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Growing Up With Little Fugitive

Little Fugitive (1953) is my favorite film shot in Coney Island.  I love the scenes where Joey, the seven-year-old boy played by Richie Andrusco, goes to shops under the boardwalk to redeem bottles that he picked up on the beach. We don't really have an accessible "under the boardwalk" anymore but when a section was renovated in 2012, one of those basement-level spaces was excavated and its signage was revealed and photographed. I also love the shots where Joey is walking under the boardwalk and you see the light shining through the wooden slats making shadows on the sand. Whenever I see the still of that scene, I can't help thinking that in the future if the city makes the boardwalk plastic wood or concrete, that interplay of light and shadow will no longer exist.


I recently recorded an oral history with Mary Engel, the daughter of Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin, who co-wrote and directed Little Fugitive. Engel grew up steeped in the world of filmmaking and photography and it seems natural that she would become a filmmaker and an archivist of her parents' work. She talks about her childhood memories, her parents' lives and work, and her work as a documentarian and manager of their archive and the founder of the American Photography Archives Group. You can listen to the full interview in the Coney Island History Project oral history archive.

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