Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Colossal Con Man

One newspaper headline read: "Most Amazing and Fantastic Story of the Year." The year was 1938; the story was the unmasking of a con man posing as Dr. Frank Donald Coster; and all these years later, the forgotten, fantastic story is being retold in the documentary Self Made: The American Dreams of Philip Musica.

Director Robert Kalm, an Emmy winning producer, will be presenting this work-in-progress Wednesday May 14th at the Fairfield Museum in Fairfield, Connecticut. The same city where Brooklyn high school dropout and twice-convicted felon Musica shot himself after his elaborate impersonation of the CEO of a major pharmaceuticals firm came crashing down.

Along with a screening of the film, Kalm will also share a slide show of Musica family photos, personal papers and other artifacts obtained in many cases via Freedom of Information Act requests.

The motivation for the film is familial. Both of Kalm’s grandparents were employees and relatives of Coster by marriage. But the scope of this story is much larger:

There was no equal to the McKesson & Robbins fraud in imagination or international scope until the Enron and Madoff scandals of the early 21st century. The untold story of Philip Musica is an astounding narrative of American history that shuffles the questions on every American mind today.
His story is a spinning wheel of immigration and innovation, family and ambition, freedom and morality, the ninety-nine and the one percent.

Kalm has been working on the project for a number of years.

[Self Made: The American Dreams of Philip Musica]

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