles, Greta Garbo, Gary Cooper, Brigitte Bardot, Grace Kelly and Cary Grant. Photographs of these famous faces in their prime have turned heads for years and what better backdrop to their seemingly effortless style than the French Riviera? That is where renowned photographer Edward Quinn snapped them at the Cote D’Azur in the 1950s. Riviera Cocktail is a documentary, out now on DVD, exposing his vast library of work during a decade when celebrities always looked their best — especially when captured by Quinn’s expert lense.

Taking a quote from Shakespeare that “all the world is a stage”, Irishman Edward Quinn seems to have had the best seats in the house going by the images he snapped. As a stirring record of the social and cultural life, his startling pictures of this glamorous time present the stars of the day at their best. His view was he wouldn’t publish the bad photos as they were only moments in-between the good pictures. If his mentality was carried on now by the paparazzi, we certainly wouldn’t have the same glut of “celebrity” magazines packed on our newsagents’ shelves. Instead of fashion disasters, boozy nights and make-up assessments, we would get beautifully shot actresses on beaches, the A-listers on swanky dinner dates and an air of respect for the lives of the most famous.

His startling pictures of this glamorous time present the stars of the day at their best.

Guiding us through this extensive archive is Quinn’s widower, who offers a few insights into the man behind the pictures as well as the stories that led to them, adding to the brief snippets of Quinn himself. A specially commissioned jazz soundtrack gives it a laid back but flowing musical accompaniment helping absorb the hundreds of images easily. This is no dull batch of family holiday torture as a narrator fills in any gaps with further information about his life and work, albeit a little over-praising at times.

Although Quinn claimed you could never take the perfect photograph because they only capture minute moments of time, he still had his favourites. One such image is taken from behind Sophia Loren in her hotel room as she gazes out across the French Riviera from her balcony. The eyes may never have been on Quinn himself, but this is a fitting tribute to his life and work that brings the 1950s to life once more.

Buy the DVD here…

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