After seeing the first Indiana Jones film, “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” in 1981, I sat in the dark theater shaken, amazed. How, I wondered, did some Hollywood scriptwriter catch the essential Bob Hughes so well?
I mean, it was one thing to capture the Hughes attitude, the braininess, the courage, but to hit upon the essential charisma too? I walked out of the theater with my early-middle-age Boomer identity validated in an exhilarating way.
This feeling has never left me.
True, no one has ever come up to me and said, “Excuse me, sir. Not to be fresh or anything, but you are Indiana Jones, aren’t you?” And my wife has never slipped and said, “Indy — I mean Dear — you might have left your keys on the TV.” But I don’t mind. Serene certainty does that for a man.
The movie industry provided a similar double for me only once before. I was 6.
In those days I hadn’t yet developed a personal philosophy or style. The Disney film “Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier” settled that. Davy was brave, handsome, laconic, at ease in his own skin. He was happy too. When his balladeers sang about how Davy “lit out a-grinnin’ to follow the sun,” I knew this was the way life should be lived. When Davy said to his sidekick Georgie Russel, “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead,” I knew the oracle had spoken.
With Indiana Jones, however, Hollywood outdid itself. There I was in a new incarnation on the screen. Never mind the preposterous story line. Never mind the goofy mysticism, the physical impossibilities, the bogus history, the vague misogyny and xenophobia. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” spoke to me, or I should say, Parallel Me.
Most of the time, this other self hides out. Parallel Me doesn’t like to brag. Parallel Me bounces along through daily life in serene silence, the movie theme song playing in his head, the way the Davy Crockett theme used to, year in, year out through my middle-class, middle-age and middlebrow existence.
Indiana Jones amplified the Davy Crockett style and attitude. I was now handsome in a tough way. Ever-so-slight discrepancies between Indiana’s appearance and my own — in hair, face, muscle tone, height, weight, gait, crooked smile, etc., etc. — could be passed over because of our undeniably shared essence.
This was the attitude of sheer, dogged, never-mind-the-odds determination. In the definitive scene of all the Indiana Jones films, our hero lies exhausted, badly injured, and seemingly without hope. Somebody tells him the Nazis have taken away the Ark of the Covenant on a truck and that he should just give up. Indy says through gritted teeth, “What truck?” And his chase goes on in an ever-escalating action frenzy. Yes, Indiana! Go, go, go!
Harrison Ford still looks great for the part, even though he is older than me by a good something, something years. He is the ultimate late-middle-age guy’s inspiration, the iconic emblem of hope, the image that laughs at inevitable aging. Yes, we are all older, he seems to say, but one thing saves us: That sheer, dogged, never-mind-the-odds determination.
So this Boomer is looking forward to the next Indiana Jones adventure. Sure, it won’t be “Citizen Kane” or “Grand Illusion” or “Smiles of a Summer Night.” It might not even be “Terminator 3.” But it will be — how can I say it? — me.