Saturday, April 23, 2011

Little Fugitive (1953)

Back in 1953, when Little Fugitive was a brand-new movie, the New York Times critic Bosley Crowther (for almost thirty years writing (often-enlightening) reviews encased in quaint tut-tuts and dry observations) ended his review with "All hail to 'Little Fugitive' and to those who made it. But count it a photographer's triumph with a limited theme." And he was mostly right, especially for us watching today: the triumph is the film's preservation of early-'50s NYC, particularly Coney Island, as the little boy--tricked by his older brother into thinking the little "tad," as Crowther put it, had murdered him--makes his way through a series of mild adventures, his fears forgotten in a world of shooting galleries, pony rides, and merry-go-rounds--after he collects empties and cashes them in. His adventures are slight, but that's the point: The Little Fugitive is one of a handful of movies that lowers the camera to see kidhood without condescension or (too much ) sentiment.

Ray Ashley, Morris Engel, and Ruth Orkin wrote, photographed, directed and produced; the little boy, Joey, is played by a non-actor, Richie Andrusco (as was his brother). And aside from a few NYC stage actors, the rest of the cast plays itself: New York City, that is, and that Island that's as eager to please as Pinocchio's, but without donkeys.


  1. Little Fugitive is great, especially for the poor souls who think American indeoendent film began with Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs.

  2. Not sure if L.F. would appeal to the Pulp-ers--but I know what you mean: independent narrative film has been around for a long time--experimental film even longer--and L.F. teaches much about doing lots with less. In this way, it reminds me of Romero's "Night of ..."--except without the carnage, of course.

    Thanks for dropping by this site; I've let it go for the past few months, but maybe there's some life in her yet.

  3. Just watched this for the first time. An incredibly beautiful, heart-warming film.

  4. @Jared In its own modest way, a unique film. Glad you enjoyed it.