Henry and INDIANA JONES: Like Crusading Father, Like Crusading Son

A look at one of the all-time father/son cinematic duos.

Ask pretty much any psychologist* and they’ll tell you: Conflict is vital to any good relationship. When you hear about couples who don’t fight, at least every now and then, your automatic reaction should be to throw them a bit of side-eye. Couples who say they don’t fight are either lying to themselves or aliens. (Although I suppose they could be both ...)

The power of conflict in relationships doesn’t just apply to significant others, however; it can also apply to parents and children. But unlike conflict in, say, a marriage, fights in familial relationships often stem from the fact that the parent and child are too similar for anyone’s good -- especially each other’s.

Take the father-son duo of Henry Walton Jones Sr. and Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones Jr. As the stars of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Henry and Indy are the ultimate in dysfunctional relatives, in part because they’re practically the same man.

But that’s what makes them so freaking fantastic.

When the movie starts, Henry is nothing but voice and a diary. He’s not literally on film, but he’s already a major player. When he finally, physically, shows up -- 45 minutes into the movie -- it’s like a hole has been filled. Indy (who is, of course, a commanding presence in his own right) is suddenly humbled. His immediate reaction to his father’s hitting him on the head with a vase after mistaking him for a Nazi is a cowed “Yes, sir.” In this moment, Indy is a 13-year-old boy again, being forced to pause and count to twenty … in Greek.

It’s quite apparent, from the initial scenes with Young Indy at the start of the movie, that Henry’s not the most attentive of fathers. It can be assumed that he pretty much always put his studies, particularly his search for the Holy Grail, before Indy, and he often treated Indy more like a student than a son. When Indy comments on Henry’s epic search for the Grail, Henry calls it a “race against evil”; Indy responds, “This is an obsession, Dad!” But Henry’s obsessive tendencies have obviously been passed down to his son; the whole beginning of The Last Crusade and Indy’s decades-long quest to bring the Cross of Coronado to a museum is proof of that.

As the two make their way out of Castle Brunwald, and the bickering escalates, the similarities between father and son become more and more apparent, culminating in the fact that they even have the same taste in questionable women. (Side note: As I was quite young the first time I watched this movie, I don’t think I quite understood the level of ick factor involved in both Henry and Indy having slept with Elsa Schneider … but boy, do I ever now.)

Other things they have in common:

* Profession -- Henry is a professor of medieval literature; Indy is a professor of archeology.
* Hatred of the Nazis -- Natch.
* Fear of vermin -- Henry’s not a fan of rats; Indy hates snakes.
* Stubbornness -- There are too many examples of this to point out just one.
* Ingenuity -- Indy’s always finding his way out of predicaments by the seat of his pants; Henry squirts ink into a Nazi’s eyes while fighting his way out of the tank.
* A penchant for hats -- Indy wears a fedora; Henry prefers a somewhat more old-fashioned trilby.

But above all -- and yeah, it sounds totally schmaltzy, but bear with me -- they share love. Henry and Indy might fight, incessantly, but their loyalty runs deep and true. Who does Henry mail his journal to when he’s worried that it will fall into the wrong hands? Indy. As soon as Indy hears that his father is missing, he sets off on an adventure that’s sure to be fraught with danger, but he does so without question.

When Henry thinks Indy has fallen to his death in the tank battle with the Nazis, Henry is distraught. “Oh God, I’ve lost him,” he says. “And I’ve never told him anything.” And when Henry’s shot in the entrance of the temple, Indy finds the inspiration to risk life and limb and brave unknown booby traps to bring him a drink from the Grail. Henry and Indy are two of a kind and though, on the surface, it seems they can’t stand being in the same room together for more than a few minutes, the idea of one existing without the other is unthinkable.

*On second thought, just take my word for it.

This was originally published in the "Dynamic Duos" issue of Birth.Movies.Death. See a bunch of amazing partners in film at the Alamo Drafthouse this month!