The Morris Engle-Ruth Orkin picture, Little Fugitive (1953), probably influenced European cinema of the late Fifties and early Sixties, but I could never claim it has much to say. What I do claim is that it is a dandy representation of boyhood in America, and is refreshingly honest about young-male emotions and concerns.
With his tough-as-nails little voice (necessarily dubbed), Richie Andrusco plays the “little fugitive,” he who, because of a prank, believes he has killed his 12-year-old brother; but has not. Afraid, the boy takes off and—what do young New Yawkers like to do? Go to Coney Island, which is what the little fugitive does. For the most part, as the lad amuses himself at C.I., he is emotionally unaffected by the “killing” of a brother whose relentless teasing the boy hates. . . Little Fugitive is an urban, primitive-looking independent film with nonprofessional actors. It was released at a time when American movies, though usually inartistic, were very gradually taking chances (as witness Beat the Devil, Night of the Hunter, The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T., The Girl Can’t Help It). We’re fortunate the Engel-Orkin movie, not so inartistic, was made.