Saturday 8 March 2014

American girl in Italy - an iconic photo shot in Florence, Italy

How did this great photograph come about and who are the people in it?

An American girl in Italy by Ruth Orkin
"An American girl in Italy" taken by Ruth Orkin
What do we know about this famous photograph? Well, it was taken by 29-year-old Ruth Orkin in Florence on 12 August, 1951, in the Piazza della Repubblica, in front of Caffè Gilli. The girl attracting all the attention was the then 23-year-old model Ninalee Craig (called Jinx Allen by Orkin). The photograph was conceived inadvertently when Orkin noticed the men ogling the beautiful, six-foot Allen as she walked down the street. Orkin asked Allen to walk down the street again for a second shot. The only staged aspect was that she asked the man on the scooter to tell everyone else not to look at the camera. Ruth Orkin passed away in 1985 after a successful career as a free-lance photographer and, with her husband, film editor and director. Ninalee Craig was still full of fun when she was interviewed in 2011 at the age of 85. She still owned the bright orange shawl that featured in the photograph and described her stay in Florence as having a wonderful time - including being justly admired for her beauty.

And what about the good-looking guy on the Lambretta scooter? That was none other than Carlo Marchi, one of the offspring of the Italian chemicals magnate, Ferruccio Marchi. After a scandalous and short-lived marriage to a French woman, he was sent by his father to America in 1956 for a "change of scenery". After a playboyish start, he studied business at Columbia and was soon part of the jet set, with numerous friends in Hollywood, including Henry Fonda and Gregory Peck at the start of their careers. His second marriage, to Gioia Falck of the Milanese steel dynasty, lasted more than fifty years and produced three sons. His sister married into the Frescobaldi family. He died in Florence in 2012, aged 82.

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