The Story of Margret Keane
Sad Eyed Children, Big Eyed Art, Doe Eyed Orphans or Sorrowful, wide-eyed waifs, whatever name you used to describe them, there’s one thing for sure, with no grey areas, you either loved them or you hated them.
Artist Margaret Keane was born in 1927, by the 60’s she was a pop art sensation. Margaret was married to Walter Keane for ten years, from 1955 to 1965. A film about her life is being made called “BIG EYES”. Tim Burton, a fan of Margaret’s work, will co-produce the film. Early rumours had Ryan Reynolds and Reese Witherspoon in the staring rolls. The latest to be put up for the lead roles are Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams.
The script was penned by Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander and Tim Burton will direct the movie said to be released in August 2014.
The film will start just before Margaret and Walter meet up, and ends in a spectacular court scene where Margaret gets her day in court.
Margaret now lives in Napa County, California.
Personally I can’t wait until the film comes out. Now I have to go and find all those paintings my sister had hanging up on her anaglypta-wallpapered bedroom walls in the seventies, as they should skyrocket in price after the film.
BIG EYES by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
At the beginning of the script the year is 1955 and Margaret with her eight-year old daughter Jane, leaves her first husband, and lands in the wild and cool beatnik epicenter of San Francisco. The place is foreign and strange, yet she gets a sense that this would be a great place to settle as an artist.
Margaret runs into Walter Keane whilst sketching tourists for a few dollars at Fisherman’s Wharf. Walter made an impression on her dressed like a Parisian Artist in a turtle neck and black beret flogging his Paris street scenes with the gusto of a fairground sideshow boss. As soon as Walter meets Margaret he foreshadows his future actions by criticizing her for selling herself and her artwork too short.
It’s not long before they pitch their easels next to each other in the park and start a courtship. Jane, Margaret’s daughter notices that Walter’s canvas is always blank. We learn that Walter is really a commercial realtor. They soon get married and honeymoon in Hawaii. in this script version, they decide not to delve in length into the reason why they get married so hastily, just a letter from Margaret’s ex-husband accusing her of being an unfit mother.
Walter’s artwork is shunned by a Gallery owner which motivates him to rent wall-space in the hungry I, a hugely popular and hip jazz club, and he exhibits his and wife Margaret’s work. At this time they both sign their works as Keane and Walter is soon credited with the sad-eyed-girls, hungry for sales he takes credit for the works. The Jazz club is further instrumental in their success when the club owner and Walter come to blows and are caught on camera; this catapults both the club and the paintings to overnight popularity and Walter deeper and deeper into his lie, a lie that eventually becomes real to him.
The paintings start shifting even though art critics snubbed them, one critic suggested they were “the very definition of tasteless hack work”. The layman loved them, and Walter found they had to start printing off posters and framed prints to keep up with demand.
There’s not doubt Walter had a flair for marketing, he opens up a gallery across from the first gallery that shunned him and started giving paintings away to famous and influential people including, Natalie wood, Jerry Lewis and Kim Novak also sending one of John Jr. and Caroline Kennedy to the White House.
Walter Keane churned out work, sausage factory style, well before Warhol and his helpers. Walter’s sweat shop consisted of Margaret only, whilst she grafted he wallowed in his self-promotion, and the secret was kept even from Margaret’s daughter.
Margaret becomes more and more depressed, which reflects in her artwork, almost self-portraits, which makes it more difficult for Walter to explain his inspiration.
The script heads towards the climax, where Margaret gets her day in court after remaining silent for years. A radio interview in 1970 prompted Margaret to admit she and she alone painted the wide-eyed waifs, and at this time challenged Walter to a public painting contest, Walter was a no show.
A couple of years go by and Walter surfaces suggesting to USA Today that Margaret thought that he was dead and that’s why she was making her claims. This led to a slander suit from Margaret.
When they both walked into the Honolulu federal court, 20 years had passed since either one had seen each other. Walter was 70 and Margaret 58, the whole trial lasted for 3½-week with plenty of sparks. According to Margaret the only reason she was obsequies and gave into Walter’s wishes was because she feared for her and her daughter’s lives.
Margaret brought into court paintings from her childhood, and clinched it when she painted a boy’s face in fifty three minutes, showing obviously that she is in fact the creator of Big Eyes. Walter was challenged to pick up a paint brush but declined clutching his should, saying he was taking medication and declined the challenge. The court awarded Margaret $4 million for damaged reputation and emotional distress at the hand of Walter’s false statements.
At the end of the Script a reporter asks Margaret if she feels vindicated by the high award, she replies that it was never about the money and anyway she doesn’t think that Walter would pay up. Margaret adds that she just wanted rightful credit for her work and to get her art back, my prayers are answered.