Scene 11 (54:33-1:01:03): The Hotel Hookup

The girl  –  The Ambassador Hotel

Time for some more film technique! This scene makes use of “cross-cutting” or “paralell cutting” between a divorced Hanratty washing his shirts in a laundrette — boooooooring! — and Abagnale hooking up with a call girl (played by ) in a fancy hotel.

Actress Jennifer Garner in the Steven Spielberg movie “Catch Me If You Can’
Scene 11 — 59:34

(The same editing technique is used later in scene 17 (1:41:03-1:43:15): you go back and forth between the F.B.I. setting up its ambush at the Miami airport and Abagnale selecting girls to become stewardesses for the Pan Am promotional tour.)

Fast rewind

The Girl

Abagnale did have an encounter with the model-callgirl Cheryl Ann (fake name), whom he met at a party in Miami and took home to his hotel room. And he did pass her a bad check. As a result, F.B.I. agent Hanratty-O’Riley incredibly got in touch with her later on!

Here’s the account from Abagnale’s book “Catch Me If You Can” (page 150)…

Several days later, when her bank informed her the cashier’s check was a counterfeit, she called the Dade County Sheriff’s Department, furious. She eventually was contacted by O’Riley.

“Why’d he give you this check?” asked O’Riley.

“That doesn’t matter,” she snapped. “He gave it to me, and it’s bad, and I want the bastard caught.”

“I know”, said O’Riley. “But I also need to know how this man thinks, so I can catch him. Your description fits Frank Abagnale, but he’s never given any bad paper to an individual. He doesn’t even pass bad paper in retail stores. Why, all of a sudden, is he giving a square john, and a beautiful woman at that, a worthless check for $1,400? What was the purpose?”

O’Riley is something of a con artist himself. He obtained the full story from her. “I don’t mind his getting a free piece,” she concluded bitterly. “Hell, I’ve given it away before. But that bastard conned me out of $400 cash. That I resent.”

I have always agreed with O’Riley’s assessment of the matter. We both got screwed.

Fast rewind

The Ambassador Hotel

The movie has you believe that the encounter with Cheryl Ann happened in Manhattan (in real life: Miami) but the scene was actually shot in the überfamous but recently demolished Ambassador Hotel, it stood at the Wilshire Boulevard 3400 in Los Angeles.

Ambassador Hotel (Los Angeles)

And there’s plenty of things to make the hotel famous! For one, presidential candidate Robert Kennedy was shot in the pantry between the Embassy ballroom and the kitchen on the night of the California primary in June 1968. Watch Emilio Estevez’ movie “Bobby” (2006) if you want to know more about that.

Robert Kennedy lying down shot in the Ambassador Hotel (Los Angeles)            Poster of the Emilio Estevez movie ‘Bobby’

The entire movie plays in the Ambassador Hotel. Seriously. Unfortunately, the movie was not filmed on location. By 2005, the Ambassador Hotel had closed its doors. The fixtures and furnishings were up for auction during the film’s pre-production and the production designer was able to buy the bulk of the furniture and decorative pieces you see in the movie. The hotel was scheduled for demolition one week after the film shoot or production was scheduled to begin. Director Estevez — the son of Martin Sheen, who plays Roger Strong in “Catch Me If You Can”, by the way — shot in and around the hotel during that week, which added to the film’s authenticity.

Or if you’re into investigative journalism, go for Shane O’Sullivan’s documentary” (2007). Get the full details on the ballistics, wonder if the official shooter Sirhan Sirhan was a “Manchurian candidate”, learn about the girl in the polka dot dress and discover the presence of C.I.A. operatives in the hotel — were they out for revenge after the Bay of Pigs fiasco?

Sirhan Sirhan, murderer of Robert Kennedy            DVD cover of the Shane O’Sullivan documentary ‘RFK Must Die’

The Ambassador Hotel was decidedly a hotel for celebrities, perhaps even more so than the Roosevelt Hotel where Spielberg shot the movie’s other hotel scene! Another similarity between the two hotels: six Academy Award evenings were held in the Ambassador Hotel (between 1930 and 1943), the very first “Oscars” took place in the Roosevelt Hotel!

The hotel’s nightclub, the “Cocoanut Grove” was visited daily by the Hollywood crowd. The business tycoon Howard Hughes practically lived there for a while. And that’s not mentioning the huge role the “Cocoanut Grove” played in the history of modern music: jazz musician and composer of film music Dave Grusin played there on Monday evenings for many years with his pal Lee Ritenour... (One of the movies Grusin scored is “The Fabulous Baker Boys”, some scenes of that movie were shot in… the Ambassador hotel.)

Cocoanut Grove in the Ambassador hotel (Los Angeles)

But back in 2002, the hotel was still open, not torn down and replaced by a school complex called the “Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools”, and Spielberg had Jennifer Garner come in on a Saturday to do her scene…

Steven Spielberg and Jennifer Garner in the Ambassador hotel on the movie set in the Ambassador hotel (Los Angeles)

(The Ambassador Hotel also stood in for the Miami hotel where Frank Abagnale forges Pan Am pay checks with the decals of model airplanes!)

Fast rewind

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