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Catch Me if You Can Analysis Essay

People become celebrities if they have this or that talent. However, not all the talents can be legal. There are some people whose illegal talents have made them popular. Frank W. Abagnale is one of them. Frank W. Abagnale is a famous personality in the United States. He is known as not only an American security consultant and the author of the autobiography book Catch Me if You Can but also as a former imposter whose criminal acts left their mark in the history of the US criminal law. His life story excited the curiosity of Steven Spielberg, the famous American screenwriter and film producer who has done a movie based on Frank W. Abagnale’s life and achievements.

My goal in this research paper is to compare and contrast the book Catch me if You Can written by Frank W. Abagnale in 2000 and the movie which has the same title.

Although the movie was based on the true life story of Frank W. Abagnale, there are a lot of differences in it comparing with the book. It is clear that Steven Spielberg decided to change some facts in order to make his movie more appropriate to the present day reality. Of course, the book did a better job of portraying the story of Frank W. Abagnale. The book is more complete and it represents more important details concerning the life and activity of the author. Nevertheless, the movie Catch Me if You Can was a great success with the public in 2002.

The Book Catch Me if You Can Written by Frank W. Abagnale and its Main Characteristics
The book Catch Me if You Can was written by Frank W. Abagnale in 1980. This amazing story of a con man is absolutely true and attracts attention of thousands of readers. It is known that the names of all the characters and some important dates and events were altered by the author.

The book consists of ten chapters each of which represents a certain period of the author’s life giving an opportunity to the readers not to miss those details which influenced Frank W. Abagnale’s fate.

The readers learn that Frank W. Abagnale is a son of Frank Abagnale Senior and Paulette Abagnale who had three more children in their family. The author tells that he derived many of his traits of character from his father who was interested in politics and dealt with people of different social status. When Frank was 14 years old, his parents got divorced. The boy was distressed for his parents and always wanted to reunite the family. According to the law decision, Frank was left in care of his father who was not too happy to hear it. Frank decided to run away after the divorce hearing. Although he chose his father to live with, he did not want to leave his mother. He wanted his family to be happy:“I felt Dad needed one of us, that he should not have to live alone”. (Abagnale 8)

Moreover, his father drank too much and Frank worried about him. Frank’s father was the first person to be cheated by Frank. Frank needed money, he wanted to spend a lot of money for his girl-friends. He knew that the only way out of the situation was to get money cheating other people. He had his credit card which was presented to him by his father and used it for getting money from the gasoline station workers. It was a success. Frank’s first bank fraud was connected with writing personal checks on his account which was overdrawn.

These cases were only the beginning of his outstanding career of an imposter. His life was really very interesting and exciting. He writes in his book: “I was a millionaire twice over and half again before I was twenty one”. He “stole every nickel of it and blew the bulk of the bundle on fine threads” and other things. He had party in every capital city of Europe, he had his rest on the famous beaches and traveled all over the world. (Abagnale 4)

The author tells a lot about some special methods which he used in his frauds. His famous impersonations included the following ones:

  • He played a role of a pilot of Pan American World Airlines;
  • He acted as a teaching assistant in sociology at Columbia University;
  • He also impersonated a chief pediatrician in one of the hospitals in Georgia;
  • Frank even managed to get a position at Louisiana Attorney Office where he acted as an attorney.

The author of the book tells the readers about his arrest, his imprisonment and his escapes. The last chapter of the book tells us that Frank was ordered “to serve his twelve years in the Federal Correction Institution in Petersburg, Virginia”.(Abagnale 280) However, he did not spend all this time in prison. He was released by the US Federal government on the condition that he would work for the federal agencies to find out the frauds of other imposters.

The Movie Catch Me if You Can (2002) and its Main Characteristics

The movie Catch Me if You Can (2002) was a great success with the public. Moreover, Frank W. Abagnale was greatly impressed and greeted this movie rather positively.

Of course, it is necessary to say that a lot of details were omitted in the movie, but in whole the story was an interesting one.

The name of the main character was not changed – Frank W. Abagnale, a young man of 16 years old becomes a professional imposter and earns $5 millions using his talents and skills – he forges bank checks.

Carl Hanratty is another main character in the movie. He is a FBI bank fraud agent who prosecutes Frank everywhere he commits his crimes. It is interesting to note that Cark Hanratty becomes an important person in the life if Frank as he always keeps in touch with him over the phone. He informs him of his changes in life, his marriage. Frank congratulates him on Christmas Eve, asks him to leave him alone and asks for pardon when Carl was going to catch Frank but was deceived.

Carl Hanratty invites Frank to work for the federal agency instead of spending his time in prison.

Major Differences between the Book and the Movie

As it was impossible to show five years of Frank’s life in a two-hour movie, Steven Spielberg decided to omit some details and to change some facts in his movie. Frank W. Abagnale told that this movie was “approximately eighty-percent accurate”. He also told that they changed his family structure, took out some of his impersonations, omitted the time he served in Swedish prison and one of his escapes from federal custody. (Abagnale 287)

The major differences are the following ones:

  • There were four children in frank’s family, he was the third son.
  • In the movie, he did not live with his father after the divorce, but in the book, he chose his father to stay with because he did not want to leave him alone.
  • His impersonations were not true in the movie because he did not play the role of a substitute teacher in his school.
  • It was told in the movie that he earned $5 million by means of forged checks but in real life this sum was $2,5 million.

There were a great deal of other details which can be found in the book that did not coincide with the facts from the movie. Nevertheless, the life story of Frank W. Abagnale was shown in the movie and gave him more popularity.

Major Likenesses Between the Book and the Movie

Both the book and the movie have a lot of likenesses among which are the following ones:

  • the title of the book and the movie is one and the same;
  • the main character’s name was not changed;
  • both the book and the movie represent New York as the main place of action;
  • Frank leaves his family at the age of 16, without saying good bye to his parents;
  • Frank changed the birth date in order to be elder;
  • Abagnale was arrested when he lived and ran his “illegal business” in France;
  • both in the book and in the movie the main character agrees to use his experience and skills helping federal agencies with the false checks;
  • both in the book and in the movie Frank changed different professions in order to earn money;
  • Frank spent 4 years in prison before he was invited to the US federal agency department which worked with bank checks imposters;
  • both in the book and in the movie the main character has a sense of humor;
  • the fact that Frank’s father dies is stated in the book and in the movie.


In conclusion, it is necessary to say that both the book and the movie discussed in this research paper are worth reading and watching although some facts are distorted. The main idea of the movie is not only to show the life of a particular man, who knows how to earn money illegally but also to show how a man can achieve his goals and how he can use his talent and skills.

Works Cited
Abagnale, F.W. Catch Me if You Can. New York: Random House. 2000. Print.
Catch Me if You Can. Steven Spielberg. Dreamy Works. 2002.