Little Fugitive

Source: Alan Parker, ‘Little Fugitive’, in Geoffrey Macnab, Screen Epiphanies: Film-makers on the Films that Inspired Them (London: BFI/Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), pp. 127-128

Text: In Islington, there was an old fleapit cinema, the Blue Hall on Upper Street, just a bit further on from Angel, just past what is now called Screen on the Green, but which was called the Rex when I grew up. The Blue Hall was a classic fleapit. It ran anything they could get their hands on that was cheap to run – second run, third run, fourth run. I remember I was aged ten and I went to see this film, Little Fugitive, which was a black-and-white film shot in Brooklyn, about a little kid who ends up in Coney Island. It was so different to anything I had ever seen before. What I had seen before was either the very mediocre British movies or Hollywood movies. It was the very first film that was neither of those. It was a complete mistake, really, that I wandered in to see it. This fleapit running it wasn’t an arthouse theatre or anything like that. They didn’t exist in those days. I remember going to see this little film. It was the first film shot in a very naturalistic documentary style. It was the first film I had ever see that wasn’t manufactured to be a movie. I’ve looked it up since and I have seen quotes from Jean Luc Godard and Truffaut saying it influenced that whole era of film-making, which at the time I had no knowledge of whatsoever.

The film was made in 1953. I would have seen it a good year or so later. I remember being completely and utterly mesmerised by it. It was a classic moment of going back to school and telling everybody about it. I always remember I had to stand up in class and talk about it. In my ignorance, I couldn’t even pronounce the word fugitive because it is never said in the film. I remember standing up and I got a lot of laughs because I said I went to see this film, ‘Little Fuggitive’. ‘Fugg-itive’ sounded very rude. I was then put right by the teacher that it was actually pronounced ‘fugitive’. It’s an odd word, not a word that at ten I would have used in Islington.

The film was hugely influential. From then on, I went to see everything I could possibly see. Up to that point, cinema was just somewhere you went when you were bored.

Comment: Alan Parker (born 1944) is a film director and former chairman of the UK Film Council. Little Fugitive (USA 1953) was made by Ray Ashley, Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin. Screen Epiphanies is a collection of reminiscences by film directors of seeing films which had a transformative effect on them.

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