In 1964, Frank William Abagnale ran away from home and quickly became the youngest and most successful “paperhanger” in the United States. Donning a pilot’s uniform, followed by acting as a resident supervisor at a hospital, then a lawyer, and even a sociology professor, Abagnale cashed over $2.5 million in fake checks. In 2002, director Steven Spielberg took Abagnale’s true story to the big screen under the same title as Abagnale’s memoir, Catch Me If You Can with Leonardo DiCaprio in the leading role.
With such a complicated tale, not all can be told, and from the get-go Spielberg made that clear to Abagnale, “this is a film, one meant to entertain…an interpretation” Abagnale said, although he claims that “90 percent” is accurate in the scams he conducted.
The crew on board this entertaining film went to great extents to get a lot of things accurate. They had an FBI technical advisor who told them everything with regards to the FBI portions of the film, right down to the door frames and windows. The costume designer, Mary Zophres, said that all the women in the film wore period correct bras (meaning pointy bras), which made the period clothing fit better, she even admitted that they “could not cast women with breast implants because they do not fit into that pointy silhouette”.
But despite their efforts for period correctness, including Zophres watching Pan Am stewardess footage and bringing in magazines from the period, she made a mistake with regards to the postal worker uniform that Abagnale’s father wears in a scene. In the scene the patch on the uniform reads “United States Postal Service”. My grandfather was a postal worker during this time the postal service was under the name the Post Office Department. This changed to the United States Postal Service in 1971 under President Nixon. Another error is that of modular telephones. Many of the phones in the film are modular (one where the receiver can be easily disconnected), however modular phones were not invented until 1970.
Overall, Catch Me If You Can is fairly accurate, while also being highly entertaining and has remained one of my all-time favorite movies.