09 November 2009
FRANK ABIGINALE JR 1964: CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
Frank Abagnale Jr, 16 years old, lives happily in 1964 New Rochelle, New York with his father Frank Abagnale Sr and French mother Paula. When a loan for Frank Sr. is denied at Chase Manhattan Bank, due to a series of IRS tax frauds by Frank Sr, the family is forced to move from their grand home to a small apartment.
Paula carries on an affair with Jack, a friend of her husband. In the meantime, Frank poses as a substitute teacher in his French class. Shortly, Frank's parents file for divorce, and Frank, scared, runs away. When he runs out of money, he begins to use confidence scams. Frank's cons grow ever bolder and he even impersonates an airline pilot. He forges Lufthansa & Pan Am payroll checks and succeeds in stealing more than $2.8 million.
Meanwhile Carl Hanratty, an FBI bank fraud agent, begins to track down Frank with little help from his superiors. Carl and Frank meet in a hotel, where Frank convinces Carl his name is Barry Allen of the Secret Service. Frank leaves, with Carl angrily fooled. Later, at Christmas, Carl is still working when Frank calls him, attempting to apologize for duping Carl.
Carl rejects his apology and tells him that he will soon be caught, but laughs when he realizes that Frank actually called him because he has no one else to talk to. Frank hangs up, and Carl continues to investigate. At a restaurant, a waiter points out to Carl that Frank's false name, "Barry Allen," is from The Flash comic books. Carl then realizes that Frank is probably a teenager.
Frank, meanwhile, has not only switched to becoming a doctor and a Louisiana lawyer, but has also fallen in love with a girl named Brenda. Carl tracks him to his engagement party where Frank admits the truth about himself to Brenda and asks her to run away with him. As he escapes, he asks Brenda to meet him in two days so they can elope.
At the Miami International Airport, Frank sees her waiting as agreed, but he spots FBI agents everywhere and realizes that he has been set up (with Brenda as the bait) and posing as a representative for Pan-Am, goes to a nearby girl's college to "recruit" girls to be "stewardesses-in-training," and returns to the airport the next day, using the girls that he recruits as a distraction to the FBI agents, making his escape to Europe.
Seven months later, Carl shows his boss that Frank has been forging checks all over the world and that he is out of control. He wants permission to fly to Europe to look for him. When his boss denies him the permission, Carl takes Frank’s checks to professional printers who deem that they were printed in France. Remembering that Frank’s mother, Paula, was born in Montrichard, France, Carl goes there where he finds Frank.
He tells him the French police will kill him if he does not go with Carl quietly. Frank assumes he is joking, but Carl assures Frank he would never lie to him, and Carl takes him outside, where the French police escort him to prison. Carl promises to have him extradited to the U.S.
The scene then flashes forward to a plane returning Frank to the U.S. from France. Carl informs him that his father has died. Consumed with grief, Frank escapes through the bathroom plumbing and out the landing gear when the plane lands in New York. He goes back to his old house, where he sees his mother and Jack Barnes, as well as a little girl that Frank realizes is his half-sister. Frank gives up and is sentenced to prison, getting occasional visits from Carl.
When Frank easily points out how one of the checks Carl is carrying as evidence is fake, Carl gets an idea and calls for an interview with the FBI. At the interview, the FBI informs Frank that he can serve out the remainder of his sentence working in the FBI's bank fraud department, under Carl’s custody, to which Frank accepts. Though somewhat content,
Frank still misses the thrill of the chase and attempts to be a pilot again. Carl catches him, but lets him fly anyway, remarking "sometimes it's easier living the lie," and says he knows Frank will be back, as no-one is chasing him.
On Monday, though delayed, Frank does return, and finally reveals to Carl that not all of his careers were cons—Frank passed the Louisiana Bar exam by studying for it for two weeks.
The epilogue shows that Frank is happily married with three sons, lives in the Midwest, and is still good friends with Carl. Frank has helped catch some of the world's most elusive money forgers and earns millions creating unforgeable checks. Frank give lecturers for the FBI and large corporations in check fraud and security.
Fictions in the Film
Despite the various changes from real-life events, Abagnale believed Spielberg was the only filmmaker who "could do this film justice."However, Abagnale had little involvement with the film. In November 2001, he had "never met nor spoken to Steven Spielberg and I have not read the script. I prefer not to.
I understand that they now portray my father in a better light, as he really was. Steven Spielberg has told the screenplay writer (Jeff Nathanson) that he wants complete accuracy in the relationships and actual scams that I perpetrated," Abagnale reported. "I hope in the end the movie will be entertaining, exciting, funny and bring home an important message about family, childhood and divorce."
Abagnale never saw his father after he ran away from home. Spielberg "wanted to continue to have that connection where Frank kept trying to please his father; by making him proud of him; by seeing him in the uniform, the Pan-American uniform." However, Abagnale praised the idea. "Even though I didn't see my dad again, every night after living a brilliant day and meeting many women, and making much money, I'd come back alone to a hotel room and I would just think of my mom and dad and fantasize about getting them back together again, and cry. It's the justification of a fantasy."
Abagnale was depicted as an only child in the film. In fact he was one of 4 children. Abagnale's mother never remarried nor did she have any more children after her divorce.
In one scene Frank, Jr. is interviewing college girls to be his stewardesses-in-training, one girl sings John Denver's "Leaving On A Jet Plane" as a part of her interview. This is anachronistic, because when Frank does this, it's 1966, but the song wasn't released until the next year.
Carl Hanratty (portrayed by Tom Hanks) is based on FBI agent Joe Shaye. In the shooting script the character was referred to as Joe Shaye, but was changed to Carl Hanratty for unknown reasons. Abagnale simply escaped from the back of a Boeing 737, not through a toilet. Spielberg "added that for laughs."
The real FBI agent who first caught Abagnale was Joe Shea (Shaye). Without identifying him, Abagnale tells a Blackstone Audio interviewer (near the end of the link):
In my book I called him Agent O'Riley, but that's not his real name. He is in his 80s and has been retired from the FBI for many years. We have a wonderful relationship and I correspond and speak with him often.
Shea (then the FBI's lead agent in Marietta, Georgia), caught Abagnale at a motel in Smyrna, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. Although he spent very little time in the now-expanded Cobb County jail, Abagnale escaped during a work detail.
Eighty-three years old at the time of the movie's release, Shea told the Marietta Daily Journal:
He was not a violent type of criminal - no guns, no knives, never hurt anybody. That wasn't his style. He used his brains and his bravado to pass himself off as what he was impersonating.
Although Frank slipped through the FBI's control in Georgia, he was less fortunate with the French authorities. It was there - where prisons are more like 17th century nightmares than 20th century rehabilitation houses - that Abagnale began his course correction.