Widely regarded as one of the most influential and enjoyable films of the American independent cinema, Morris’ Engel’s utterly charming fable about a 7-year-old boy who runs away to Coney Island poetically captures the joys and wonders of childhood
In Person: Star RICHIE ANDRUSCO and MARY ENGEL, daughter of Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin
New 35mm Print! French director François Truffaut once said, “Our New Wave would never have come into being if it hadn’t been for the young Morris Engel, with his fine Little Fugitive.” High praise indeed, and as Truffaut observed, this early milestone of American independent filmmaking had a powerful influence on such later French classics as The Red Balloon and Truffaut’s own Les Mistons and The 400 Blows. Codirected by Ray Ashley, Morris Engel, and Ruth Orkin, and photographed by Engel in New York during the summer of 1952, the film tells the simple story of a 7-year-old Brooklyn boy named Joey (charmingly played by nonactor Richie Andrusco), who flees to Coney Island after a mischievous prank leads Joey to believe he’s accidentally killed his older brother Lennie. With six dollars in his pocket, Joey indulges himself with amusement rides and junk food, and as the weekend progresses, Lennie begins an equally adventurous search for his missing kid brother. Winner of the Silver Lion award at the 1953 Venice Film Festival and Oscar nominee for Best Story, Little Fugitive was inducted into the prestigious National Film Registry in 1997. Making innovative use of a hand-held camera (which impressed Engel’s friend Stanley Kubrick, who used the same equipment for his debut feature Fear and Desire), the film favors image over dialogue, and unfolds with timeless and universal appeal. A pleasure from start to finish, Little Fugitive is a little masterpiece that you’ll never forget. –Jeff Shannon (USA, 1953, 85 min., b/w)
“THE BLOCKBUSTER HIT OF NEW YORK NEO-REALISM!” – J. Hoberman
“A missing link in the history of modern cinema, a small, unexpected islet, midway between the first wave of Italian neo-realism and the future French New Wave. Between European modernity and the upcoming independent American cinema. Little Fugitive, like Open City, like Breathless, is one of these precarious films which made cinema move in a radical way.” – Alain Bergala, Cahiers du Cinéma
“Extraordinary entertainment.” – Look Magazine (1953)
An Artists Public Domain/Cinema Conservancy Release. Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Film Foundation and The Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Fund.