Dick Whitman became Don Draper. I'm looking for more examples.
January 16, 2017 1:56 PM   Subscribe

Literature, TV, movies. One more example with possible spoilers inside.

Michael Chabon in Moonglow, his grandmother assumed another woman's identity. This was at the end of WWII so there are probably many around the same time.
posted by fixedgear to Grab Bag (36 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The secret past life of Mathilde in Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.
posted by witchen at 2:08 PM on January 16, 2017

James Gatz became Jay Gatsby.
posted by Blissful at 2:10 PM on January 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Luke Cage is an assumed identity
posted by supermedusa at 2:18 PM on January 16, 2017

Risking penalty of torture, but: Armin Tanzarian assumed the identity of Seymour Skinner.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:18 PM on January 16, 2017 [12 favorites]

Archibald Belaney became Grey Owl.
posted by scruss at 2:19 PM on January 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

The identity of the central character in Bank's Use of Weapons, "Cheradenine Zakalwe" turns out to actually be Elethiomel, the friend/enemy of the real Zakalwe.
posted by bonehead at 2:20 PM on January 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Horace and Jack in Summersby.
posted by OrangeDisk at 2:43 PM on January 16, 2017

I thought of more.

The Return of Martin Guerre, and the true story of Martin Guerre, both of which were the inspiration for Summersby.

Also, the character of Commander Shears in The Bridge over The River Kwai was really an enlisted man who took his commanding officer's uniform so he would be treated better when captured.
posted by OrangeDisk at 2:57 PM on January 16, 2017

TV Tropes: Dead Person Impersonation

also: My Sibling Will Live Through Me
posted by bluecore at 3:02 PM on January 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Iron Eyes Cody
posted by brujita at 3:06 PM on January 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Cheradenine Zakalwe of Iain [M.] Banks' Culture novel Use of Weapons was revealed at the very end of that book to be the cousin and enemy of Zakalwe, who killed himself after the cousin gave the real Zakalwe a most monstrous gift. He took Zakalwe's identity to escape.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:56 PM on January 16, 2017

On The Simpsons, Armin Tazmarian assumed the identity of Seymour Skinner.
posted by Rob Rockets at 4:00 PM on January 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

The Cornell Woolrich noir classic I Married a Dead Man. It was made into several movies, including No Man of Her Own (Barbara Stanwyck) and Mrs. Winterbourne (Ricki Lake).
posted by marguerite at 4:01 PM on January 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

This was the modus operandi of the T-1000 liquid allow Terminator in Terminator 2-- it would do the killing and the identity-stealing.

Juliana in the first season of "The Man in the High Castle" impersonates her half-sister Trudy, a courier for the American resistance who was gunned down by the security services of the Japanese Imperial Occupation.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:12 PM on January 16, 2017

The Likeness by Tana French. The main character is a police officer who goes undercover impersonating a dead woman...who was impersonating the detective's previous undercover identity.
posted by Violet Hour at 4:34 PM on January 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

The Talented Mr. Ripley contains this plot point. (Book and movie.)
posted by isthmus at 5:19 PM on January 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Middlesex has something like this, though it's not, strictly speaking, an assumption of a new identity. (Trying to avoid spoilers here, to the extent that's worth much regarding a 15 year old novel.)
posted by devinemissk at 5:57 PM on January 16, 2017

Creed Bratton in the US version of The Office.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:57 PM on January 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Eventually the character of Jimmy McGill on Better Call Saul assumes the identity of Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad. I wrote a comment that I can't find now about how his story parallels Don's - there's a scene where a young Jimmy meets a conman that's a lot like the episode in Mad Men where young Dick meets the hobo. The stranger says to the kid "You don't have to be your piece of shit dad. You can be me." And that's what the kid literally does.
posted by bleep at 5:59 PM on January 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

The main character in the (terrible) TV show Banshee assumes someone else's identity.
posted by misseva at 6:03 PM on January 16, 2017

In the beginning of Orphan Black, when Sarah takes on Beth's identity. There are other clone switch-ups but I don't think they quite fit the question.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:21 PM on January 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sarah Smith's The Vanished Child and Mary Stewart's The Ivy Tree are my very favorite desperate impersonation novels, and they both share the same deviation from the formula, which is


the imposters in both books are revealed to actually be the people they are pretending to be. In one case, the lost heir is amnesiac and does not know he is telling the truth; in the other it's only the reader who doesn't know until some time in. But they're both well done in their own way. I think this may even be a whole trope of its own and not just a subcategory of the classic Martin Guerre story, but I am not sure about that.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:58 PM on January 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

But a book that definitely does fit your category is Daphne DuMaurier's The Scapegoat.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:01 PM on January 16, 2017

OP, is the only thing you are looking for examples of someone assuming someone else's identity? Or is there something more specific you're seeking?
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:48 PM on January 16, 2017

The Count of Monte Cristo - Edmond Dantes becomes the Count.
posted by librarianamy at 4:42 AM on January 17, 2017

The Christmas episode of Poirot features the "assuming another person's identity" plot.
posted by helloimjennsco at 6:45 AM on January 17, 2017

posted by Room 641-A at 6:55 AM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Riches
posted by DrAstroZoom at 9:47 AM on January 17, 2017

The novel the Bourne Identity definitely covers this.
posted by mmascolino at 11:31 AM on January 17, 2017

The Usual Suspects
The Princess Bride: movie, book
posted by Room 641-A at 3:24 PM on January 17, 2017

Came in to mention the Tana French novel (damn that was a spinner!).
Also, Moon Over Parador
posted by bluejayway at 12:57 PM on January 18, 2017

Current Amazon series Sneaky Pete is about a con-man who, after enduring years of listening to his cellmate's nostalgic stories of his youth with his (20-years-estranged) grandparents and cousins, impersonates the cellmate and moves in with the grandparents, in order to evade a debt.
posted by Sunburnt at 5:27 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Late to this party, but What The Dead Know by Laura Lippman fits this perfectly.

There's also the true story of Anna Anderson, who claimed to be Anastasia Romanov.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:20 AM on February 25, 2017

Bubba Ho-Tep, a 2002 comedy-horror movie set in an old-folks home in the deep South, features a mutton-chopped patient Sebastian Haff. He is, in fact, Elvis Aaron Presley, who got tired of the endless bacchanalia of his life and switched places with the real Haff, an impersonator and fan. They were due to switch back, but Haff had acquired a bit of a drug problem and died. His roommate in the home, Jack (Ossie Davis), is in a similar situation, but slightly less plausibly: he is President John F. Kennedy, whose brain was transplanted into a new body following the incident in Dallas.

Also, the Moxy Fruvous song "King of Spain" (from the album Bargainville, 1993, but this song also dates itself) is about an identity switch, in which a benevolent and beloved King of Spain swapped places with a "peasant friend," and now he works at a pizza place in Toronto. (Video release version with lower quality audio) (Album version.)
posted by Sunburnt at 8:55 AM on July 4, 2017

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