Cast & Crew
Gerald S. O'loughlin
In New York City, Ann, a widowed model, has a date with her old friend Larry, an engineer who has just returned from working in South America. Ann leaves her seven-year-old daughter Peggy in the care of her babysitter, Carol, but before Ann leaves, a wide-awake Peggy peeks out to see Larry. One day, Peggy joins Ann and Larry as they visit the Museum of Modern Art and Central Park, where Peggy sails a toy boat Larry gave her. However, Ann leaves Peggy at home when she and Larry next visit the Statue of Liberty, after which they explore Chinatown. That day, their adventure continues at the Empire State Building, and Rockefeller Center, where they realize that they have fallen in love. The next day, Ann joins Larry when he looks at a house upstate that a friend of his is buying. Meanwhile, Peggy spends the day at the zoo with Peter, a photographer who will be using pictures of her in his children's book. Ann and Larry grow closer while spending time in the house, where Ann creates a makeshift dining room table out of sawhorses and scrapwood, so she and Larry can picnic in front of the fireplace. In time, Peggy reluctantly begins to like Larry. Nevertheless, one night she grows petulant and repeatedly interrupts him and Ann as they try to cuddle on the couch. On another day, Peggy asks if Larry plans to marry her mother, and the smiles on his and Ann's faces provide the answer. As an engagement gift, Larry buys them a television, although he protests when Ann places an objet d'art on top of it. When they all drive to the beach together, Peggy stays with Larry as he parks the car. Jealous of Larry, Peggy hides from him in the parking lot, and only rejoins him after he grows wise to her ploy and acknowledges that he knows she is listening, then begins to walk to the beach without her. Later that day, Ann is offended when Larry asks that they leave Peggy behind when Ann meets his father, as he believes her having a child may upset the elderly man. Ann then becomes even more annoyed when she discovers that Larry has left Peggy alone in the surf, and gave her lollipops against Ann's request. Despite having made some mistakes, Larry continues to try to befriend Peggy. When she rejects a doll he brings her in favor of an old one from her father, he takes her to the toy store at Macy's against Ann's advice. There, Peggy purposely tests Larry's patience by taking over an hour to select another toy and dawdling over lunch. After they leave the store she needs to use a bathroom, so Larry waits for her outside a restaurant while she goes inside. Peggy fails to see him after exiting the restaurant and is relieved when he reappears, but when she wanders off the curb into the street, Larry grabs her and she hurts her ankle. When they get home, Peggy bitterly complains to her mother that Larry was impatient, fed her bad food and struck her when she stumbled. Larry protests that he did not hit her, and Peggy calls him a liar and declares she hates him. Concerned about her daughter, Ann cancels her plans to join Larry for an important dinner with his boss that night, and they part in anger. Ann and Larry do not talk for a few days, and Ann grows irritable with her bored daughter, although she will soon be going to summer camp. While Ann mopes around her apartment and gazes fondly at souvenirs from the time she spent with Larry, Larry finds numerous reminders of Ann on the streets of the city: a jewelry store, a shop selling wedding dresses and the Statue of Liberty. One afternoon, while Ann is out shopping, Larry brings Peggy a puppy. They unsuccessfully look for Ann and then return to the apartment building, where Peggy shows off her puppy to a neighbor. Meanwhile, Larry, who has bought a new car and worn a bow-tie to please Ann, goes upstairs to Ann's apartment. When Ann hears the buzzer, she happily removes the objet d'art from the television and shoves it under the bed, then goes to answer the door.
Ruth Orkin Engel
Lovers and Lollipops
As the eye-catching images of their films testify, Engel and Orkin started out as photographers. Engel studied at the left-wing Photo League cooperative in the 1920s, covered the start of the Normandy invasion in 1944 as a combat photographer, and then became a photojournalist, working for such major magazines as McCall's and Collier's. Orkin went to work for MGM in 1942, hoping to become a director, but quit when she realized the obstacles facing a woman in the male-controlled film industry. Turning to photojournalism, she contributed to Life, Look, and other top-flight publications; when cancer cut back her mobility in the late 1950s she stayed active but changed her strategy, taking some of the most highly regarded photos of her career from her apartment windows. She and Engel married while working on their first film, Little Fugitive (1953), and remained so until her death in 1985. Engel went back to commercial photography when Orkin's illness struck, but continued to dabble in film and video until his death in 2005.
Orkin and Engel wrote and directed Little Fugitive, which set the tone for all of their movie work, in collaboration with Ray Ashley, a journalist and friend. The title character is a seven-year-old boy who runs away from his Brooklyn neighborhood to the Coney Island amusement park after his older brother plays a cruel prank on him. Anticipating the advances in lightweight camera equipment that would propel cinéma-vérité documentary a few years later, Engel did the cinematography with a small, portable 35mm camera he helped design, which allowed him to shoot in public places without being noticeable and to sustain a steady image (long before steadicams were invented) while moving and in tight spaces.
Made on a $30,000 budget, Little Fugitive won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1953 and earned an Academy Award nomination for best original story. It also made a big impression on other aspiring filmmakers who wanted to follow their own instincts outside Hollywood's orbit. They included John Cassavetes, who started work on his legendary Shadows in 1957, and Martin Scorsese, who began setting stories against vivid New York City backgrounds a few years later. Overseas, meanwhile, French filmmaker François Truffaut was inspired by the picture's childhood subject and spontaneous production style when he created his prize-winning debut feature, The 400 Blows, in 1959. "Our New Wave would never have come into being," he told an interviewer years later, "if it hadn't been for the young American Morris Engel, who showed us the way to independent production with [this] fine movie."
Despite the success of their first picture, it took a couple of years for Engel and Orkin to raise money for their second, Lovers and Lollipops, which is somewhat less compelling but every bit as original. The child in this story is a little girl named Peggy whose widowed mother, Ann, has been dating Larry, an old friend who's thinking about moving back to New York after living in South America for a long time. Peggy is likable enough, but unlike the too-adorable kids in so many films and TV shows of the 1950s, she has a bratty and self-centered side that takes over her personality with growing frequency as she tries to figure out how Larry's presence is affecting her mother and how much her own life would change if Larry married into the family.
As before, Engel did the photography and Orkin handled the editing. The film's most outstanding feature is, again, its brilliant use of New York City locations the Museum of Modern Art, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Bronx Zoo, and more as strikingly authentic backdrops for scene after scene. The story gains its own sense of authenticity from a realistically meandering plotline, and while the acting is always engaging, it has a subtle awkwardness that makes it resemble real, awkward life more than polished movie acting. Peggy is played by Cathy Dunn in her only film appearance, and the adults are played by Lori March and Gerald O'Loughlin, who went on to long careers, if not major ones. The screenplay tosses in unexpected bits of business that further heighten the sense of lifelike spontaneity, such as Peggy's modeling work for a professional photographer, and the way she and Larry lose track of each other when they're only a few feet apart on a busy Chinatown street. The closeness of the characters and their environments is so concrete and genuine that an Italian neorealist could be proud of it.
Engel made his third and last theatrical film, Weddings and Babies, in 1958, working with other collaborators now that Orkin was ill. The main character is a commercial photographer perhaps a stand-in for Engel himself whose professional ambitions conflict with his girlfriend's desire to settle down and have a conventional middle-class home. Once again Engel made a technical leap forward, using new equipment to create what documentary master Richard Leacock hailed as "the first theatrical motion picture to make use of a fully mobile, synchronous sound-and-picture system." Although they released no films together after the 1950s, Engel and Orkin are remembered as indie trailblazers to this day. Lovers and Lollipops is a marvelous showcase for their wit, their intelligence, and their belief that ordinary human behavior has an indefinable charm that charismatic movie acting rarely manages to capture.
Directors: Morris Engel, Ruth Orkin
Producers: Morris Engel, Ruth Orkin
Screenplay: Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin
Cinematographer: Morris Engel
Film Editing: Ruth Orkin
Music: Eddy Manson
With: Lori March (Ann), Gerald O'Loughlin (Larry), Cathy Dunn (Peggy), William Ward (Peter).
by David Sterritt
Lovers and Lollipops
Morris Engel (1918-2005)
Engel was born on April 8, 1918 in Brooklyn, New York to a family of very modest income. He became fascinated with photography as a child, being enamored by travel pictures he came across in brochures. When still in high school, he signed up for a $6 course at the Photo League and began roaming the streets of New York with his camera. He enlisted in the Navy during World War II and became a combat photographer, where he eventually found himself documenting the historic D-day landing at Normandy, France. After the war, he photographed for magazines such as Collier's and McCall's, and became respected for his work in photojournalism.
He met his wife, Ruth Orkin, also a noted photographer, in the early '50s. After their marriage in 1952, both Morris and Orkin expressed a desire toward filmmaking. The result was an innovative and daring film they wrote, directed and produced - The Little Fugitive (1953). The story, of a seven-year-old boy from Brooklyn named Joey (the wonderful Richie Andrusco), who believes he fatally shot his 11-year-old brother (Richard Brewster), and escapes to Coney Island to avoid punishment, was certainly modest in budget ($30,000) and execution. Yet for many film scholars, there was simply nothing like it to compare to at the time. Engel's capture of New York locations, fresh use of street sounds, hand held camera technique, and employing real New Yorkers as extras, made for something fresh and new. Indeed, when in 1959, both John Cassavetes and Francois Truffaut came onto the scene with their feature film debuts (Cassavetes for Shadows and Truffaut for The 400 Blows), both were quick to publicly praise Engel for starting an "independent" mind set for film direction.
Although Engel and his wife would create only two more films: the charming Lovers and Lollipops (1956), about a little girl who views the world of her elders with a precocious eye; and the lyrical drama Weddings and Babies (1958), regarding the pre-marital jitters of a professional photographer; their influence on Indie filmmaking cannot be overstated. After his wife's death from cancer in 1985, Engel did make two video documentaries, A Little Bit Pregnant (1993) and Camellia (1998). He is survived by a son, Andy; a daughter, Mary; two sisters, Pearl Russell and Helen Siemianowski; and a grandson.
by Michael T. Toole
Morris Engel (1918-2005)
Information deposited with the NYSA lists the film's title as The Different Ring, and an alternate title as The Couple and the Kid. The following acknowledgments of film locations appear in the opening credits: Windmill Farm, Armonk, NY (site of the house visited by "Ann" and "Larry"); The Museum of Modern Art; Jacques Lipchitz (whose sculptures are seen in The Museum of Modern Art's Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden); Observation Roof, Rockefeller Center; The Bronx Zoo; U.S. Dept. of Interior, National Park Service; and Playland, Rye, NY (beach scene). As indicated above, Lovers and Lollipops was shot entirely on location in New York. The toy store scene was shot in the Macy's department store. The Variety review noted that Lovers and Lollipops had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, where it played out of competition.
Lovers and Lollipops was the second production by renowned photographers Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin, who were married to each other. As with their first film, Little Fugitive, Lovers and Lollipops influenced French New Wave film, and was followed by their third production, Weddings and Babies (see below). Modern sources note that unlike the first two pictures, which were dubbed, Weddings and Babies was recorded live during filming.