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I recently watched the full series again, and while the various
episodes are of varying quality, this was the only one which made me
want to review it. Unfortunately not because of its sterling qualities,
but because - as someone comments during the course of the episode -
As the blurb reads, in this episode, Indy woos three ladies. By now, any viewer of the series will have realized that Indy is a hopeless womanizer - wooing and discarding (or being discarded) ladies in every episode. This is not even the first episode where he has more than one leading lady. Nor is it the first one where he comes off as being a little callow and selfish.
Unfortunately, it is the first one where he comes off as having almost no redeeming qualities whatsoever. While the introduction is innocent enough, the Indy we are presented with here is a selfish, dishonest, self-absorbed liar - a far cry from the character established in other episodes. We are supposed to laugh at the antics in the episode - and that might have worked if it had been a short 45 minute episode - but stretched out over 90 minutes, it becomes hard to laugh when the protagonist is so unlikeable.
It's a pity, because the period drama itself is good. Tin Pan Alley and early Broadway are shown here in all its glory, and the three leading ladies are excellent (particularly Anne Heche). Unfortunately, it can't make up for the hopeless central plot that the episode is saddled with.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sean Patrick Flanery is young Indiana Jones, nearing his 21st birthday
and traveling by train to New York City. He is studying Archeology and
has been invited to stay with friends of the family.
On the train he meets Jennifer Stevens as Peggy who is traveling to New York City to star in a musical, only she doesn't know which one yet. She has aspirations to make it as a singer.
This is a fictional Indiana Jones story set in a real period of transition on Broadway. Since 1904 Zigfeld and his Follies dominated the entertainment industry there, but an upstart, George White, was just beginning to introduce a new kind of more exciting stage performance. White enlisted the services of a young George Gershwin to write all the music, which was a deviation from the practice of selecting a series of already known songs. So this fictional story has Indiana Jones in this circle of White, Gershwin, Berlin, and the entertainment critics. He not only gets involved with them, he becomes instrumental in George White's first success, the young Indy showing signs of the daring we get to know in the Harrison Ford movies.
Good movie, on DVD. The biggest task Indy has to manage is getting involved with three attractive young ladies right away, each thinking he is hers alone. In the end, when they find out what has been going on, at Indy's 21st birthday party, his face ends up in the cake.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Steven Spielberg said during production of Temple of Doom that he
always wanted to make a big old fashioned musical and he relished
opening the film with an old fashioned song and dance number. It turns
out Indiana Jones had a job on Broadway himself in his younger days
(described by old Indy as 'the most exciting job of his life', no
less). Having served in the trenches and as a spy during WWI, Indy had
to take all sorts of jobs to support himself during his college
education and seen in these Chronicles, most of his jobs involved show
business. All three of his adventures set in 1920 were broadcast in
much the same way as they were released on VHS and now on DVD, with the
exception of the aforementioned bookends starring George Hall being
deleted from 'The Scandal of 1920'. The reason why this particular
story is a more satisfying viewing experience than the other two (and
indeed all of the Chronicles' two parters) is because 'Scandal'
features just one plot line stretched over two hours, instead of two
completely unrelated ones stuck together.
20 year old Indiana Jones (Sean Patrick Flanery) arrives in NYC to stay with the Jacksons family, but crashes a party held by Kate the poet (Anne Heche) when it turns out the Jacksons are out of town. The two of them hit it off immediately, and Indy forgets all about his date the next morning with miss Peggy Peabody (Jennifer Stevens), an aspiring singer he met on the train. Jeffrey Wright from 'Mystery of the Blues' makes a cameo appearance (though he gets a prominent credit in the DVD version) and his part really only serves to introduce Indy to the insanely grinning George Gershwin (Tom Becket). George gets Indy a job as a gopher at George White's Scandal of 1920 and takes him along to a social event on Park Aveneu. Here Indy meets yet another love interest, high society girl Gloria (Alexandra Powers), whom he romances while dancing to George's music. Even by Young Indy standards (a new love interest in every other episode) this is pushing it a bit. As usual Indy also gets introduced to a whole bunch of famous people from that time and place in rapid succession. First the writers on Tin Pan Alley have a little impromptu singalong (which is not on the soundtrack, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles Volume 3), then Kate takes him to meet Dorothy Parker and the Vicous Circle. It's a shame they hardly ever had Indy meeting any original characters during this series, they would have had some to use in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (instead of coming up with new ones like Colin Williams and Harold Oxley).
After being reunited with Peggy during the auditions, Indy has to juggle his time with three dates while working full time at the troubled theater company. There is lots of 'A Chorus Line' auditions and rehearsals, always a good way for filmmakers to incorporate the rehearsal period into the story. When White's biggest rival Ziegfeld manages to turn the show's financiers against him, Indy saves the day by convincing Gloria to ask her daddy to help out. To tell the truth, the bits of shtick between Mr. White (Christopher John Fields) and his accountant Schwartz (Robert Trebor) are much more amusing than seeing Indiana struggle to keep three dates on the same night (Peggy at six, Kate at eight and Gloria at ten). Luckilly the show moves at a brisk enough paced and here are enough funny touches to put it a notch above other Young Indy adventures such as the wildly uneven 'Treasure of the Peacock's Eye' or the really quite dull 'Mystery of the Blues'. Also, Indy's friendship with Gershwin works well because for once the real life person is playing the wise-cracking sidekick instead of rattling off a bunch of historical facts while Indy stands around and nods.
Even when I first saw this show on two subsequent Saturday evenings, I had the feeling they should have spend far less time on different romances and more on the production of the show. Instead, they crammed the entire show and a whole bunch of new problems into a mere 15 minutes, which is a shame. Still, these are some of the most entertaining scenes in the entire Young Indy series, even if it strays wildly from the character we know and love as Indiana Jones. Sure, the fact that he and the dancers could make up their sexy fan dance on the spot is a bit hard to swallow (again, more time could have been spent on this sequence). But the best thing about the show is the way writer Jonathan Hales managed to weave 'the best song George Gershwin ever wrote' throughout the entire two parter. By using only bits of it's often discarded intro as the basis for a running gag, the final performance by Peggy really pays off in a big way. Unfortunately that performance is also absent from the original soundtrack mentioned above. Jay Underwood makes another appearance as Indy's pal Ernie Hemmingway, though he is never identified as such and what with this episode being broadcast in most of Europe before his other two appearances (Northern Italy, June 1918 and The Mystery of the Blues) his cameo was a bit of a puzzler to me the first time I saw it. Finally, after the big finale, there is the little mess with the three girls to resolve on Indy's 21st birthday (July 1st). While the original episode segued into a gag featured grumpy old George Hall as Professor Jones, the DVD version closes with a very cheap special effect that should only be used by amateur editors making home movies: a closing curtain.
8 out of 10
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