“You lost today kid, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it.” – Fedora (Richard Young)
I recently watched “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” over the weekend, and I haven’t seen the film in probably four or five years and I forgot how fucking excellent the film really is. Every time I’ve watched the film, even as a little kid, I was always drawn to the character dubbed Fedora (Richard Young) in the credits. He’s never called by name in the film, but during the opening when Young Indy (River Phoenix) is watching the gang in the cave digging for treasure, the name Garth is mentioned.
Indiana Jones had met a wide array of characters in the films, but I don’t think anyone had as big of an influence on his life as Fedora did. Fedora has limited screen time, and few lines of dialogue, but during the opening sequence of the film – he’s the most important character. After Indy gets the cross from the gang and Indy gets chased to a circus train – Indy finds himself in a life or death situation when he falls into a train car that contains a roaring lion.
Indy tries to tame the lion with his whip, but Fedora and his men are on top of the train car looking down, and Fedora commands that Indy toss up his whip so they can pull him up. After Fedora rescues Indy, they chase beings again, as Indy escapes from the caboose Fedora watches Indy run down the train tracks, away from the hauling train. As Fedora watches him run away, he gets a smirk on his face.
When Indy returns home to tell his father what he had just done, his father essentially brushes him off because he’s working on his obsession of the Holy Grail. Fedora’s gang shows up with the town’s sheriff and the sheriff asks Indy for the cross back. Fedora’s gang is pompous and smug because they just won. But as everyone leaves, Fedora is left standing in the doorway. He removes his fedora and as he sets it on Young Indy’s head he says one of the greatest lines in film history: “You lost today kid, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it.” The film then resumes in real time where we see Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones – he’s on a ship, being held by men with blood coming from his busted lip. He’s smiling remembering Fedora’s words of wisdom.
It’s not that Fedora is sympathetic to Indy even though he’s the only one who shows respect for him; Fedora sees himself in Indy, and for that he gives him his fedora as if he’s passing the torch to him, telling him, “here you go kid, the job is now yours.” In the films when Indy is out in the field, he always has his hat, and risks his life on a couple of occasions to ensure that he has possession of his hat that Fedora gave him when he was a teenager. While it may not always be the same exact hat, the hat does symbolize Fedora, the man who made Indiana Jones.
When Spielberg shot the scene in the cave, where the men find this rare artifact, Fedora is hunched over, and he’s holding it – watching it. He’s mystified by the discovery and it’s then you realize he’s not after the money, he’s after the hunt. The tight close-ups, and the way the camera revolves around Fedora is much like the way Spielberg shoots Indy when he’s found the treasure he’s been looking for.
When we see Ford as Indiana Jones, he’s dressed exactly like Fedora was in the third film. His hat, his rough leather jacket – and even Fedora’s rough look and demeanor and right down to that signature smart ass smirk transcended to Indy. As the third film displays, Indy didn’t have a good relationship with his father, Henry Jones, Sr. (Sean Connery) was obsessed with his work, too obsessed to provide the emotional commitment of being a father. Fedora accepted that role – though their interactions only lasted for a couple of hours when Indy was in his teens. Fedora shaped the man who stopped being “Junior” and became Indiana Jones.
In the original script the character of Fedora was originally Abner Ravenwood who was later played by John Hurt in “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls” who was the father of Marion (Karen Allen) and dubbed as Indy’s “mentor”. To be honest with you, I completely ignore the fourth installment of the franchise. Lucas, Ford and Spielberg should have known better.
The fact that in the original script that Fedora was Abner almost solidifies the fact that Fedora is actually Indy’s mentor. Next to Indiana Jones, I think Fedora is the second most important character in the franchise even though he had maybe ten minutes of screen time and ten lines of dialogue. In that short time, we see Fedora in Indiana Jones, and in turn when we see Ford as Indy – I see Fedora.
After the films premier, Robert Young reprised his role as Fedora/Garth for a live performance of the opening show of the National Boy Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia. This event was produced by Steven Spielberg. If you ask me, I think that’s pretty badass.
I would have liked to have seen more of Fedora, even an adventure of his since he is the precursor of Indiana Jones – but that’s what makes him so effective – is the fact that we know absolutely nothing about him – yet his story is told through the adventures of Indiana Jones.