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Film / Little Fugitive

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Little Fugitive is a 1953 American independent film directed by the team of Raymond Abrashkin (credited as "Ray Ashley"), Morris Engel, and Ruth Orkin.

Joey Norton (Richie Andrusco) is a 7-year-old boy living in a lower-middle-class neighborhood of Brooklyn. He idolizes his 12-year-old brother Lennie (Richard Brewster), but Lennie seems to regard Joey as a nuisance. One day, their single mother (Winifred Cushing) has to leave town to attend to her own mother, who has fallen ill. She leaves Joey in charge of his brother.

Lennie wants to hang out with his friends, but Joey insists on tagging along. Finally Lennie and his buddies play a cruel trick: they cajole Joey into firing a gun, and Lennie pretends to have been shot and killed. It works only too well. Joey, believing himself to be a murderer, runs off. He grabs the cash that his mother left for groceries and high-tails it to Coney Island, where he spends a whole day riding the rides and playing the games. Eventually, after receiving a phone call from the park, Lennie arrives at Coney Island and goes on a frantic search for his brother.

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Filmed on a shoestring budget with an innovative hand-held camera. The use of amateur actors (neither Andrusco nor Brewster ever appeared in another movie), the working-class setting, and the Slice of Life story are all parts of this movie which had an influence on the French New Wave.

Will Lee, who years later would play Mr. Hooper on Sesame Street, appears as the photographer.


Tropes:

  • Amusement Park: Coney Island, used about a million times in movie history. Joey is able to extend his fun by cashing in glass bottles for the nickel-per-bottle deposit.
  • And Starring: All of the other cast members are identified with a single credit screen at the end, then there's an "And", then there's the credit for "Richie Ambrusco as Joey".
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Joey spends his whole adventure in Coney Island clutching his brother's harmonica, supposedly something to remember him by. When Lennie finally finds his little brother, he says Joey can keep the harmonica.
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  • Creator Cameo: Ruth Orkin is the mother with a baby at the beach, whose cup of water Joey knocks over.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Somewhere around 30 hours or so, from mid-morning one day to 6 p.m. the next.
  • Kitchen Sink Drama: A simple story of a little boy who runs off to Coney Island.
  • Match Cut: From Lennie munching on a lollipop back in Brooklyn to Joey scarfing down a hot dog on Coney Island.
  • The Runaway: For a day, anyway, as little Joey flees to Coney Island.
  • Silence Is Golden: Much of Joey's wanderings through the park are shown without any dialogue.
  • Video Credits: For only one person. After all the other cast members' names are shown the regular way, there's a video shot of Joey to go with Richie Ambrusco's credit.
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