Would It Shock You If I Told You These Five Movies Were True Crime?
Blockbusters that have true stories behind them.
There is nothing like sitting down to watch a good movie. Some movies are instant blockbusters, and others fail entirely.
These five movies have all been huge successes. Some are cult films, admired by a small audience. Others have earned those in them Oscar nominations.
However, these five movies have one thing in common; they were all based on true stories. Some you may know the history behind, others you might be surprised by their true origin.
Can You Ever Forgive Me
We start with one of my favourite films. As a writer, I have been short of money. I never went to this extent to get it, but never say never.
Lee Israel was a prolific author, having penned two extremely successful autobiographies. However, when she gave her third to her publisher, times had changed and it made little money. As a result, Lee found herself without a job and mounting bills.
Lee originally went onto welfare to pay her bills, but when her beloved cat got ill, she needed additional funds to pay vet bills.
During a research trip, for another book, to the library, she viewed some letters from the author. She stole one of the letters, hiding it in her shoe. Then, she went to a local bookshop, which agreed to buy the letter from her.
This was when Lee devised the plan to forge letters from authors to make some extra cash. She acquired an old typewriter, tearing the vintage paper out of the backs of journals so she could scribe her version of letters.
She impersonated writers such as Louise Brooks, Dorothy Parker and Ernest Hemingway. Over the course of a couple of months, she fabricated around 400 letters, each time selling them for approximately $40.
When people started to get suspicious and the forgeries were discovered, she changed her plan slightly. This time she would replace the actual letters with her forgeries and sell the originals.
In 1993, the FBI arrested her after an extensive investigation. Lee never went to prison; instead, she was sentenced to six months on house arrest and five years probation.
Lee Israel was one of the most prolific forgers in history. The letters were very convincing, two of them featuring in The Letters of Noel Coward in 2007, ten years after she was caught.
Lee personally is said to have an unbearable ego about the whole incident. Nevertheless, she is very proud of her work; she comments that she immersed herself in the lives of her subjects and absorbed their voices perfectly. She puts this down to her extreme talent as an author; she died in 2014.
My success as a forger was somehow in sync with my erstwhile success as a biographer - Lee Israel
Molly's Game is another fantastic film with an equally talented leading lady. The joy for me in this film was trying to work out who the poker players were meant to be. As they say, the names were changed to protect the not-so-innocent.
Molly Bloom was set to go to the Olympics as a freestyle skier. She was on the US Ski team when she crashed horribly on an Olympic qualifying run. The injury she sustained would stop her athletic career.
Her older brother, Jeremy Bloom, was a two-time Olympic skier and a professional football player. Her other brother had just graduated from Harvard Medical School. It was plain that Molly felt she had to prove herself.
She decided to go to law school, taking a year off between this and undergrad. In 2003, she decided to go to LA. Once there, she took on many jobs, including cocktail waitress and assistant to a real estate entrepreneur, Darin Feinstein.
Feinstein was also one of the co-owners of the Hollywood nightclub, The Viper Room.
One day Feinstein told her, "I'm going to need you to help me run this poker game." Molly had no idea about poker, so she went home and googled everything she needed to know. She found out what music poker players liked and what they preferred to eat.
Armed with this information, she went to host her first game. Amongst the guests were A-list actors, politicians and famous television personalities. The high earners were always ready to tip generously, generally $3000 or more.
The money ignited Molly's passion; she started embracing the underground poker scheme, learning as much as possible.
When Feinstein fired Molly from the game, she was ready to set up her own game with the contact she had made. The typical buy-in for games was $10,000; she became known as the Poker Princess.
I saw someone lose $100 million in a night, and he paid the next day. - Molly Bloom
Life was good until the hired driver introduced her to some of his mobster friends. Things took a nasty turn when they offered her security and she refused. As the game became more out of control, so did Molly's life. She ended up addicted to drugs.
When she started losing money by others not paying their debt, she decided to take a percentage of the poker pot. She started operating as a band, which ultimately caught the attention of the FBI.
The FBI started secretly following her and listening to her conversations. Finally, when they had enough evidence, they arrested her.
However, luck never left Molly's side when in 2014, she was cleared of many of the charges she faced. Her final sentence was a year's probation and 200 hours of community service.
Candyman was a famous cult horror film from the 1990s and my favourite growing up. The film takes its inspiration from the murder of Ruthie Mae McCoy.
McCoy was a 52-year-old woman who suffered from paranoia; she lived in an impoverished part of Chicago in the ABLA apartments on Chicago's south side.
Over the years, racist neglect from Chicago's housing authority turned the estates from fine homes into a nightmare of crime, poverty and drugs. The buildings contained pitch black stairways, broken elevators and cocaine and PCP addicts.
During a ride back with a friend from a psychiatry appointment, she mentioned that someone had threatened her life. They thought little of it; McCoy always saw monsters where there weren't any.
On 22nd April 1987, at 2045, she rang 911 and informed them that someone was breaking into her apartment through the bathroom cabinet. She stated that they had thrown the cabinet down and climbed through the wall; the dispatcher thought she was crazy.
I'm a resident at 1440 W. 13th St., and some people next door are totally tearing this down, you know — Ruthie McCoy
He would probably not have responded had it not been for McCoy's neighbours.
At 2102, a next-door neighbour would ring the police stating they had heard gunshots from McCoy's apartment. At 2104 a second neighbour reported the same; they also said they could hear shouting.
At 2110, four police arrived at McCoy's door; they pounded on the door and got no answer. They then tried to find a key to access the apartments; as they were unsuccessful, they went away.
The next day, Debra Lasley, a friend and neighbour of McCoy's, rang the police to say that her friend had failed to visit her in the morning, something she always did.
The police and security again checked the apartment but could not raise McCoy. The police were eager to kick the door down; security suggested they didn't as it was likely the resident would sue them for the damage. So they once again went away.
The following day, Lasley again tried to raise her friend; a carpenter opened the door to McCoy's apartment. McCoy was found in a pool of blood on the bedroom floor, on her side. She had a hand over her chest, one shoe on and one off, magazines and papers were scattered throughout the flat.
She had been shot four times. Once through her left shoulder, once through her left thigh and once through the right side of her abdomen. The fatal fourth shot had entered her upper right arm through her chest, severing her pulmonary artery.
The police initially thought McCoy must know her attackers as there was no sign of forced entry until they went into the bathroom and saw that the killer had removed the bathroom cabinet. Police never solved the case.
On 10th March 1928, Christine Collins gave her nine-year-old son some money for the cinema. His father was in Folsom State Prison for robbery. Walter never returned from the film, leaving his mother to report him missing. Despite the best attempts of the police, they couldn't find him.
Then five months later, they found a boy in Dekalb, Illinois, who was claiming to be Walter Collins. Desperate to have her son home, Christine paid for his transport from Illinois to California. However, when the boy arrived, it was not Walter, he looked a little like him, but it was not him.
The LA police department was in the middle of scandal after scandal relating to corruption claims; they needed positive press coverage. So although Collins said it was not her son, they pressured her to take the boy home. Suggesting she '“try the boy out.”
Too exhausted to argue, she agreed to take the boy home with her. Finally, after three weeks, she could take it no more; she was determined to prove that the boy was not Walter.
She went to Police Captain JJ Jones with dental records and showed him they did not match the boy living with her. Despite the evidence, Jones was eager not to face any negative publicity, so he had Christine committed to the LA County General Psychiatric Ward.
Christine underwent ten days of evaluation; during this time, the boy finally admitted that he was not Walter. He was, in fact, Arthur Hutchins JR, a twelve-year-old boy from Iowa.
Hutchins stated that everyone kept telling him how much he looked like the missing boy, so he devised a plan to escape an unhappy home life. He showed no remorse for his actions saying that Christine knew he wasn't her son, so it was all a big game for both of them.
Once the truth was discovered, Christine was released from psychiatric care and filed a case against the city. She won her lawsuit; Jones was told to pay $10,800 in damages to her. She stated she was going to use the funds to find her son. However, Jones never paid her anything she was owed.
Years later, the police discovered a lead in the case. It is now widely thought that Walter was one of the victims of serial killer Gordon Steward Northcott, The Wineville Chicken Coop Murderer.
Catch Me if You Can
The last movie is based on a lie rather than a crime. Although, some might argue that the biggest con Frank Abagnale ever executed was to get us all to believe the lie of his life.
One of the stories Abagnale has told us is about when his parents divorced. He states that he was taken to a courtroom where a judge expected him to choose which parent he lived with. He could not decide, so he ran away. This was, he said, the start of his criminal career.
Researcher Alan C Logan states that this is not accurate. The divorce happened earlier in the young Abagnale's life; he lived with his father. Whether this was his choice or that of his father is not clear.
Abagnale did run away from his father and start his criminal career, but this was because he stole considerable money from him, writing fraudulent checks.
Abagnale has always stated that he is the modern Robin Hood. He never stole from single people but rather big corporations. Stealing from his father calls this claim into question.
Another story Abagnale tells, portrayed in the film, is how as a teenager, he travelled to many places using the jump seat on PanAm. He used this travel to defraud the airline out of millions of pounds by cashing bad cheques.
However, this couldn't have happened. Between the ages of seventeen and twenty, Abagnale was incarcerated for stealing from another family he lived with, not travelling anywhere.
Remember when he told us all he had never been to prison? His only stay was when the Tom Hanks character caught him. However, Abagnale has been to prison many times on petty crime charges.
The real Abagnale seems to be a petty criminal who produced bad cheques at the expense of many hard-working men and women. He never robbed big corporations as he didn't have the skills. He was a young man in and out of prison for his crimes.
After being arrested in Texas and imprisoned for petty crimes, he was paroled in 1974. It was here he was sold the idea of the changed man and started doing some small talks about his life.
These lies grew until everyone believed his changed man story. It was this story that director Steven Spielberg believed in and made his film, Catch Me if You Can.
Many of these films have reached critical acclaim. Mainly for the excellent portrayal that the talented actors show. Little has been made about the true story behind the movie.
These five show that sometimes the truth is far stranger than fiction. Each of these stories has real people behind their tales and real victims.
Due to the talents of Angelina Jolie, Melissa McCarthy, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jessica Chastain, we forget about the people behind the crimes and immerse ourselves in two hours of brilliant storytelling.
Which of these five is your favourite?