MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: The man with the fedora in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was originally intended to be Indy’s future mentor (and even more in the future, his father-in-law), Abner Ravenwood.
In the 2018 film, Star Wars: A Solo Story, the film tells the origin of Han Solo (originally played by Harrison Ford) and the film gets teased a bit for how much of Han’s background that you never really thought that we would need to have explained to us was, well, you know, explained in the movie. Everything right down to his personal blaster get origins in the movie, where we learn that most of Han Solo’s stories about his past apparently took place over, like, a single weekend in his life.
In any event, I mention this to note that an EXTREMELY similar sequence appears in the opening scene of 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Young Henry “Indiana” Jones is out with his fellow Boy Scouts when they come across a group of grave robbers stealing the ancient Cross of Coronado. Young Indy decides that that cannot be allowed, so he steal the Cross from them and goes on a wild adventure that introduces Indy to the bullwhip and introduces his fear of snakes and, of course, provides him his famous fedora.
You see, when we first meet the grave robbers, one of the men, who is credited as simply “Fedora” in the film, looks VERY MUCH like Indiana Jones. We see him from behind and we’re clearly supposed to believe that he IS Indiana Jones at first, but they we see that it is actor Richard Young. Young is the leader of the grave robbers and unlike his underlings, you can tell that he is obviously quite impressed with the 13-year-old Indy (played by River Phoenix), even though he is also irritated that this young teen is foiling his plans to get the Cross.
However, once Indy has seemingly successfully prevented the bad guys from getting the Cross, he returns it to his home so that his father, Henry Jones, a famous archeologist, will help protect the Cross and get it to a museum. Instead, he discovers that the local sheriff is waiting for him and his father, Henry, won’t speak up for his son. The sheriff is clearly friends with “Fedora” (it was latee established that his name is Garth, but in other Indiana Jones stories, not the film itself) and Indiana has lost. The Cross goes with the mysterious benefactor of “Fedora,” only known by HIS hat, a Panama Hat. Before he departs, though, “Fedora” tells Indy, “You lost today kid, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it.” He then gives Indy his fedora. So yes, that one scene introduced a whole lot of Indiana Jones’ mythos and the film then cuts from young Indy with the hat to adult Indy, as he is about to get the Cross of Coronado BACK from Panama Hat and his men (but Fedora is not there).
It’s a great scene, but what’s interesting is that originally, “Fedora” was going to have an even more important role in the life of Indiana Jones!
As you may or may not know, probably the most important character in the Indiana Jones films that we never actually SEE is Abner Ravenwood, Indiana’s archeologist mentor, whose daughter, Marion, eventually marries Indiana.
During the story conferences for the first Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, director Steven Spielberg noted that Indy, “He should have a mentor in this. Somebody you never see, but he refers to from time to time, somebody you want to see. The man who taught him everything. The man who gave him whatever power he has now. Maybe some supreme archeologist who’s maybe ninety years old like Max Von Sydow, and is dying now. So you know it didn’t start with this guy. There are other greater predecessors around of this sort.”
While he is obviously not meant to be NINETY, that’s the basic concept behind Abner Ravenwood, who is who Indiana Jones is headed to go see in Nepal to help find the Ark of the Covenenat only to find out that Abner is dead (well, PRESUMED dead, the screenwriter of the film, Lawrence Kasdan, did not believe that Ravenwood was dead dead). Indiana then must work with his ex-girlfriend (don’t do the math on their ages in the film. It might disturb you), Marion Ravenwood, daughter of Abner.
Initially, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was going to involve Marion again and Abner would have made his debut, but then George Lucas decided to have Indiana Jones have a new love interest in each film, much like James Bond at the time.
And sure enough, in the original script for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Fedora WAS Ravenwood! The amazing Indiana Jones reference site, TheRaider.Net, explains, “The character named “Fedora” (played by Richard Young) in the credits was, in the script, originally named Abner Ravenwood, Marion Ravenwood’s father and Indiana’s mentor who was mentioned in Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
I would love to know why they changed that. Was it too harsh of a portrayal of a guy we’re supposed to think of as a hero? Or did it just overcomplicate things? Whatever the case may be, since Indiana and Marion marry at the end of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Indy was THIS close to having his future father-in-law being the man who gave him is fedora!
The legend is…
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