The Man who Made Indiana Jones: Fedora



“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.

Scenes I Love: “Blue Velvet” – In dreams you’re mine/All the time

Expect a full review soon.  Whenever I think of David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” the scene that comes to mind is Dean Stockwell with a work light as a microphone mouthing the words to Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams”.  It is truly one of the most haunting scenes in film history as Stockwell floats around the screen and Dennis Hopper lets his psychopathic rage bubble up.


Scenes I Love: “There Will Be Blood” – the Baptism.

This is one of the most powerful scenes ever.  This is one of the many reasons why I put Day-Lewis’ performance in “There Will Be Blood” as my top performance of a decade, and one of the hundreds of reasons I think he is the greatest actor that ever lived.


“The Color of Money” – 1986. Dir. Martin Scorsese.

“The Color of Money” – 1986. Dir. Martin Scorsese. With Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and John Tuturro.

“You gotta have two things to win. You gotta have brains and you gotta have balls. Now, you got too much of one and not enough of the other.”

This film catches up with Fast Eddie Felson twenty-five years since we last saw him in “The Hustler”. Now Fast Eddie is older, wiser and a liquor salesman. He’s no longer a pool player, but he’s still a hustler. The film opens with a great narration by director Martin Scorsese explaining the rules of nine ball and how luck is an art form to some people.

Eddie Felson is still smooth, fast talking and cooler than shit. He may be older, but Newman had aged so well, I’d even have slept with him. This time around Eddie meets Vincent, a young, fast talking, charismatically egotistical young pool hustler. He is a mirrored image of Eddie thirty years ago.

Eddie than gets to know Vincent, and his domineering girlfriend Carmen, and the three of them embark to Atlantic City to enter into the country’s biggest billiard tournament. Along the way, they hustle and get to know one another. Newman takes on the role of George C. Scott from the first film; he takes on the role of the mentor to Cruise. He tries to break Vince’s ego, and tries to get him to hone his skills.

Newman is excellent (that goes without saying) – but Cruise gives one of his top five performances of his career as the young and cocky pool shark. Mastrantonio gives a decent performance (although I’ve never been much of a fan of hers) and Helen Shaver who plays Eddie’s girlfriend is terrible.

I know you’ll tire of me stating this, but “The Color of Money” wasn’t a personal project for Scorsese – but – the entire film feels like a vintage Scorsese film. His use of popular music is impeccable, he uses Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, Robert Palmer and in one of my all time favorite Scorsese scenes ever, “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon.

Scorsese is a master at brilliantly executing his shots. Once the three of them reach Atlantic City and they enter the pool hall, there is an amazing shot of the three of them standing in profile. Newman and Cruise play off of each other so well; it’s a shame that they never made another film with each other.

"Smell that?" - "What, smoke?" - "Money..."

I’ve said for a long time that Newman winning his long overdue Oscar for “The Color of Money” was a make-up Oscar. It is and it isn’t. Bob Hoskins should have won that year for Neil Jordan’s “Mona Lisa” – but Newman is pretty fucking great in his second turn as Eddie Felson. The film comes down to an epic show down between Vincent and Eddie – and it’s wonderful to watch. Paul Newman is the man.

The authenticity is what makes the film flow incredibly well.  All of the shots of Newman and Cruise playing  pool are actually them making the shots.  There’s not fancy camera editing and cuts to trick us into believing that Newman and Cruise are making these shots, they actually are.

I found myself wondering why George C. Scott or Jackie Gleason’s characters weren’t mentioned, or even had cameos. I think the answer to that is that Eddie left that life, and doesn’t refer back to it ever – until he meets Vincent. What I really enjoy about “The Color of Money” is that the film exists on its own terms. It doesn’t rely, or even need “The Hustler” to exists. One quick note – Jake LaMotta was in the first film, “The Hustler”, and LaMotta was the center of Scorsese’s so-called masterpiece “Raging Bull”. So maybe this film is a little more personal than I thought?

Review: 9/10

Scenes I love: Schindler’s Tango – “Schindler’s List” – 1993 Dir. Steven Spielberg

This scene completely captivates me. It begins with Schindler applying his Nazi mask, and grooming himself to be a part of the regime. What really moves me is the simple dolly shot of Schindler sitting in his chair, holding a cigarette in front of his face, he watches us as we roll by him. Neeson gives us such a compellingly seductive look that brings us to his will. Watching Neeson make love to the camera is the most pleasurable part of this film that breaks my heart over and over again. Out of all of Spielberg’s great and not-so-great works, this short clip that includes the dolly shot of Schindler stands up against Spielberg’s best work. Enjoy.