The Fugitive Life Sparks Its Own Celebrity

Life on the run can turn a criminal into a legend, in real life and reel life.

ByABC News
October 1, 2009, 3:25 AM

Oct. 1, 2009 -- Hollywood loves to glamorize criminals on the run. Without life on the lam, we'd have no "Bonnie and Clyde," "Catch Me If You Can," "Public Enemies" or "Les Miserables."

Even the life of "The Fugitive" (both the 1960s television series and the 1993 Harrison Ford film) has strong similarities to the case of Sam Sheppard, a doctor who was cleared of murdering his wife after serving over ten years in prison.

Director and actor Roman Polanski is nearly as famous for his 1978 flight from California criminal court for unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor as he is for his legendary films, such as "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown."

Polanski's status as a French citizen proved helpful because France has limited extradition laws with the U.S. Despite being unable to return to the U.S., Polanski has maintained a steady and successful directing career. While abroad, he has directed several films, including the Academy Award-winning 2002 film "The Pianist."

Polanski was arrested last Saturday after walking into a trap at the Zurich airport on his way to receive an award at the Zurich Film Festival. Swiss authorities who arrested him maintained they were acting on a request from the United States to bring a fugitive to justice.

Alexander Kelly went from being a Darien, Conn., high school athlete and petty criminal to true crime movie of the week when he skipped out of the U.S. while awaiting trial for the 1987 rapes of two young women.

While on the run, Kelly spent years living the high life on the ski slopes of Europe, his family allegedly supporting him financially and emotionally in secret. In 1996, he turned himself in to Swiss authorities and returned to the U.S. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

The trial and its details of wealth and injustice were dramatized in various television movies and true crime series episodes. In 2007, Kelly was released from prison on "good behavior."