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The Kiss Heard Around the World


PARIS — The mystery of just who did the smooching in "Le Baiser de l'Hotel de Ville" (The Kiss at City Hall) has been solved by a French court.

Was it the retired couple who claimed they were the young lovers whose kiss was immortalized in one of the world's best-known photographs 43 years ago? No.

Was it Francoise Bornet, the model who was making a financial claim? Oui, but she's not entitled to a franc.

The rulings ended the controversy, and much of the mystique, swirling around the black-and-white shot that shows a young couple kissing on a Paris street in 1950.

In their lawsuit, Jean-Louis and Denise Lavergne claimed they were the lovers and sought $92,600 in damages. As the case gathered steam, Bornet emerged and sued the photographer, Robert Doisneau for $18,500 and a percentage of the photograph's sales. The photo, a symbol of youthful love, has been reproduced on posters, postcards, mugs and T-shirts.

During a hearing last week, Doisneau conceded Bornet was the model, but the court said Wednesday that Bornet's features were not sufficiently clear for her to claim damages.

Jacques Carteaud, a winegrower who was the male model in the photograph, did not join the case. He said that he and Bornet were fairly paid 500 francs--about $100--at the time.

The Lavergnes claimed the photo was taken after they left a department store to shop for their wedding.

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