The Steven Spielberg movie Catch Me If You Can starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hanks was a biopic of this man Frank Abagnale, recongised as the greatest and youngest conman in the history of the United States.
National audiences have been captivated by several pop-culture versions of Abagnale’s story of forging checks and adopting multiple professional identities, most notably the 2002 Steven Spielberg film “Catch Me if You Can,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks. Abagnale’s autobiography served as inspiration for the show.
Who is Frank Abagnale and what did he do?
Frank Abagnale said that he first started deceiving people at the age of 15, and that the FBI pursued him for the whole of his adolescent years (Tom Hanks plays the fictional agent Carl Hanratty, loosely based on Joseph Shea who was a friend of Abagnale). Abagnale is seen escaping from the FBI twice in the film, the first time from a jet on the runway at JFK, and the second time from a detention facility in Atlanta.
It’s a fantastic tale. According to a recent book by writer Alan C. Logan, however, Abagnale’s account of events and the movie’s plot may be his biggest fraud.
Logan lays up an alternative narrative based on interviews and public documents in The Greatest Hoax on Earth: Catching Truth, While We Can.
According to Paula Parks, who was interviewed by WHYY podcast The Pulse host Logan, “what actually occurred was that, masquerading as a TWA (Trans World Airlines) pilot, which he only performed for a few weeks, [Abagnale] met her.” He “stalked” her all across the East Coast, found out when she worked by using tricks, and generally harassed her.
The version of the narrative presented in Catch Me If You Can is far more sensual, charming, and Bond-like than this one.
So according to Frank Abagnale’s story, he was on the run from the FBI from the time he was 16 until he was 20. Logan assured The Pulse that everything in the report was made up. “From what I was able to gather from public data, he spent the vast majority of those years behind bars.”
After Frank Abagnale’s arrest
After appearing on the game programme To Tell The Truth in 1977 (the event is even recreated in the film), Abagnale, according to Logan, began constructing the version of the narrative we see in Catch Me If You Can. The results of this were the best-selling book, many media appearances, and, of course, the Spielberg movie.
But hey, maybe Abagnale’s biggest scam is convincing the world for almost half a century that he was the greatest con artist in history. As of right now, he’s authored four more novels. Abagnale is the owner of the consultancy Abagnale & Associates.