As always, dear readers, welcome.
When it comes to Indiana Jones movies, I’m always torn between #1
Raiders of the Lost Ark has a freshness to it that always keeps it new for me, no matter how many times I’ve seen it, while The Last Crusade has the byplay between Indiana and his father, which adds a whole additional level, both of comedy and emotion, to the story.
One of Henry Jones Senior’s remarks to his son, in fact, has inspired this posting. Indiana has made the mistake of retaining his father’s “Grail Diary”,
which then falls into enemy hands.
Disgusted with “Junior” as he calls him, Henry Senior says, “I should have mailed it to the Marx Brothers!”
It’s a funny line—after all, just look at Groucho, Chico, and Harpo.
Do these look like people you would trust with the sensitive matter of the Holy Grail?
(It’s “CHICK-oh”, by the way, as in “one who goes after girls”, rather than the Spanish word meaning “little” or “boy” or “dude” or even “boyfriend”.)
After I wrote the first draft of this posting, it occurred to me that perhaps not everyone among my readers would know who these people were.
The Marx Brothers were, as you’d expect, a group of brothers named Marx
although Karl was not among them.
Originally four in number, they had been stage entertainers and not very successful ones until they almost fell into comedy and then they quickly became increasingly successful, first on stage, and then in film, under the names “Groucho”, “Chico”, “Harpo”, and “Zeppo”. (Zeppo—he’s the one in the upper left hand corner–hoped for a singing career and gradually faded from the picture, literally.)
On stage, they were known for their zany unpredictability: what you might see one night might be completely different the next. In film, their quick movement from slapstick to verbal humor and back still suggested that sense that it was all improvised and just this side of cheerful chaos. Here’s Groucho singing “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” from their 1934 film, At the Circus, as an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iO9xXk5qUtg
And so I’m not so sure that Henry Jones Senior isn’t saying more than he means .
Consider dictators of the period in which the film takes place:
One feature which gave these men power was their basic humorlessness. Everything they did publicly was meant to be taken dead seriously. Even a shared smile was like an historic occasion.
If we can detach them from their behavior and its consequences for the world, however, everything from Mussolini’s shaved head to Hitler’s baggy trousers (actually jodhpurs—riding britches–though I can’t imagine him on a horse, even though he owned a fancy racehorse named Nordlicht–
was this is actually a horse mannequin?)
could easily fall into comedy, as it did in Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 The Great Dictator,
where we see Hitler and Mussolini as “Adenoid Hynkel” and “Benzino Napaloni”.
If the Marx Brothers had one major target, it was pomposity in people and events. In A Night at the Opera (1935) alone,
they take on rich society ladies
and toadying people from the arts,
knock out an up-and-coming Italian tenor,
mock the complicated language of legal contracts,
stow away on an ocean liner,
pretend to be famous Italian aviators,
destroy a public ceremony honoring those aviators,
[Here’s the scene, if you don’t know it, or just want to see it again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38N5OcZx3ko ]
and, ultimately, ruin a performance of Verdi’s Il Trovatore,
having previously sent a symphony orchestra out to sea, still playing Wagner, in Day at the Circus (1934).
Even the possibly “posh” pronunciation of a common word could be a target when, in Day at the Circus, Groucho, having just pronounced the word “aunt” to rhyme with “taunt”, turns to the screen audience and comments:
(This is a circus, after all.)
Imagine that scene, then, in The Last Crusade, when Indiana, clutching the recovered “Grail Diary”, comes face to face with Hitler.
The original scene has its own ironic comedy, as Hitler thinks that Indiana is a fan and wants an autograph, but what would have been the case if Groucho, backed by Chico and Harpo, had suddenly been confronted with the dictator?
As always, thanks for reading.
Remember that the password is “Swordfish” (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yT0-HGqy_8c ),
And know that, as always, there’s