Gentleman Thief

To Catch a Thief

gentleman thief, gentleman burglar, lady thief, or phantom thief is a stock character in fiction. A gentleman or lady thief usually has inherited wealth and is characterized by impeccable manners, charm, courteousness, and the avoidance of physical force or intimidation to steal.

As such, they steal not only to gain material wealth but also for the thrill of the act itself, which is often combined in fiction with correcting a moral wrong, selecting wealthy targets, or stealing only particular rare or challenging objects.

This section contains embedded lists that may be poorly defined, unverified, or indiscriminate. Please help to clean it up to meet Wikipedia’s quality standards. Where appropriate, incorporate items into the main body of the article. In fiction, the phantom thief is typically superb at stealing while maintaining a gentleman’s manners and code of honor. For example, Robin Hood is a former earl or yeoman who steals from the rich to give to the poor; A. J. Raffles (a deliberate inversion of Sherlock Holmes) steals only from other gentlemen (and occasionally gives the object away to a good cause); Arsène Lupin (a frequent foil in French writer Maurice Leblanc’s early twentieth century crime novels) steals from the rich who do not appreciate their art or treasures and redistributes it.

Other notable gentlemen thieves and lady thieves in Western popular culture include: Simon Templar, also known as ‘The Saint’ from the novels and short stories by Leslie Charteris, first appeared in 1928; Thomas Crown from ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ (1968); John Robie in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘To Catch a Thief’ (1955); Carmen Sandiego, the title character from the Carmen Sandiego franchise. She first appeared in 1985; Selina Kyle, also known as ‘Catwoman,’ from the Batman comic books, introduced in 1940, along with Oswald Cobblepot, also known as ‘The Penguin’ introduced in 1941; Danny Ocean from the film ‘Ocean’s 11’ (1960) and the Ocean’s Trilogy (2001–2007); Sir Charles Litton, also known as ‘The Phantom’ in The Pink Panther (1963).

Christophe Rocancourt (b. 1967), a French impostor and confidence man — who scammed affluent people by masquerading in turn as a French nobleman, the heir to the Rockefeller family, or family member of a celebrity — is a modern-day, real-life example of the gentleman thief. Charles Earl Bowles (1829-1888), known as ‘Black Bart,’ was an English-born outlaw noted for the poetic messages he left behind after two of his robberies. Considered a gentlemanly bandit with a reputation for style and sophistication, he was one of the most notorious stagecoach robbers to operate in and around Northern California and southern Oregon during the 1870s and 1880s.

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