It is no secret that Hollywood has long had a deep affection for St. Moritz. Stars from around the world have sought relaxation and respite in this exclusive snow-covered mountain haven, hitting the ski slopes and enjoying the cosmopolitan, glitzy lifestyle, centred around Badrutt’s Palace Hotel. And, throughout the years, the resort and hotel has played host to such iconic movie legends as Audrey Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth and Brigitte Bardot.
The guest who perhaps cherished the hotel most was none other than the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock. The five-time Oscar-nominated director, visited the Palace 34 times throughout his life.
“Hitchcock first visited St. Moritz in 1924 when he was working as an assistant director and writer,” explains Tony Lee Moral, a British documentary maker, writer and expert on Hitchcock. “He returned with his wife Alma for their honeymoon in December 1926, staying at Badrutt’s Palace Hotel. It became something of a Christmas tradition to travel to St. Moritz for Christmas and celebrate their wedding anniversary. He would return with Alma over the course of their lifetime, until his death in 1980.
Moral continues: “Hitchcock and his wife would always choose to stay at Badrutt’s Palace when visiting St. Moritz. They had their favourite suite, a nostalgic reminder of their honeymoon in 1926. The Hitchcocks cherished familiarity and routine, feeling entirely at ease returning as often as they could every Christmas to Switzerland.
“I would say it was the sheer beauty of the region and the many cherished memories, particularly his honeymoon, that attracted Hitchcock to St. Moritz.”
St. Moritz and the surrounding Engadin Valley have always offered an exclusive and tranquil haven for movie stars, as well as providing the backdrop for some iconic moments in cinema. One of the most memorable scenes shot in the region appears in the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, starring Roger Moore.
The snowy peaks of St. Moritz provided the stunning backdrop for one of the most notable stunts in 007’s history. The scene, written by Willy Bogner, showcases Bond at his best, eluding the villain Blofeld’s henchmen as he races down the slopes on skis, dodging gunshots with a series of impressive tricks.
Soon enough, Bond finds himself hurtling towards a cliff edge and quickly tumbles off the edge. We witness Bond plummet at great speed towards his impending doom, that is, until, he detaches himself from his skis and deploys the Union Flag parachute as the theme music plays and Bond flies off to start his next adventure.
Although the parachute stunt, performed by Rick Sylvester, was filmed on Baffin Island, Canada, the breathtaking skiing demonstrated in the scene highlights the stunning natural beauty of St. Moritz in an exhilarating manner.
Interestingly, St. Moritz’s connection to the silver screen does not end with its cinematic presence. In recent years, the town has celebrated the art of cinema with its own annual film festival, held at the end of August and dedicated to arthouse movies.
As Diana Segantini, Managing Director at the St. Moritz Art Film Festival, explains: “SMAFF, the St. Moritz Art Film Festival, is an association that was initially founded in 2020 with the primary goal of promoting and showcasing audiovisual content and films within the Engadin Valley.
“We believe St. Moritz boasts a fascinating cinema history, highlighted by anecdotes such as Alfred Hitchcock’s inspiration for The Birds (1963), drawn from the valley. The cinematic resonance extends to films like Clouds of Sils Maria (2014), featuring Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart, set in the Engadin region. Even the recent House of Gucci drew inspiration from the time Maurizio Gucci resided here, although not shot on location.”
Segantini is interested in the deep-rooted connection between the screen stars and the slopes of St. Moritz. “The historical connection between Hollywood and St. Moritz is intriguingly rooted. In 1864, Johannes Badrutt, a visionary hotelier, revolutionised local tourism by enticing English guests to experience the winter, defying expectations of inclement weather. This bold move altered St. Moritz’s tourism landscape. Subsequently, luminaries like Brigitte Bardot, Gunter Sachs, Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich, Empress Soraya, Giovanni Agnelli, Stavros Niarchos and Jackie Kennedy graced the valley, adding to its allure.”
The relationship between the Swiss mountain resort and cinema gores from strength to strength, providing the inspiration for some of the most creative, talented minds and lauded films as well as being a dramatic backdrop that will continue to grace our screens and impress cinema audiences.
St. Moritz Art Film Festival takes place 12 to 15 September 2024.