Like most of us geek folk, I've always harbored an intense crush on the dashing archeologist-adventurer Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr., played famously on the silver screen by the dashing Harrison Ford. Through Indiana Jones's three classic major motion pictures, I lusted after (and envied) the scruffy, rough-and-tumble hero (not so much in the lame 2008 sequel, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as he adventured to exotic locales, rescued Indian slave children, slept with hot Nazi women, and cracked his whip all over the globe. But manly and heroic as the adult Indy was, his younger self made my young pulse race in an entirely different way. And so, this week's Movie Crush is dedicated not to the hunky Harrison Ford but to his blue-eyed teen counterpart: Sean Patrick Flanery.
"The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles," conceived by creator George Lucas as a companion series aimed at younger Indy fans, ran from 1992-1996 on ABC and the USA network as both standalone episodes and repackaged two-hour films. Prequel adventures told the back story of the future adventurer Indiana Jones, whose early 20th century exploits brought the character into contact with historical figures like T.E. Lawrence, Al Capone, Winston Churchhill, Franz Kafka, and Mata Hari. Twelve-year-old actor Corey Carrier split episodes with the then 27-year-old Flanery as the child and teen Indys, respectively, but I challenge anyone who watched the show to remember Carrier as the definitive young Indiana Jones. It was Flanery all the way.
Flanery was probably at least partially cast because of his resemblance to River Phoenix, who played the teenage Indy in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. (Phoenix was 19 at the time, supposedly playing a 13-year-old Indy.) What the two shared in common was that perfect late '80s/early'90s hair, a creamy golden complexion, and a rascally twinkle of the eye, although Flanery could also play a kind of adorable innocence that lent his Indy a youthful charm. He bridged the gap between Indiana Jones the Boy Scout and Indiana Jones the ladies' man, giving us a clean-cut, earnest, and naïve version of the man who Indy would become. And of course, over the course of the series' run, Flanery's Indy also had his fair share of romantic escapades that showed us just how Indy got his reputation for loving and leaving the world's most beautiful women.
For instance, there was his torrid affair with the seductive spy known as Mata Hari, played by Domiziana Giordano in the episode "Paris, October 1916." On leave from the Belgian Army during World War I, Indy meets the older woman at a dinner party and, transfixed by her belly dancing display, loses his virginity to her. Their May-December romance ends as she's being investigated for espionage. You'd think he'd have learned his lesson by the time he encountered Elsa Schneider years later... (Fun fact: the Mata Hari episode was co-written by Carrie Fisher and co-directed by Nicholas Roeg.)
And you may have thought Marion Ravenwood was always Indy's one true love, but he came awfully close in 1916 London, where a plucky young suffragist named Vicky Prentiss (played by the young Elizabeth Hurley the same year she appeared in Passenger 57) won his affections. Enamored of her spunk and beauty, the future eternal bachelor even proposed marriage only to be turned down on account of Vicky's desire to remain unmarried in order to pursue a career.
Events like these are perhaps why "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" was so very watchable; Flanery's Indy was so much more romantic than the rascally curmudgeon that Indiana Jones would eventually become.
As series ended, Flanery continued working steadily, although his most prominent subsequent role -- as a bald, magical albino in Powder -- is unfortunately remembered best for either director Victor Salva's controversial private life or for being that movie about a bald, magical albino. A string of roles in forgettable films like Simply Irresistible (AKA the magical Sarah Michelle Gellar foodie rom-com) followed, but one of Flanery's smaller films earned him a particularly devoted fan following: 1999's The Boondock Saints. Troy Duffy's crime thriller about two brothers turned vigilante heroes became a cult film on the home video circuit and spawned a long-awaited sequel last fall, which hits DVD this week.