F for Fake (1973) Script

For my next experiment, ladies and gentlemen...

I would appreciate the loan of any small personal object from your pocket- a key or a box of matches, a coin.

Ah, a key it is. Good sir. Hold it up 10 feet over your head.

And watch out for the slightest hint of hanky-panky.

And behold, before our very eyes... a transformation.

We've changed your key...

into a coin.

What happened to the key? It's been returned to you.

Look closely, sir. You'll find the key... back in your pocket.

May we see it, please?

Up to your old tricks, I see.

Why not? I'm a charlatan.

What's that, sir? Did I used to be a magician?

Sir, I'm still working on it.

As for the key, it was not symbolic of anything.

This isn't that kind of movie.

You'll find the coin now in your pocket, sir.

Keep your eyes on that coin, sir... while it's returned to you as your key.

Shall we return you to your mother? Is this your mother? No, of course not.

Open your mouth, wide... and we'll return you your money.

And by the way, have you ever heard of Robert-Houdin?

Speaking of magicians, I mean? No, of course not.

But of course you do know my partner, Francois Reichenbach? Hello.

Houdin was the greatest magician who ever lived.

And do you know what he said?

"A magician," he said, "is just an actor." Well, good luck to you.

Just an actor playing the part of a magician.

Very nice. And she's fabulously rich too.

There's a good story about it. Do you want to tell it?

We'll come to that one later.

No, it's time for an introduction.

Ladies and gentlemen, by way of introduction... this is a film about trickery and fraud... about lies.

Tell it by the fireside or in a marketplace or in a movie... almost any story is almost certainly... some kind of lie.

But not this time. No, this is a promise.

During the next hour, everything you'll hear from us is really true... and based on solid facts.

You don't talk about Napoleon or Julius Caesar.

You're talking about Elmyr. Elmyr?

Elmyr? Who is Elmyr?

That question has yet to be answered with any real precision.

Can I kiss you too? Certainly.

Anybody want to eat?

In the world of the jet-setters, among us beautiful people... everybody knows Elmyr, but Elmyr what?

He has about 60 time the same name. De Hory?

He's called his name Hory, Heury, Bory, Sury, Kury, Bury, Dury. All the...

With put U-R-Y. Sixty names.

His real name was Elmyr Ferenc Huffman. Then 60 personalities... as much lies and as much real.

Well, it sounds very Jesuitical.

Yes, his world is a world of make-believe.

I'm not an actor. Not an actor? Elmyr?

I'm not an actor.

I am not a professional actor. He's a leading actor in this movie.

His profession, it's true, is painting-painting fakes.

Among all fakers, Elmyr is number two.

Once I saw a man from Ibiza... writing a book on fake, who came to see me to Paris.

He said, "I heard you are the first man who bought an Elmyr."

And that man's name was- Clifford Irving.

The important distinction to make when you're talking about... the genuine quality of a painting... is not so much whether it's a real painting or a fake.

It's whether it's a good fake or a bad fake.

Her name... is Oja, Oja Kodar.

And this, by the way, is from quite another film... a sequence on the fine outdoor sport of girl-watching.

Our sneaky crew of cameramen hidden away in camouflaged trucks and packing boxes... arranged for her to act for them.

To act as bait.

You see how it worked.

The entire cast... all the performers, except one... acting away like crazy for us without getting paid for it... without even knowing they were movie actors. Mama mia.!

Simple larceny. Well, maybe not simple. Mama mia.!

That year nothing was simple... least of all the larceny.

Now in this little gag, Lawrence Harvey... our leading man from yet another movie... couldn't arrange space for Miss Kodar on a plane.

Well, there's no room in this movie to tell you why in that other one... we squeezed Miss Kodar into a more convenient size for traveling... by a magical illusion.

But you really must believe that what comes afterwards is solid fact.

Yes, after this bit of hocus-pocus, the next thing we heard about her... was not as an actress... but as the leading figure in a notorious swindle.

I took another plane, grew another beard... made another movie and well before Miss Kodar-

We'll leave Miss Kodar aside for the moment.

But in case that mumbo-jumbo might make it seem... that there's going to be some trickery in this film about trickery... we'll repeat our promise... in writing.

The girl-watching was evidence of how much of all this was filmed... in blissful ignorance of the facts... about some of the various characters... who found their way in front of our cameras.

Well, Clifford Irving told the story in the book.


Well, by now, you understand, I'd fallen in with Francois.

And on the island of Ibiza... we'd fallen smack into the biggest series of scandals... in the whole history of hoaxing.

It was a pretty queer experience to start making yet another movie... and end up making yet another... with a story line rotten with coincidence.

For instance, that the author of Fake! A book about a faker... was himself a faker and the author of a fake to end all fakes- and that he must have been cooking it up when we were filming him.

Well. Quiet, please. Edith Irving.

Take three. Look, you've known Elmyr longer than anyone else on this island.

Do you really believe he did all those fakes?

No, I really don't believe it. Sorry.

I've been jumping around like this because that's the way it was.

Clifford Irving, take two.

Let's pull ourselves together if we can and begin at the beginning.

Now, on this tablecloth, which is decorated with a map, is where everything-

Which I've just loused up with some wine.

But I understand wine brings good luck behind the ear.

Well, we can use a little luck anywhere.

And here is - I'll have to mark it in.

On this tiny island is where the two great hoaxes were hatched - Ibiza.

One island, two Ibizas.

The serious, indeed, the very sober part... is part of Spain.

And the other, "An island in the sun," Life magazine calls it...

"where restless souls may find each other. "

The restless souls being, I guess...

Cliff Irving, over there- and Elmyr.

Coincidence number one: That these two world leaders in fakery... operated, quite separately, on the same tiny island.

That's Mrs. Irving. Elmyr and Mrs. Irving.

Clifford Irving, who declared that he himself... had delivered to Howard Hughes or his aides... the quarter of a million dollars publisher's advance... suddenly confessed today that Mrs. Irving... is the same Helga R. Hughes wanted by the police -

"If Clifford dragged Edith into this, "said Elmyr...

"I spit on his face."

This was later, of course, when everything was finally hanging out... or as much of it as I guess any of us will ever get to see.

And then we had to stop these Moviolas, use them as time machines... and then roll back and come in again... to the days when Clifford Irving, as far as any of us knew... was just a researcher into someone else's fakery.

And now for the truth, Clifford.

We'd like to ask you a few question.

My personal feelings about Elmyr are... very mixed.

He has developed a fiction about his life... and to destroy that fiction... would tear down the whole castle that he's built... of his illusions.

The illusion, for example, that he has not broken any law.

As long as people enjoy it... and it gives them pleasure, why shouldn't they have it?

The illusion that the world has always taken advantage of him.

Why they shouldn't have it? Why? If you were to put it to Elmyr... that he had taken advantage of the world... that he had cheated people, he'd be horrified.

These two have made each other famous.

They have much in common:

One of them is talent.

Well, let's start again.

We'll patch this film together... and we'll try to patch together Elmyr's version of this story.

I came to Ibiza in 1959... after I found certain aspects of my life in America... becoming too difficult.

I wandered around Europe for a time.

I eventually came here. I liked life here.

I liked the island. I liked the atmosphere. I liked the people.

And so I decided that is the place where I want to settle.

The island is, uh, simpatico... as they say in Chinese.

There is always a group of interesting people here.

Uh, I find the people amusing.

Sandy, come and say something witty.

Ibiza is not a place for snobbish society.

It's not London. It's not Paris. It's not Omaha.

It is Ibiza, and that's the charm of Ibiza.

That's what makes Ibiza why we like to live here.

Ibiza is Ibiza, and here people are themselves, you know... doing rather strange things all the time, you know.

So they shouldn't really be shocked.

And, uh, everybody minds everybody else's business very intensely.

Several months ago, I read an article... about Elmyr de Hory... and I was so impressed... that I decided to come from Minnesota... to Ibiza... in the hope of meeting Elmyr.

And now I have become... his bodyguard.

That's Mark speaking, Elmyr's friend.

He takes his duties seriously.

Elmyr himself swears that he goes in daily dread of being murdered.

This takes us into murky waters... where the lawyers tell us we'd be rash to go fishing.

In Fake! There's just a hint or two about this violence and danger... as a result of which, Irving, on top of all his other troubles... is being sued for $55 million worth of slander.

Interesting question: Is Clifford Irving being sued for telling the truth?

What makes a slight legal difference -

Well, if you buy the notion that Cliff Irving turned to forgery... before he turned to Elmyr... then I guess you can keep right on through the looking glass... and believe that his book about Elmyr is a pack of lies.

I'm sorry. A lie about what?

That Fake.! is a fake, and Elmyr himself... is a fake... faker.

Fake fakes! Fake, nothing.

Elmyr's a true faker.

Here, for instance, is a van Dongen by Elmyr.

Van Dongen studied it carefully... and then swore that he'd painted it himself.

He's now known as the greatest art forger in the world.

Well, I don't admit anything, I just talk about it.

'Cause he's scared. You know, there could be a jail sentence hanging over his head.

"Elmyr," cries a French newspaper...

"has sold his soul to the devil. "

They said that about a wizard of the fiddle.

Elmyr's another wizard of another sort of fiddle- a true Paganini of the palette.

It's no wonder that a faker like Elmyr... can get away with it for 22 years.

If you hang them in a museum or your collection of great paintings... and if they hang long enough there, they become real.

Because there's always a market for it.

How much is that drawing worth on the market today?

Probably around $8,000 till $10,000.

To my knowledge, he has never made a mistake... when identifying a painting.

What period is that Matisse? Uh, '36.

I, uh, feel that we should burn it.

When he looks at a painting-a Matisse, a Chagall- and says, "That's mine, I did it," he is always right.


There is just no way of talking about Elmyr... and leaving out Cliff Irving.

Not any longer. Right up to the finish...

Elmyr plays a very important role in his biographer's own story.

Now, just here, of course, he's stage center.

Willkommen! Willkommen.

And Irving, who, I'll have to admit... is a much better magician than I am... has yet to transform himself before our very eyes... into a superstar.

Francois, you know, we talk about your shirt, Reichenbach.

It was indecently ugly.

I can assure you.

I must tell you something. I went to the airport today. Oh.

I picked up a copy of the London Daily Express.

And there was an article:

"Exposed: A Man Who Holds the Art World to Ransom."

Exposed.! Darling, we can't have you exposed.! - "Sitting in the sunny studio -"

And then it goes on to tell the story of how I took the Modigliani... to the Metropolitan Museum of Art"- There's a big article!

"A profound embarrassment to them all."

Elmyr is a profound embarrassment to them all.

The art world, as it were, has been... a huge confidence trick.

"Exposed: A Man Who Holds the Art World to Ransom."

"Sitting in the sunny studio of his £60,000 villa... It's fantastic.

"On the Mediterranean island of Ibiza...

"it took Elmyr Dory-Boutin, the world's greatest art forger... just one hour to draw an original Modigliani. "

Today, on a sale, it would bring somewhere around...


There was really no time when he ever could have done it.

And also as a man, how I knew him... it was all much more a joke.

The world has yet to hear a word about that wig she wore in the Swiss bank.

There hasn't been a breath about funny passports... or phony signatures, and here's Edith... telling Clifford Irving that she can't believe Elmyr... had anything to do with fakery.

Therefore I never could think or will even think now... that he sat down and did those paintings.

It's a good drawing. If he did it, my compliment.

Should we burn it? And I only hope there are more people who do them.

Irving's book about Elmyr... is the story of a man of talent taking the mickey out of those who had rejected him... translating disappointments into a gigantic joke.

You think I should keep it for my old age?

All right, I will. So I put it back in.

You're a painter. Why do you want people to do fakes?

Because the fakes are as good as the real ones... and there's a market, and there's a demand.

If you didn't have an art market, then fakers could not exist.

So, the more, the better. No? If you say so.

Here's another little coincidence.

A peculiar moment during a lunch party.

And in Switzerland, checks are not accepted.

You pay cash on the table.

That's Switzerland. You are Swiss.

And you know it.

If you did those paintings, my compliments.

And I only think it's a pity that there are not more people like you.

And we only pray that he doesn't exist again.!

Mrs. Irving now claims Mr. Hughes himself asked Mrs. Irving... to deposit the money in a Swiss bank and then draw it out.

The manuscript itself, however... he maintains is genuine.

I've known Elmyr for about eight years.

We met when I was broke - when I was writing fiction and wasn't selling it very well.

His fiction didn't sell.

Elmyr's biographer is a highly gifted writer.

Does it say something for this age of ours... that he could only make it big by fakery? Je crois.

That a hoax has made him the most famous writer in the world? La grande suprise.

Cliff Irving's caper may well be the hoax of the century... but really, this is not, you know, in any way, the century of the hoax.

We hanky-panky men have always been with you.

That's a fact. - What's new are the- The experts.

The experts. The so-called experts.

Experts are the new oracles. While greatly pretentious -

They speak to us with the absolute authority of the computer.

Pretend to know something... what they only know very superficially.

And we bow down before them.

They're God's own gift to the faker.

All the world loves to see... the experts and the establishment made a fool of.

Let's say we could find... a Modigliani made by Kisling... a Modigliani by Elmyr... and one Modigliani by Modigliani.

It could be anyone from Knoedler to Paris or any of the great ones... who consider themselves great and experts.

If any of them recognize which one is which -

And if the lawyers would just let us... we could name you one highly respected museum... which boasts of an important collection of Postimpressionists... every single one of which was painted by Elmyr.

Elmyr, as the great faker of the 20th century... becomes a modern folk hero for the rest of us... who have a bit of larceny in ourselves... but simply don't have the courage or the opportunity to express it.

When you wrote his biography, you don't think you've been a little hard on him?

Some people even say, "After I did read the book of Clifford Irving about you..."

I like you even more than before."

You exploded the myth of the infallibility... of the art dealers and museum directors... in that you exposed their crookedness... their evilness and viciousness.

I went around to the art galleries.

Not with my book... but with a catalog... which included a great many paintings... that had been sold over the past few years.

In this catalog was this Modigliani... which is a Modigliani by Elmyr.

He worked very little. He died very early... so if they're added to a few paintings, a few drawings... it's not going to destroy his oeuvre.

I would say, "This is a fake"... and the art gallery owner would say, "Well, yes, of course."

"I mean, you can see it's a fake, because Modigliani...

"would never have drawn the line of the arm...

"parallel to the line of the dress that way.

And the background is very badly done, and the signature isn't right."

In the next gallery, I would show them this Modigliani in the catalog and say...

"That's a genuine Modigliani." Possibly, yes.

And they would look at it and say, "Yes, you can see it's one of his finest."

"It's a portrait of Mademoiselle Hébuterne," and "We know it very well," and "It's reproduced everywhere."

After that, I must say...

I lost my faith in the concept of expertise.

I don't feel bad for Modigliani. I feel good for me.

You name them. He paints them.

He'll do you a Dufy, a van Dongen... a Derain, a Braque, a Bonnard, a Vlaminck.

Would you like a nice Matisse? Many of these drawings... are very weak.

Matisse's lines were never that sure as mine.

He was hesitant when he made the drawing, you know?

He added to it a little more and a little more.

It wasn't as flowing, it wasn't as sure as mine.

I had to hesitate...

to make it more Matisse-like.

Et voilà.

I would like to see any expert... or any museum director, or any art dealer... who'd know which one is a Matisse... and which one is by Elmyr.

And I am ready to accept the challenge.

One nod from an expert... and that piece of canvas would be worth... maybe a couple of hundred thousand dollars.

And now, with your permission, a bit of verse... by Kipling.

"When first the flush of a newborn sun fell on the green and gold...

"our father, Adam, sat under the Tree..."

"and scratched with a stick in the mold."

"And the first rude sketch that the world had seen...

"was joy to his mighty heart.

"Till the Devil...

"whispered behind the leaves...

"'It's pretty, but is it Art?"'

It's pretty, but is it art? Well, how is it valued?

The value depends on opinion. Opinion depends on the experts.

A faker like Elmyr makes fools of the experts, so who's the expert?

Who's the faker? I know one thing.

I never offered a painting or a drawing... to a museum who didn't buy it.

They never refused one. Never.!

What's he up to now? This-This isn't a forgery.

No, not this time. This is a portrait by Elmyr...

Et voilà. Of another famous art forger.

Michel-Ange. Michelangelo, no less, signed-

I must say I'm honored.

My signature, forged by Elmyr on a real Elmyr... is really something.

You know, art forgery used to be admired as an art.

And though Michelangelo even used smoke on some of his fakes to antique them... like some of the rest of us, he finally went straight.

Et voilà.

Elmyr, reformed... and exposed-in the reverse order- was till just recently the island's number-one celebrity.

But now the crown has passed from the old emperor of the hoax... to the pretender.

Tomorrow at the party. There's a big party.

Don't miss it. Tomorrow at 8:00. What time?

The ex-grand master of fakery, not only unmasked, but eclipsed... by his own biographer... is putting a brave face on it... and giving another party. Eight o'clock.

At your house?

And here... I come to invite you for a big party.

Yet another painter from Ibiza.

Life hired him to illustrate the tale as Irving told it.

Nice to see you. Great. Hello, David.

David Walsh.

And this is his impression, based on Irving's report... of that secret meeting on the Mexican pyramid with Howard Hughes.

Here's how he's supposed to have looked... based on Irving's reports of those secret meetings which in fact never happened.

But who cared about facts?

Was Mr. Hughes a vegetable? A spook?

A gibbering lunatic? Was his hair down to his knees?

Were his fingernails nine inches long?

Did Howard Hughes exist?

Irving insisted that he did. Hughes denied the existence of Irving.

No, and I never saw him. I never even heard of him.

"Don't believe a word of it," said Irving.

And believe it or not, almost nobody did.

Why, they were partners, Hughes and Irving, said Irving.

They were doing a book together. Now the Hughes mystery would be solved.

Now, of course Irving knew very well that whatever made Hughes a mystery... was whatever had made Hughes himself a born mystery maker.

Here in the smoggy wonderland of Hollywood is where I last had to talk to him.

It was 5:00 in the morning 25 years ago.

And I found him, as usual, very bright, and pleasant, and polite.

Well, now this is like most of the Hughes legends.

It's just something you hear, and nothing you can prove... but for what it's worth, it seems that hotel bungalow... was supposedly the H.Q. Of that rather spooky brigade of midnight minions... we used to call "Howard's secret police. "

That's where that tree comes in.

Just precisely there, at 1:30 every morning, for who knows how many years... some chosen operative placed, at precisely the same angle... a small and very carefully wrapped package.

Howard Hughes in his nocturnal wanderings never once paused there... but it was always ready for him in case he should.

What was it that that mystery package contained?

A ham sandwich.

How can we believe that is true?

Francois is referring, of course, to Elmyr.

But about Hughes... well, who could blame Cliff Irving for believing... that Hughes himself wanted us to believe almost anything?

Look where we are now. When the old Hollywood swinger turned hermit... this is the hermitage he picked-his hideaway... his desert retreat.

The desert had retreated first, of course... to make room for the slot machines and the crap tables.

Then came Hughes. He chased out or bought off most of the mafia... bought up most of the hotels, and settled down up there... in a few rooms in the top floor of that one.

And all through the long years... not a shadow was seen moving in that window.

The good people of Las Vegas kept their eyes peeled, saw nothing... and believed everything they told each other.

More than one bemused observer... claims to have seen the whimsical tycoon... at 4:00 in the morning, promenading this highway... with no socks on... and wearing, instead of shoes... a pair of empty Kleenex boxes.

Do I believe that?

But people pretend to be shocked. They like to be shocked, you know.

It's in their nature. It's in human nature, you know.

What was he doing up there?

What were they doing to him?

If he broke his silence, would it be a... cry for help?

Well, if Hughes couldn't speak, or wouldn't... then somebody-and why not Clifford Irving- could do the speaking for him.

Nobody got near the man. Just a tiny band of mystery Mormons... were admitted to his presence.

Even high executives in the Hughes empire... never so much as laid eyes on him.

One man alone laid claim to having made it into that fortress... and you can guess who that was.

How had Irving got to Hughes in the first place? "Simple, said Irving."

He'd just mailed him a copy of Fake! With a friendly, sincere dedication... and the partnership was formed.

And if you can believe the ham sandwich and the Kleenex boxes...

I guess you can swallow that.

I mean, this episode is just so fantastic... that it taxes your imagination... to believe that a thing like this could happen.

Was that the voice of the real Howard Hughes?

I only wish I was still in the movie business.

Well, now he's on television... and a committee of journalists are interviewing his voice.

No, I don't remember any scripts... as wild or as stretching of the imagination... as this yarn has turned out to be.

Now remember how this went. Irving announced that Hughes had decided... that Irving was just the writer he could trust... not only with his book, but with the money for it.

And this involved an advance of some three-quarters of a million dollars... and he had notes, memos and manuscripts in what he claimed... was Hughes's own handwriting to prove it.

Now they brought in the handwriting experts.

Now just here Irving should have been feeling a bit nervous.

Well, maybe he was just as cool as he acted... remembering what he'd learned from the old maestro himself.

Elmyr was a good teacher, if only by example... and his most valuable lesson was this:

Don't be spooked by the experts.

My opinion about experts is that it's something far too overestimated.

It's a métier which shouldn't even exist.

And how right he was!

It should not exist that one single person makes a decision... about what's good or what's bad.

Sure enough, after much study and analysis... the experts on handwriting handed in their verdict.

The forgeries were genuine. The proof, and I quote, was "irresistible..." unanswerable, and overwhelming."

Thus Irving's papers, like Elmyr's paintings... were authenticated.

I wanted to find out what it was really like to try and get an expertise on a fake... and I asked Elmyr to do three drawings for me:

Two Matisse and a Modigliani - which he did before lunch... and put a little coffee stain on the edge of the Modigliani... to make it look really as if Modigliani had done it in some Paris café.

I then took the three drawings to the Museum of Modern Art.

The museum examined them for two hours... and came back with the verdict that they were absolutely genuine... and, in fact, were horrified that I wanted to sell them.

Besides, it's a true story. The story's absolutely true.

Well, Mr. Irving pretends that he destroyed them.

I don't think that Mr. Irving's character... is exactly a character who would destroy something... what he got an offer of 15,000.

I think it's a nice security in a bank vault... what could be unwrapped in 15 years again.

All the tales he tells now... are things that he has built up in his imagination over the years... and come to believe as true.

"The tale is as old as the Eden Tree-

"and new as the new-cut tooth-

"For each man knows ere his lip-thatch grows... he is master of Art and Truth. "

This created in him, I think, the ability to live-

I hesitate to say, a criminal life, because I don't think of him as a criminal.

He doesn't think of himself as a criminal.

To fool, once in a while, somebody very, very pompous... or somebody very- Pretentious.

Pretentious, that, I like.

Now that it's out in the open... that the world knows who Elmyr is and what he's done... and now that Elmyr accepts it and says to the world...

"Yes, it's me. I am the great art forger of the 20th century. "

Now I think he can recapture that personal honesty.

Good-bye, Matisse. I think Elmyr's problem for years... and the reason why he could not succeed as a painter in his own right... was that the type of life he led... prohibited him from having a personal vision.

"And each man hears as the twilight nears..."

"to the beat of his dying heart..."

"the Devil drum on the darkened pane:"

"'It's pretty... but was it Art?"'

Art. Take two.

And when an artist has no personal vision... what can he communicate onto the canvas?

Et voilà.

It's pretty, but is it rare?

Lots of oysters, only a few pearls.


The chief cause and encouragement of fakery and phoniness in everything... even what we're given to eat- an awful lot of forgery is committed these days in the kitchen.


The seafood isn't phony in here, thank God.

You can take the word of an expert.

Three friends from the old days who used to eat here were real painters:

Jean Cocteau, the poet and filmmaker-

Well, you might call him a Monday painter.

He drew the picture on the menu and signed his name, as you know... to a whole epoch.

Here on the walls are samples of the famous charm...

"of Christian Berard-" Baby, as we called him.

And speaking of charm, here's Vertès all around us.

Vertès had to be charming. He was Hungarian.

He started his career- and he told me this right here at this table-

"As a charlatan. I painted fake masterpieces.

I began," he said, "as Lautrec."

A woman, a titled English woman... walked in one day to my room... and she saw on the wall - pinned on the wall, a drawing.

Say, "Hey, where you got that Picasso?"

I say, "Well, do you think it's a Picasso?"

"And there was this art dealer" - I won't give you his name -

"turning down everything I showed him" - this is Vertès speaking- "when something caught his eye.

"'Where did you get that? ' He said."

"'That nice little Lautrec."

"I told him it was a very nice little Vertès."

"'I'll take the Lautrec," he said.

"And If you happen to find any more, bring them in."'

She said, "Would you sell it?" I said, "Well, delighted. "

And I suddenly realize I can sell something... absolutely unexpectedly for quite a great deal of money... in a time when I was unable, but absolutely unable... to sell any of my paintings.

"How could you blame me? I had no money in my pocket... no socks in my shoes, no real painting style of my own."

Even the amount of five dollars meant that am I going to eat.

I don't meaning go home and be full, but to eat.

I would like to see that poor Hungarian refugee... who would have resisted of that temptation.

Well, Vertès didn't either.

Like all Hungarians, he told the best Hungarian jokes.

The omelet, you know that, don't you?

Sure. It's a classic.

An omelet, it's in our Hungarian cookbook.

"To make an omelet," it says...

"first, steal an egg."

Well, naturally, to be Hungarian is not a nationality.

It's a profession.

But the truth about Hungarians, which they do try to cover up... is that they're not any more crooked than the rest of us.

But not the way they like to tell it. Of all the Hungarian friends I've ever had...

I can't remember one who didn't want me to think of him... as a king of con men.

As for this Hungarian's own tales of his own lurid past... they don't, according to his biographer... jive exactly with versions of the same events... as told by certain art dealers.

I do think art dealers... are crooked.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury...

I put it to you that between such witnesses... your choice, to phrase it nicely, is not easy.

Even if Clifford Irving mentions in his book that -

I must insist that I never sell to privates.

Some friend of mine say you should buy a fantastic drawing... that own a refugee of Budapest.

"Budapesht. " It's not with a "pest." It's with a "pesht."

He want to sell 10 Modigliani and 10, uh, Matisse.

At that time, when I sell to Francois... he was not a movie director.

He was an art dealer.

I tried to put it in art gallery. Then it was an occasion... because they were to sell for $200. "Occasion is a bargain."

Our whole story really starts, you know... with two famous collections of paintings.

One belonged to the Reichenbachs and was real... the other Elmyr was supposed to have smuggled out of Hungary.

From his family. Oh, no, that's a complete fabrication.

I can tell you exactly who he was.

After the book was published I got a letter from a man... who had known him in a concentration camp in Hungary.

And he said he was not from the aristocracy... but that he was from a normal lower middle-class home... and since then has refused to discuss it.

He just evades the subject whenever it's brought up.

It's terribly convenient, beside everything else!

Francois bought some of Elmyr's paintings... and sold them again in his art gallery for a couple of fast bucks.

For double the price.

You sold them for double what you bought them for? Exactly.

Before he did pay me for the drawings he did buy... he sold it already before he paid me.

Then the third year, I went back and -

He came to see me. He said, "I have other Modigliani."

I was a little suspicious. Elmyr said he has more.

More, but you see, last time - - And you thought maybe that's a little too many Modigliani.

Because the last time he say, "It's my last one. Take it."

Then, when he had others...

I say, "Where they come from?" But I didn't try to investigate too much.

But I kept - Why didn't you?

Like everyone.

Because they were very-I didn't want to -

You didn't want to know.! Not too much.

The year after, he call me. He say, "I have three mores. "

Three more Modigliani. I say, "I have already 10 in my rooms."

"I'm not a collector of Modigliani.

"Of course, if you had a dessin-

A portrait of Soutine. I love so much Soutine."

But why did you want a portrait of Soutine? Because I like Soutine.

I see. And I asked to Elmyr if he had one.

He say, "I don't have any Soutine by Modigliani. Why?"

Soutine was a friend of Modigliani.

Exactement. You asked him if he had it.

He say, "I don't have it. " I say, "Then keep your three others, even if they were very cheap."

They were the double price, but they were still very cheap.

Then the night, during the night, he call me.

He say, "Francois, you are a genius. You guessed I had one."

"How could you know? I found one in my drawer.

A beautiful portrait of Soutine by Modigliani. "

And now there's something else again what I'm doing here.

That is Picasso.

And now the scene changes... from New York to Pamplona.

This deep in the Hemingway country... you might not expect to find Elmyr.

And he said, "I'm going to reimburse you. "

I said, "What are you" - Reimburse you for what?

For the fake I sold you. Yeah, but you made a lot of money on it.

Yes, but he didn't know. I see.

And you know what he did?

He gave me a check, and the check had no money in the bank.

He gave you a false check. Yes.

For a false painting. Yes.

There's a certain justice.

Well... good-bye, Picasso.

It's a fact of record that art dealers-

Would you take this away, please, and - and bring me the steak au poivre?

Thanks a lot. That art dealers, either in ignorance... innocence, or simple greed... have made themselves fortunes on the paintings of Elmyr.

I have not the vaguest idea the money they got.

Those paintings must have been pretty good... or the dealers must have been... pretty bad.

I could not estimate if it was 10 million, 20 million - dollars, pounds, uh, zlotys.

A whole lot of them anyway made profits of a hundred percent and more on these affairs... and Elmyr himself has really made very little.

All I got was a little television of that size for the $250,000.

Even that handsome house of his, that isn't his.

A dealer has a deal with him.

Somebody must have made some kind of strange -

Deal. Deal.

I was fooled.

I was used.

And I was squeezed out- squeezed out like the last drop.

Because even the roof of that house doesn't belong to me.

I don't have a dime to my name.

So after all these long years on the run... even now, after his final reformation as a forger...

Elmyr can't feel much real security in this last refuge... in what people like to call...

"the golden years."

A little bit of luck. And a dash of larceny.

You've been freely owning up to your own past.

I'd better do some confessing myself.

Francois was an art dealer, and I- well, I was an artist.

I thought I was anyway. Like Elmyr, I too was once a hungry painter.

But not here in France. No, I was hungry in Ireland.

I'd come there to paint, bought a donkey and cart... filled the cart with paints and canvases and went traveling.

At night I slept under the cart.

It was a very nice summer.

But then when I got to Dublin... the donkey had to go up for auction.

And so did I. My paintings were gone... all given away to the Irish farmers who'd given me food.

I'd run out of paint and money.

I was 16 years old, and my career, as you might say... was at the crossroads.

Winter was coming in.

Oh, I guess I could have found myself an honest job... as a dishwasher or something, but, no, I took the easy way.

I went on the stage.

I'd never been on the stage, but I told them in Dublin...

I was a famous star from New York, and somehow got them to believe me.

That's how I started.

Began at the top, and have been working my way down ever since.

If acting is an art, cooking up that bogus Broadway career... was a fine case of art forgery.

And then later, on the radio - Well, we've seen how Elmyr started.

In my past there aren't any Picassos.

No. My next flight into fakery was by flying saucer.

We interrupt this program to bring you a news bulletin.

High government sources have ceased to deny... the presence in many parts of the country of nonterrestrial objects.

We return you now to the Starlight Terrace of the Hotel Glory in Scranton... to the singing strings of Laszlo Gabor and His Melodeons.

On the radio, I got my first job from Paul Stewart... and we were lucky enough to have him join us later in the Mercury.

Paul was a real capo mafia in the Martian caper.

"The War of the Worlds" was before World War II, remember.

Before television, in the great days of radio.

Maybe that's what made it all possible.

Another bulletin, ladies and gentlemen.

The latest word on the monsters from outer space.

Correction, from Mars.

Sorry, folks, that's what experts are saying. They are Martians.

TV would have shown us up. Half the population... got the screaming jeebies just because they couldn't see... how silly it all would have looked.

We said that the Martians were releasing a noxious gas... across the Jersey meadows that was drifting towards New York.

So, people took to the hills.

I met a welfare worker years later... who told me he spent weeks trying to woo some of the refugees back to civilization.

The entire state of New Jersey has now been cordoned off.

State highways-Uh, yes?

Ladies and gentlemen, a special news flash from Washington.

Any moment now, President Roosevelt will be receiving... a delegation from Mars.

From Mars. Peace talks are expected-

A woman-you just have to believe this- rushed into a police station out in San Francisco with her clothes in tatters... to report that she'd been repeatedly attacked by Martians.

She tried to take poison for the shame of it... and they stopped her just in time.

Were they little green men, or what?

"I can't describe it, she said. "It's hell. "

Somebody down in South America... did an imitation of that broadcast... and he ended up in prison.

So I shouldn't complain, I guess.

I didn't go to jail.

I went to Hollywood.

And to testify to yet another coincidence, here's a leading film director.

All those years ago, he went west with the rest of us to make our first movie. Richard Wilson.

Our first movie?

Well, among the first of our projects was to be a story... based on the fictionalized life of a certain famous tycoon.

Joe Cotten was to have played the part.

That certain famous tycoon, yes. But when the character was changed... to the famous newspaper tycoon, it became obvious... that Orson should play the part, which, of course, he did.

Oh, I'm not complaining.

No. I had a fine part in Citizen Kane.

But I was just wondering.

That original concept may have been fun.

Yes, I was just wondering... if I would have been the first or the last... to impersonate...

Howard Hughes.

This week, as it must to all aviation's pioneers... the great heart of a welcoming nation went out... to handsome, well-heeled hero, Howard Hughes.

Broken for speed are all records for round-the-world solo flights.

Broken, too, is the garbage man's record for sheer tonnage in ticker tape.

Well noted by observers is the appropriate nature of ticker tape... as a tribute to the high-flying Mr. Moneybags himself.

Why did we change our minds?

Change tycoons? Of course, we'd have to change his name.

And as a character in fiction... who could believe that a man like Howard Hughes could exist?

I put the sweat of my life into this thing. I have my reputation rolled up in it.

Hughes fighting here for the future of a controversial airplane... an all-wood behemoth, the Spruce Goose.

Other inventions had more success.

One example, the brassiere.

Hughes's design for a Hughes-directed hit movie... was, for mammary America... the cause of a great uplift.

Less uplifting was the Spruce Goose...

The biggest thing with wings that ever happened-

In fact, it flew for a few minutes only, a few feet in the air.

And I have stated several times that if it's a failure...

I'll probably leave this country and never come back, and I mean it.

And that's what he did, finally.

The super secretive celebrity... went all out for world fame... won it, and then got to be more famous trying for privacy.

Maybe he's a loser after all.

A lady from his past once told me that's part of his charm.

But this lady-killing, wheeling, dealing... death-defying, life-defying mystery man supreme... has a strange habit of winning somehow- sometimes anyway-just at the end.

Is he winning now, at the end of this story?

I only wish I was still in the movie business.

Our semi mythological night bird of a billionaire... has flown his Vegas coop.

But only to go on mutely roosting... on the top of various other holiday hotels... in germfree... air-conditioned solitude.

Ah, it's his decision.

On this planet... crowded and computerized... being yourself-whatever that may be - and keeping yourself to yourself isn't easy.

Make what you want of Howard Hughes, but not a movie.

Cliff Irving had more courage than we did... and as sure a hand, certainly, at fiction.

Also, I'll admit that he's nudging the Martians a bit... for the championship title.

It taxes your imagination to believe that a thing like this could happen.

"I do not know Clifford Irving, said the voice."

Until a matter of days ago, when this thing first came to my attention.

All over the world, people were saying that the fishiest thing in this whole business... was not Irving's part in it... but the identity of whoever it was who claimed to Irving he was Hughes.

And who do you think is still mixed up in all this?

According to one theory, who else but Elmyr, a man so skilled in art forgery... could have forged that manuscript?

Irving's lawyer is speculating about a host of theories.

Theories, if, for instance, that telephone voice... was Hughes and was telling the truth, we should remember... that Hughes had been known to make use of doubles.

And here comes another theory:

Now a double might be making use of Hughes.

According to informed sources, high officials in the Hughes empire... are not even now fully satisfied that the mystery is completely unraveled.

They are searching for a "Mr. Big" behind it all.

Was "Mr. Big" Mrs. . Big?

Edith, maybe?

Cliff Irving topped all this and stopped it dead... with a confession.

Charges could result in as much as 100 years imprisonment.

But this may be softened if Clifford Irving... agrees to come clean on the whole story.

He did. He told it all... not only to the courts, but in a book.

And now, as Elmyr leaves that story... and a chapter in ours comes to a close... things may well be looking up just a bit... for his biographer, jail or not.

This is a headline in London's Sunday Times:

"Hoaxer Irving Makes a Handsome Profit."

No, no, no. And for Elmyr, at least and at last... that story has a happy ending: He's in the clear.

Here's another coincidence for you.

To Connecticut, yeah.

Somebody else from Ibiza. This is our co producer.

Who's calling? Richard Drewett.

Richard Drewett, the only simon-pure noncharlatan in this movie.

Irving just now is holed up in Connecticut, and we're calling him from Paris.

And so excruciating is Richard's honesty, that he's insisted on warning...

Time magazine's nomination for con man of the year... that our call to him is being taped.

Hello? The book.

Can you say anything about the, um - the deal that you've managed to do with the book?

I mean, is it-h-has it turned out as well as you'd expected?

Th-The deal? Are you going to tell the whole truth?

Yes. Absolutely.

Yeah. In fact the title is The Book About the Book.

In two years, Cliff, you are going to write "The Book About the book About the Book. "

Gentlemen, was that the real voice of Clifford Irving?

Well, Irving's real voice as a writer... he may well have found now in his new book.

The new title is What Really Happened.

I want to paint my own paintings.

I want the right uniquely... and exclusively of my work.

And Elmyr? Will there ever be another book about him?

He's told so many stories about himself... always telling this story to that one and another story to that one. - Uh, I don't -

He's lived always on the run.

I, uh, stayed ultimately 12 years in the United States.

Which he spent there illegally, since he only had a three-month visa.

I lived very simply. I lived, uh, on my own paintings.

I sold them for $ 10, $ 15.

My own canvases. And then sometimes when I had absolutely no money...

I was completely broke, I made a Modigliani drawing.

I took 'em to one of the big dealers around Beverly Hills.

It never happened that I didn't sell them.

I always sold them.

One reason he was able to get away with what he was doing... for-for 22 years, selling fakes all over the world... all over the United States... was the existence of something new in the art world.

And that was the art market.

It enabled him to live from day to day... from painting to painting, from fake to fake... from-from con man to con man, from crook to crook... and from town to town.

Who knows? What is it? What -What makes you travel?

You want a change of landscape. You want to meet new people.

You want to meet new faces.

You think you'll meet somebody more attractive in the next town as you met there.

You never know. Why? Why people travel. Do you know?

Because the F.B.I. And the police in four different states were on his tail.

But, uh - And he had to be one jump ahead of them.

He had to whip off to Mexico and then up to Canada, and then back to New York.

And then when he heard that the police were knocking on his door in Miami Beach... he had to scuttle out of town on a Greyhound bus to Texas.

Hit hard by Torborg, but right to third baseman, Aurelio Rodriguez.

After one hop, the ball really flattened out for him.

Then, finally, on a distant island... he did find a home.

He doesn't own it, remember, but it's a splendid villa... with a fine view of the village... and the village jail.

To be in jail here is probably, I would say- here is better than somewhere else.

But a jail is a jail. Let's face it. Moment of truth.

He's talking about the time they took him down... out of that villa, which he doesn't own, and put him into prison.

Let me show you that again.

To be in jail here is probably, I would say- here is better than somewhere else.

But a jail is a jail. Let's face it.

Hemingway wrote a great short story... about an old bullfighter called "The Undefeated."

Well, all the heroes aren't in the bullring.

Here's our hero, our ex-jailbird... flying high above his troubles.

Watch the quick recovery.

That was quite a disgusting person.

He looks disgusting too, doesn't he?

He was, again, a German... whose main preoccupation was his mustache.

He kept doing nothing but touching his mustache.

He just kept on curling and curling and curling his mustache.

These other drawings are made during the time I was in prison.

In the very end, the judge himself thanked me... and he declared that I'm a very generous and a very kind person.

Now that he's out of prison, what will he do?

He'll give a party. Another party.

Elmyr, how do you mean you were not in prison?

Because I wasn't a prisoner in the full sense of word.

I was not imprisoned. I was interned.

She's a great friend of mine.

She's a great friend of mine She was very sweet and kind to me.

When I was in prison, she came to see me every day.

Most of the days of the week.

Jean-Pierre Ramon. I had a Spanish-Polish prince...

Charles-Touriski Bourbon, who's a cousin germain... of the next king of Spain, Juan Carlos, who came every day.

I had every day coming in Nina.

Nina, that morsel plucked... from our name-dropper's list of prison visitors... is the Baroness Van Pallandt.

She was a witness against Irving.

It seems he couldn't have had a secret rendezvous with Howard Hughes in Mexico... because he spent every minute there with the baroness.

She used to be a famous folk singer, and now she's famous again.

Many other ladies flitted across the front pages.

No, our cameras never got close to them.

But Oja Kodar was something else.

Uh, Miss Kodar- - The newspapers have been calling you the Hungarian connection.

Because of my connection with Irving?

This is from the tape of a recent interview.

There's quite a list. Indeed.

If only half of all that is true, I wonder how he ever got away to his typewriter. Well, Miss Kodar.

You wouldn't say that forgery's a crime? And the experts?

As long as there are fakers, I guess there'll have to be experts.

But if there weren't any experts... would there be any fakers?

A friend-another friend- once showed a Picasso to Picasso... who said, no, it was a fake.

The same friend brought him, from yet another source... another would-be Picasso, and Picasso said that, too, was a fake.

Then yet another from another source. "Also fake, said Picasso.

"But, Pablo, said his friend..."

"I watched you paint that with my own eyes. "

Said Picasso, "I can paint false Picassos as well as anybody. "

I'm not excusing myself. I'm not trying to make an excuse.

I'm trying to explain a psychological situation... and a human weakness.

He's not in jail today for basically two reasons.

A court case would bring such publicity upon the art world... that any art dealer who took the stand would automatically become suspect.

The other reason he's not in jail is because... the French police have explained to me that in order to jail him in France... they would have to have two witnesses... who saw him doing the paintings... who saw him signing the paintings... as Vlamincks or Derains or Picassos.

The signatures were put on... much later than the paintings were painted.

I never signed any painting anyway.

That's a very important matter.

No, I never signed any of them.

No. Never did. No.

Never did.

Of course they were signed.

Well, whoever did sign them... his paintings are in so many great collections... that surely it must be said of Elmyr... that he has achieved a certain immortality... under various other signatures.

If you-you hang them in a museum or your collection of great paintings... and if they hang long enough there, they become real.

Now, this has been standing here for centuries.

The premiere work of man, perhaps, in the whole Western world.

And it's without a signature.


A celebration to God's glory and to the dignity of man.

Well, all that's left, most artists seem to feel these days... is man.


Poor, forked radish.

There aren't any celebrations.

Ours, the scientists keep telling us... is a universe which is disposable.

You know, it might be just this one anonymous glory... of all things- this rich stone forest... this epic chant, this gaiety... this grand choiring shout of affirmation... which we choose... when all our cities are dust... to stand intact... to mark where we have been... to testify to what we had it in us... to accomplish.

Our works in stone, in paint, in print are spared- some of them for a few decades, or a millennium or two- but everything must finally fall in war... or wear away into the ultimate and universal ash.

The triumphs and the frauds... the treasures and the fakes.

A fact of life.

We're going to die.

"Be of good heart"... cry the dead artists out of the living past.

"Our songs..."

"will all be silenced."

"But what of it?"

"Go on singing. "

Maybe a man's name... doesn't matter... all that much.

And now, at last, we come to Oja.

For this true story, and with her kind collaboration... we offer now-well, you might call it a reenactment of recent history.

As we told you at the start, she comes into this only at the end.

And that's where we've left her, for the end.

And as for coincidence-

Just for instance, I give you Oja's grandfather.

Oh, no.

No, let's take him back for a while and save him for later.

The mixture's rich enough as it is.

Oja, as far as I know... never breathed a word about him to any of us.

She comes into this when she herself came to the attention of- well, who else, but the first genius among all the artists of our age.

The most celebrated, certainly the wealthiest painter... in 6,000 years.

Well, Picasso is the biggest phenomenon of our time.

It never existed that a painter was able... with one movement of his hand - what necessarily didn't involve more than 10 seconds - that movement of the hand... transformed in gold.

Not even John D. Rockefeller was able to do that.

His estate has been valued at...

$ 750 million.

Oja turned him into a girl watcher.

This happened not so very long ago... when Picasso, for reasons of his own... went to paint for a while in the little village of Toussaint.

Oja was there too, on her holidays.

And she had a friend with her, a boy named Olaf... from somewhere in the Viking country.

In his homeland, up there in the frozen north...

Olaf had been infected rather imperfectly... with a taste for the classic jazz of New Orleans... and his researches in this area took place under Picasso's window... where morning and night he practiced the trombone.

Olaf's trombone commenced early... finished late... and nearly drove Picasso out of his skull.

And then - then there was another distraction.

Far more disturbing.


Oja in the morning, on her way to the beach.

Oja at 10:00, coming back for the suntan lotion.

To the beach again... and back once more at noon for lunch.

In that climate, after lunch one takes a siesta.

Not Oja. And not Picasso either.

Cocktail time.



Oja on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday... and all through the week.

Week after week.

Oja checking on the trombone.

Oja escaping from it.

But no escaping for Picasso.

Was he tempted?

Perhaps he was... inspired.

I can't tell you what happened in there.

But Picasso was a fast worker, by which -

I mean to say, you understand, that... the results of this encounter were, to say the least of it... extremely fruitful.

Figs sweetened on the trees.

Grapes burst into ripeness on the vines.

And 22-22- large portraits of Miss Oja Kodar... were born under that virile brush.

Money. We've heard Elmyr on that subject.

Well, Picasso didn't make all that bread... by casting any crumbs of it on the waters, or feeding it to the birds... or giving away any pictures to his models.

But Oja laid down conditions. She put a price... on the sunshine.

To give it up, he had to give something to her. And this is true, you know.

What she exacted from Picasso was no less than this:

All those pictures - all 22 of them - were to be hers, outright.

Her property. Oja's very own to pick up and carry away... which is just exactly what she did with them.

The lot. Let's call it the loot.

She got away with it all.

Well, no wonder she's rich, you'll say.

But wait, there's more to this.

Just now, Paris is fogbound.

Just then - and this is important to our story- there was another sort of paralysis.

Uh, Paris was suffering from August.

This happens every year.

It shuts down, closes up... and this is the time when an invader could take the country by telephone... if he could get somebody to answer it.

And this is the time, of all time... when, down there in Toussaint...

Picasso, opening his morning newspaper... read that in a little-known art gallery in Paris... there had been opened to the public an exposition... of the works of Pablo Picasso.!

At this, a species of atomic blast... stormed out of the Riviera.!

In the American hemisphere... we give our bigger tornadoes... names like Ethel, Mary Lou and Dolores.

Well, what shook the South of France that day... should've been called "Pablo."

Booking a seat on the first available plane... the storm now moved toward Paris.

And there wasn't any improvement in the atmospheric conditions... at the airport when another newspaper came to the artist's furious attention.

"Picasso, said the headline..."

"has been born again."

Critics were hailing the freshness, the force, the fecundity.

But who cared? Not Picasso.

No. There'd been a very clear understanding.

None of those portraits were ever to be sold.

Oja'd get rich, but not a penny's profit for Pablo.

There are witnesses who swear that an aureole of blue flame... sizzled about that noble head... as the great painter burst into the picture gallery.

What is remembered - what will never be forgotten - is the terrible incandescence... of Picasso's rage.

And then there came a sudden... and quite remarkable change.

Those famous staring eyes... now stared as eyes have never stared before.

From picture to picture they traveled.

All 22 of them... recognizing... none.

Not one single canvas... in that whole collection...

had been painted by Picasso.

And there she was... standing beside him.

You told him about your... grandfather... that he was dying.

He didn't even know he existed. Nobody did.

The greatest of all the art forgers... remained always a legend, mentioned only in whispers.

Oja, tell us what you did with Picasso.

I just took him by the hand and led him out... and put him in my little car.

And drove him to your grandfather's secret studio?

This is true, you know. What's amazing is that he went with her.

Here are some pictures. These are the last I took of him.

And the first to be made public, hmm?

He was never photographed, except in the family.

He was very careful about that. That's why he was never caught.

You know, I never thought to ask Elmyr about him. After all, they're both Hungarians.

There are many great painters in the Renaissance, but only one da Vinci.

The point being, that among great art forgers... your grandfather is the da Vinci?

One of his da Vinci's is so famous I don't dare to name it.

Giving him credit is as tough as nailing him for the crime.

Crime? Well... he painted every last one of those phony Picassos of you.

For every last one of which Picasso was very highly praised.

But not, to put it mildly, highly pleased. You must have known you couldn't get away with it.

I got to meet Picasso.

So, here they are, the world's best and least known geniuses.

My grandfather was very glad to see him.

"Picasso"... said her grandfather...

"I've been painting you for years.

All the great Picasso periods. "

I'm not trying too hard for the Hungarian accent... but I think that's how it went. Oh, yes.

"This girl," said Picasso, "claims that you're dying."

"A dying art forger," he said, "is still an art forger."

Well, you tell us what Picasso said.

He called us both a couple of crooks.

"Oja," said your grandfather, "is quite as honest...

"as anyone that young, that beautiful... and that Hungarian has any need to be."

"She's stolen my pictures," said Picasso.

"She made you a gift, señor. She gave you a whole summer."

"It's not more than the price of 22 Picassos. And where, for God's sake, are they now?"

"Pablo -"

"May I call you Pablo?"


"Well, señor...

"it seems that in my son-in-law's new little art gallery...

"there are 22 paintings, every one of which has been acclaimed...

"as a masterpiece.

At least, that's the best critical opinion."

"The best critical opinion is a load of horse manure. "

Or words to that effect.

"How perfectly we agree on that, señor.

"But you have so little reason to be bitter.

"Is there a man in all the world who doesn't know your name?

And who in all the world knows mine?"

"You're one of those that use so many names that you forget your own!"

"I, señor, am not one...

"of anything.

"Like you, I am unique.

"You've seen my big Cézanne at the Metropolitan?

"Is that just a forgery, my friend?

Is it not also a painting?"

Now, you tell us what Picasso had to say to that.

Something dirty in Spanish, I think.

He did accuse your grandfather of arrogance.

Arrogance? A man who never in his life signed his own name to a picture.

What could be more modest than that?

"It's true that when you think of those great Rembrandts,"

Chicago has five of them. Important ones. "And London.

"Why, just those two small Tintorettos in Brazil.

"And Tokyo." The big one.

In Cincinnati. Did all the Goyas and most of the Grecos."

And the Monet. And the Manet in Detroit.

"So, am I not then myself"... said your grandfather, "one of the great painters?

"No? No."

"Yet here you are, Picasso, standing at the deathbed of a ghost."

"For all my life I've been a ghost."

"And for all time, the galleries and museums will be haunted with my works."

"Do you think I should confess? To what?"

"Committing masterpieces?"

"They'd all be torn down from the walls. And what then would be left of me?"

"But before I die, I find I need something."

"To believe -"

"I must believe..."

"that art itself..."

"is real."

If it is not, señor" -

Here, my grandfather was interrupted by Picasso... who asked him to stop making speeches.

"We've only to settle the fate..."

"of 22 large canvases..."

"painted by me."

"Picasso, you move so easily..."

"from one Picasso period to another..."

"change like a-an actor..."

"like an art forger yourself."

"Won't you give to me, who admire you so much..."

"a happy death?"

"Can you not let me go knowing that at last..."

"I've managed to give something new..."

"to the world?"

"One whole Picasso period."

"Would you give me this?"

"Give me my pictures," said Picasso.

"Give me back my 22 paintings. "

"Ah," said your grandfather. "That is impossible.

"I have burnt them."

Well, good-bye, Picasso.

Time for a confession?

Time to go. Good night, Oja.

That's her real name, you know.

Oja. Oja Kodar.

I don't think that young gentleman's a trombone player... but Oja's grandfather was Hungarian.

Did he paint any pictures? Never in his life.

Ladies and gentlemen, we did use Oja's grandfather... to lend verisimilitude to the reenactment of this story.

But is "reenactment" really the word?

What I mean is, with a story this hard to believe... reenactment isn't easy.

Right, Francois? Right.

At the very beginning, I - of all this - I did make you a promise.

Remember? I did promise... that for one hour I'd tell you only the truth.

That hour, ladies and gentlemen, is over.

For the past 17 minutes, I've been lying my head off.

The truth-and please forgive us for it- is that we've been forging an art story.

As a charlatan, of course, my job was to try to make it real... not that reality has anything to do with it.

Reality? It's the toothbrush... waiting at home for you in its glass.

A bus ticket, a paycheck... and the grave.

In the right mood, perhaps, Elmyr has just as few regrets... as I have to have been a charlatan.

But we're not so proud, either of us... as to lay any superior claim... to being very much worse than the rest of you.

No, what we professional liars hope to serve is truth.

I'm afraid the pompous word for that is "art. "

Picasso himself said it.

"Art, "he said, "is a lie-

"a lie that makes us... realize the truth. "

Oja's grandfather, floating here in the air... has no comment, which isn't surprising... because he never existed.

To the memory of that great man who will never cease to exist...

I offer my apologies... and wish you all... true and false... a very pleasant good evening.