Clint Eastwood and Leonardo Dicaprio's project about J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and, in some quarters, America's most powerful man of his time, is off to a respectable start at the box office.
J. Edgar sees "through the eyes of Hoover himself," exploring "the personal and public life and relationships of a man who could distort the truth as easily as he upheld it during a life devoted to his own idea of justice, often swayed by the darker side of power." It's a bio-pic that boasts an undistorted look at American history.
But would J. Edgar himself, using tools he introduced to the FBI, have identified the film's marketing materials as a forgery?
To lend an air of authenticity to the project, J. Edgar trailers, posters, the movie's website and promo materials all heavily feature the signature of Hoover as, quite literally, the signature look of the film's marketing.
It's a trick that suggests the film is official (almost endorsed by Hoover) and presents historical accuracy about events and the man portrayed. The problem, of course, is that the signature used by the film does not appear to be Hoover's genuine signature.
Compare the "J. Edgar" signature from the film's poster (left) to a Hoover signature from a January 1956 letter to the editor of the Orangeburg Times & Democrat.
Close, but no cigar. A selection of other Hoover signatures from various autograph memorabilia sellers confirms that the J. Edgar filmmakers probably cleaned up, smoothed and beefed up his 'John Hancock' to make it more recognizable as a film title.
Hoover was an innovator of handwriting analysis, making heavy use of the forensic science in cases such as the 1932 Lindbergh baby kidnapping. Ironically, Eastwood's film even makes a point to credit its subject, J. Edgar Hoover, with his accomplishments in bringing fingerprinting and handwriting analysis to the FBI.
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