Here's the story behind the 'most kissed face' in the world

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Audio Transcript: Marco Werman: You can learn a lot from a dummy. So goes the tagline to a car commercial whose crash test dummies take the heat of a crash so you don't have to. Well we're about to learn a whole lot from a dummy, rather about a dummy. This dummy might be the most kissed woman in the world. Get your minds out of the gutter, this story's not what you think. This one starts in the 19th century when the body of a drowned woman was pulled from the Seine in Paris. A pathologist was so smitten with the unknown woman's face, that he made a plaster cast of it. Long story short that face with it's Mona Lisa-like smile eventually became the face of the CPR dummy most of us are familiar with. She's got many names: CPR Annie, Rescue Annie, Resusci Anne. Whatever her name, millions have put their lips on her. The BBC's Jeremy Grange documented Rescue Annie's story. So fill in the blanks for us Jeremy between the "Inconnue", this unknown drowning victim, to her renown as a CPR dummy. How did you go from a mask to this manikin. Jeremy Grange: It's an interesting story. It goes back to the '50s. There was a guy called Asmund Laerdal who was a Norwegian toy manufacturer. But his little boy Tore, when he was two, came close to drowning I think possibly in the family pond. And his father saw this and rescued him just in time and managed to get the water out of his lungs and saved his little boy's life. Fast forward a few years Asmund Laerdal was approached by Peter Safar who had come up with the idea of CPR and he was looking for a way of devising a training aide; and together they developed Resusci Anne. But there was this question of, you know, OK what sort of face do we give this figure? You know initially it could have been a man or a woman. Asmund felt that a woman's face would be less threatening, and then Asmund remembered a mask that had been on the wall of his grandparent's house, as had it been on the wall of so many other people's houses you know across Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century, and that was the Inconnue. So he just took that mask and used it, had to adapt it slightly because the Inconnue of course has her mouth closed and for CPR you need an open mouth, but thats how the mask became the face of Rescue Annie. Werman: Jeremy, it's a fascinating story, you first wrote about it back in 2009 and since then you've come upon two intriguing post scripts. Tell us the first one. Grange: A few weeks after the program had gone out and I was visiting an old photographic studio, which in the early 20th century had been where everybody in Liverpool went to have their proper family portraits taken, on the wall of the waiting room was the mask of Inconnue so I-it was a little disingenuous but I said to the guide, "Oh, what's that?". And immediately without you know not missing a beat she started telling me the story of two sisters, identical twins from Liverpool who had, well one of them had gone to Paris, perhaps run off with a lover, eloped to Paris and disappeared, and her sister never heard from her again. Fifty years later the sister is on holiday, she's in Paris, she's walking down the street and she sees outside one of these cast maker's workshops, a mask, and she recognizes it immediately as her sister. And you know, kind of remains forever young through this mask while the other sister has grown old and I was told this story and realized how people love the story so much that they wanted to appropriate it and make it their own and they turn what is a kind of a French story into something that relates to Liverpool. Werman: Everybody wants a piece of this story now. Grange: Absolutely. Yeah. Well it's very difficult not to start weaving tales around it. Now that's kind of the way the other postscript comes from. Werman: Yeah, that involves an Oxford based artist named John Goto, right? Grange: That's it. He was a contributor to the program that I made and he was talking about how he'd played with the idea again. And he'd actually set up online a kind of evidence that somebody had actually found out who the Inconnue was. What it came down to was it identified the Inconnue as a Hungarian nightclub singer and actress called Ewa Lazlo, who was murdered by her lover. This was all a fiction, and you know John didn't really intend it to be anything else, he had set it there as a piece of art, just to play with the idea. But just this week for European Restart a Heart Day in the evening there is kind of performance theater, musical performance. And on the blurb advertising this performance it said, and I quote, "it tells the story of Ewa Lazlo who became the inspiration for the face of Resusci Anne, the first CPR training manikin, and the most kissed girl in the world". And this idea, this fiction that John had put online was now being appropriated as fact. So, you know, people just can't leave the story alone. And you know, part of the reason I wrote an article about it just to remind people, no, we don't know who the Inconnue is, and in a way do we really want to know, because we could have so much more fun with just letting our imaginations run with the idea of the unknown woman of the Seine. Werman: The BBC's Jeremy Grange, thanks so much for telling us the story and many different fictions. Appreciate your time. Grange: Pleasure, thank you very much.