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The Movie Catch Me If You Can Film Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 1792 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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A confidence artist is somebody who exploits a person in order to obtain something of value for free or next to nothing. The first known con man was in England in 1849 when an American would ask strangers if they had the confidence to give him their watches, he would then run away with the object. Con artists usually have clever schemes, and have devised scams to rob victims as quickly and easily as possible. A very important factor for the artist is to gain the confidence of the victim, which was something Frank Abagnale did very well. By wearing the pilot’s uniform he received respect and admiration from those around him, after all, why would a pilot be scamming?

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Slide 2 – Book Quote

A Quote from the Book:

Frank W. Abagnale, alias Frank Williams, Robert Conrad, Frank Adams, and Robert Monjo, was one of the most daring con men, forgers, impostors, and escape artists in history. In his brief but notorious criminal career, Abagnale donned a pilot’s uniform and co-piloted a Pan Am jet, masqueraded as the supervising resident of a hospital, practiced law without a license, passed himself off as a college sociology professor, and cashed over $2.5 million in forged checks, all before he was twenty-one. Known by the police of twenty-six countries and all fifty states as “The Skywayman,” Abagnale lived a lavish life on the fly – until the law caught up with him. Now recognized as the nation’s leading authority on financial foul play, Abagnale is a charming rogue whose hilarious, stranger-than-fiction international escapades and ingenious escapes – including one from an airplane – make Catch Me If You Can an irresistible tale of deceit. – From the back cover of the book Catch Me If You Can

The movie Catch Me If You Can is very loosely based on the novel. There are several differences which make the two works very unalike. The movie shuffles around the events of the novel and even adds some cons which Frank never performed, like posing as a French teacher. The film also puts more emphasis on the FBI who are chasing Frank while the novel portrays Frank as almost unstoppable until he is finally caught in France.

Slide 3 – Forgery Quotes

The Real Story:

Frank conned his way into getting a pilot’s uniform and forged a FAA document, and he was still only 17. He deadheaded all over America while illegally withdrawing money from hundreds of banks. Frank was using a fake name of Frank Williams, and after a bit, he decided to settle down, and bought a flat in Atlanta. There he met a doctor, and was temporarily hired as a pediatrician, still without completing high school. Frank stayed there for almost a year, before someone else came to claim the job. He then flew to the southern part of the U.S., and became an official lawyer, with a fake diploma from Harvard, and passed the bar exam on his third and final try. He left after 9 months and became a university professor specializing in sociology in Utah, where he taught summer classes. While posing as a professional, Frank never cashed a fake check.

Frank’s criminal career was set into motion at the age of 16 when his parents divorced. While living with his successful father, he found out that his dad did a lot of drinking. This partly caused Abagnale’s decision to hang around the wrong kids, and one day he got in trouble for stealing a car. Frank Sr. bailed out his mischievous son, and when Frank turned 16, his father bought him a car. This car, an old Ford, led Frank to his ultimate downfall; his love for promiscuous women. Frank needed money because being with women was expensive, and by using a gas card he scammed his father of $3,400, which was valued at much more during the 1960’s than it is today.

After traveling the States for a little longer and storing conned cash in safe boxes, Frank went to Europe, and started paperhanging there as well. He came up with a fake airline crew, and toured for a summer, while exploiting banks. After bring caught Frank rotted in a French prison for 6 months before being transferred to a Swedish jail. Frank was eventually deported to the States, where he escaped, only to be caught months later.

SLIDE 4 – Movie Clip

The Themes behind the Story:

Broken Homes

The most important theme in Catch Me If You Can is how a troubled childhood can drastically affect one’s life. Frank’s parents divorced when he was 14 years old, leaving Frank to decide if he would like to live with either his mother or his father. He chose the latter because of two reasons, the first because he was more fond of his father, and the second because his other brothers had elected to live with his mom. Because of Frank’s broken family, he felt like he had to do something drastic to attract attention and draw his parents back together. Frank started hanging around with some loose-end kids from his neighborhood, and quickly became a juvenile delinquent by swiping candy and sneaking into movies. Little did he know he was on the fast track to become one of the most recognized con artists around the world.


As Frank struggles with coping with living alone while on the run from both his family and the police, he also struggles to find who he truly is. Posing as different professionals and using different names, Frank finds it difficult lying to those who are close to him and who he has built relationships with. Frank’s low point of struggling to find his identity was when he told Rosalie, the woman he was engaged to, that he was not actually an airplane pilot but a con artist. The next day when Frank went to visit his wife-to-be, a FBI car was in the driveway and Frank quickly had to take a flight across the country, never to see Rosalie again.


While trying to find his own identity, Frank develops an addiction for charming beautiful women. Frank started conning money so he was able to take women out on dates and buy them nice gifts, and as he became more dependent on his addiction he brought his crime to the next level. Most of Frank’s success depended on his lady friends because he would spend nights at their houses’ will he was on the run, even years after he had last been in touch with him. Frank’s addiction pushed him further and further down the path of crime until there was no return, and even then is pushed him a step further making him the most wanted con artist in the world.

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The Realities of the Situation:

This movie was set in the 1960s, when technology was still very basic. This allowed Frank to pass his fake checks much more easily, and allowing him more time to escape authorities. It also provided Frank with the ability to create fake diplomas and not be caught, since there were not any easily accessible computerized records of who had graduated from certain places. Also, he could create a fake passport, but now that is extremely difficult, especially after the increased security since the 9-11 attack. At this day in age, it would take much more than some glue-on numbers and a photocopier to create the documents necessary to perform Frank’s crimes.

Slide 5 – Story Pictures

A Bit More on What Actually Happened:

Frank Abagnale Junior was raised in Bronxville, New York by his family. When Frank ran away, he traveled all over the U.S.A. posing as a Pan Am. Pilot and passing bad checks. He visited cities such as Los Angeles, Boston, Denver, Chicago, Miami, and Washington, as well as many others, eventually becoming a wanted criminal in all 50 States. Frank became a doctor when he felt it unsafe to continue being a pilot, and moved to a resort, “River Bend”, in Atlanta, Georgia, where he resided for approximately a year. Once a replacement doctor was found, he relocated to the capital of a southern state, posing as a lawyer graduated from Harvard. When a real Harvard graduate started poking around into Frank’s Harvard experience, he fled and toured the western states before settling down in Ohio. Here, Abagnale became a sociology teacher at a University for a semester.

When his teaching time was up, Frank flew to California, and he went back to his paperhanging tricks. Abagnale got caught up with a woman in San Fransisco, and was there for a while, until confessing who he was, and fleeing and touring the western states. He kept traveling America before going to Mexico, and obtaining a fake passport there, which allowed him to travel out of the country. Frank traveled over to Europe, and visited countries such as England, Italy and France. He was eventually caught in France, after settling down in Montpelier. He was thrown into a crammed, black, 4x4x4 cubicle for 6 months, before being transferred into a nicer Swedish prison for an additional 6 months. He was transferred back to the U.S.A. where he escaped from his plane, and managed to evade the FBI for multiple months, before being captured.

Slide 6 – The Real Frank

The Real Frank Abagnale:

Frank was born on April 27, 1948 in Bronxville, New York to Paulette and Frank Abagnale Senior. They divorced when Frank was 14, and Frank was the only child of 4 who was taken into custody by his father. Frank’s father used Frank to try to reunite their family, but after the hearing, Frank Jr. ran away, never to see his father again.

Frank became a world class criminal, posing as a pilot, pediatrician, lawyer, and sociology teacher. He continued running from police, and kept cashing bad checks. Frank eventually became wanted in 26 different countries and all 50 States. He was eventually caught after years of running, and rotted in a French prison for 6 months. He was then transferred to a Swedish jail, and released to an American prison, where he spent another 4 years. He was released on patrol in Texas, and after several failed jobs (such as grocer and cook) due to background checks, he decided to try and help banks prevent crooks from paperhanging them.

One year after becoming legitimate, Frank married a woman named Kelly, and they now have 3 sons, Scott, Chris, and Sean. Frank teaches at the FBI Academy, and owns Abagnale and Associates. He is a legitimate millionaire, and approximately 14,000 institutes currently use Frank’s fraud-prevention methods. Franks has written 3 other books in addition to “Catch Me If You Can”. He has appeared on numerous television shows, and as of spring, 2011, and he now has a musical about his life.


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