I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, most of which will be 90 minutes or less.
Title: Little Fugitive
Release Date: October 6, 1953
Director: Ray Ashley, Morris Engel, and Ruth Orkin
Production Company: Little Fugitive Production Company
JOEY – I’M NOT DEAD. GO TO THE PARASHOOT AND WAIT. – LENNIE
Joey (Richie Andrusco) is a 7-year-old growing up in a working class neighborhood in Brooklyn who likes Westerns and loves horses. When his widowed mother has to go away to care for his grandmother, he’s left in the care of his older brother, Lennie (Richard Brewster). Lennie’s friends don’t like having little Joey tagging along. So the play a prank that makes Joey think he’s killed Lennie. Then Joey runs away to Coney Island and pretty much has the best day of his life.
The plot is minimal, but this movie delights on it’s naturalistic, largely unscripted performances by non-professional child actors. Morris Engel developed a special camera that could be strapped to the body allowing the directors to film on location amid crowds of daytripping New Yorkers. It’s also a great document of Coney Island in the 1950s, when the parachute jump still worked and before Fred Trump demolished many of the amusements for real estate development.
It’s a form of neorealism that feels lighter and funnier than the movements in Italy and France and makes me wish a larger American neorealist movement grew out of it. But François Truffaut loved Little Fugitives and said it inspired The 400 Blows! But really the most mindblowing thing about this movie is that my father was a 7-year-old in a working class neighborhood in 1953. I wish he were around so I could watch this movie with him and ask him if he recognizes anyone.