Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Little Fugitive 1953

A sweet but sometimes annoying 8 year boy living in Brooklyn with his widowed mother and older brother is left with the older brother one weekend who has to watch over him when his mom needs to take a hasty trip to visit her own ailing mother. The older brother is bothered by this kid, and one can’t really blame him. It’s a hot summer day and he wants to go to Coney Island with his friends but now can’t. So him and his friends come up with a mean spirited prank to make Joey think that he has killed him with a popgun rifle, the kind that they sold on the backs of comic books in the 50’s.
Joey panics thinking he killed his brother and hops on the elevated subway to Coney Island where he spends a day and a night gently running wild exploring this vast and run down wonderland. He has $6.00 that he took, money left by his mom for food, and he rides the merry go round, stuffs himself with soda pop, watermelon and hot dogs, plays games in the penny arcades and rides the pony ride (he loves horses and cowboys) over and over with money he gets from collecting soda pop bottles on the beach and pocketing the deposits.
The gentle urban cowboy who runs the ponies gets suspicious and finagles Joey’s name and address from him and calls his brother who is worried sick over his prank gone wrong. Made on a shoestring budget with non-actors and “real people” by Ray Ashley, Morris Engel (who also did the cinematography and editing) and the great photographer Ruth Orkin who also plays a harried young mother on the beach trying to get her baby to drink some water.
The film was a smash hit with critics and audiences and was a new way of making movies and a new way of looking at them. Here was a fictional film shot in real locations using real people. I saw the film in 1953 when I was 6 years old, at my neighborhood Loew’s and is probably the first film I vividly remember. As I stood in the lobby with my older sister (she could have been a good stand in for the mean older brother) the star of the movie Richie Andrusco 2 years older than me and with a head of bright red hair waved to all his new fans from the upstairs promenade overlooking the lobby.
The film is charming and touching how could it not be and is full of rich real life details, a small shabby living room, a cramped boys room full of his treasures, a subway car of the period, a Brooklyn neighborhood and a Coney Island of my youth that is long gone. Francois Truffaut said the French New Wave would never have happened without this film, and I can certainly go along with that, I would also say that my undying love for movies began with this film and that it influenced me to become an artist. Coney Island was a short subway ride away from where I grew up, and I remember most of what is shown in the film, including the crowded dirty beaches and streets full of people. This was the summer of my childhood. Morris Engel would go on to make two more low budget independent films “Lovers And Lollipops”, and “Weddings and Babies” with contributions from Ruth Orkin, but neither of these films had the freshness and warmth of Fugitive. One of the ten best films of 1953.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Site Meter