In the movie of 2018 Can you forgive? Me?, Melissa McCarthy plays Lee Israel, a writer caught forging the correspondence of famous authors. The film directed by Marielle Heller co-starring Richard E. Grant as a friend of Israel and, later, complicit in the sale of his forgeries in the 1990s.
While the film does not follow a happy part of Israel's life, the end turns into something truly depressing. After earning money from his forged letters for several years, the FBI destroys Israel, putting his life in the screw. A court scene confirms the worst fears of the public (or belief in the justice system): Israel is guilty.
However, it is unclear whether Israel has any difficulties. In the end, we find his commercial barbs with Grant's character (at one point, fantasizing about stumbling into him). Although we know it turned out well for McCarthy, who received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress, see how the story ended for Israel in real life.
Israel avoided arrest, but was given house arrest.
In 2008, Israel left its criminal past behind and was celebrating a new chapter in its life. She just published Can you forgive me?: Memories of a literary forger and talked with NPR about the events that led to that moment.
Anyone who has seen the movie will recognize the script's fidelity to the book. (As for the truthfulness of this work, Simon & Schuster ensured that Israel did not return to its more inventive past, he told NPR.) Israel resorted to the crime to pay his cat's bills at the vet; stole some letters, forged others; and eventually got caught up in the FBI's trap.
When she agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy charges to transport the stolen goods beyond the state currencies, the judge was relatively light on her. Israel has not served a prison sentence. Instead, she got six months of house arrest and five years of probation. Ironically, there is nothing like a house arrest for someone working on a book, though we are not sure Israel began working on their memoir immediately.
The revealing lyrics by Noel Coward
All things considered, Israel had a solid run with its forgeries. It took about three years for the authorities to capture her. During this time, she stayed afloat and did not worry about the ideas of the book she could not sell. (Her agent, played by Jane Curtin, loses her patience with her at first Will you ever forgive me?)
The fall of Israel began with some forgeries of Noel Coward, she told NPR. After some success delivering "better Coward than Coward" to collectors, she arrogated herself and began making sly references to the author's homosexuality. Coward would not have risked such a thing in his very conservative age, and the traffickers were suspicious.
"It was a prison offense," she noted of Coward's sexuality. After the wind of these ornaments made the rounds between the traffickers, one of Israel's frequent customers decided to blackmail her. His forging days quickly came to an end. Fortunately for her, she managed to stay out of prison in the end.
While she passed away in 2015, she could at least be sure that her story was out there (through her memories). With the movie now on record, Lee Israel's memory will not die anytime soon.
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