The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

Season 2 Episode 5

The Mystery of the Blues, Chicago, April 1920 (1)

Aired Sunday 8:00 PM Mar 13, 1993 on ABC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

The Mystery of the Blues, Chicago, April 1920 (1)
While going to college and working in a speakeasy, Indy meets up with jazz great Sidney Bechet who teaches him how to play the blues. Unfortunately, Indy also crosses paths with Al Capone and it's only with the assistance of his dorm roommate, Eliot Ness, that Indy is able to solve a vicious murder and prevent himself from ending up dead.moreless

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  • Indy discovers the blues with Sidney Bechet!

    It's time for some jazz is quite a rare story for 'The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles'. Although known as 'Chicago, April 1920' and 'Chicago, May 1920' both parts were originally aired together in a feature length format or as a TV movie called 'The Mystery of the Blues'. What this means for the eventual VHS and DVD versions of this episode is that there aren't any continuity problems. As far as I'm aware there are no edited out bookends or linking footage that fans always raise issues with. 'The Mystery of the Blues' is pretty much identical to what originally aired back in the early 90s even keeping the Harrison Ford bookends. More on this below.

    It's Chicago 1920 and Indiana Jones is attending college while paying the bills working as a waiter. Indy becomes enchanted with the jazz music of Sidney Bechet (Jeffrey Wright) and asks for his advice in learning. Given a saxophone Indy practices night and day much to the chagrin of his roommate Eliot Ness (Frederick Weller). However, the road to perfect saxophone playing is never perfect and our hero soon understands playing jazz is not just about timing but using emotion...

    Watching these stories in continuity order we the viewer perhaps get the biggest jump in the series timeline. Since the previous story 'Princeton 1919' we have fast-forwarded one year later to 'Chicago, April 1920'. It's understandable the writers wanted to focus on the war years as there's more to mine in terms of stories it just means unfortunately bigger gaps in the timeline are left unexplored post-World War One. In this case Indy is already in college and has been for a year. One of the main criticisms of 'The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles' was the lack of Harrison Ford. Forever his most iconic role no one can be associated more with the role of Indiana Jones than the man that left that original undeniable mark. When people think of that character Ford comes up not Cory Carrier, Sean Patrick Flanery or George Hall who did the TV series as well as even River Phoenix. It's a shame as the others did incredible work with what they were given but the series ratings were slipping. Viewers wanted the actual Indiana Jones so network ABC in an attempt to improve falling ratings brought Harrison Ford back to film bookends for 'The Mystery of the Blues'. Filmed while Ford was doing 'The Fugitive' it's nice to see him back in the role as at this stage there was no thought of further Indiana Jones films being produced. It definitely feels more like a gimmick but it's still fun to watch. Ford is a lot more believable as an older Indiana than George Hall is, providing the character with more humility and wisdom in his senior years to contrast with Flanery's Indy shown in the main part of the story. As usual bookends with George Hall had been shot but Ford's bookends replaced these. European airings apparently still did show the Hall bookends instead of the new Ford ones. Regardless, this attempt to grab more ratings failed and the series was still cancelled although Ford's bookends did survive the 1999/2000 re-edits. This does mess up continuity slightly. While both parts flow nicely together how we get to this point in time to begin with isn't explained and the fact that the story begins in 1950 does brake the rules of the re-edits but we can forgive this.

    The main drive of 'The Mystery of the Blues' is Indy's attempts to learn the blues. We're told by famous saxophone player Sidney Bechet that jazz and the blues are two separate things. For Indy to understand the blues he must be able to play jazz. People generally aren't happy with his sax playing not just because it needs a lot of work. His college roommate Eliot Ness (who becomes pivotal in Part 2) can't stand all the playing. The bigger issue is the racial attitude towards a white man playing predominately what was seen at the time as black music. There's a territorial attitude to the whole thing, something Indy doesn't quite understand. It's not just black people who take issue with this. When he tries to perform at a party nearly everyone who's white thinks he shouldn't be playing this terrible music. His colleague Susie (Hadley Eure) almost despises him for it much to the sadness of Eliot who hoped Susie would notice him. Part 1 continues to show the racial divide between black and white people first presented in 'Princeton 1919'. Indiana isn't allowed to cross the beach as the other side belongs to black people. Indy doesn't understand why jazz can't unite people regardless of race. Bechet sees past this discrimination and sees promise in Indy, teaching him how to improve by making him practice 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star'. His friends CJ Williams (Leon Pridgen) and Goldie Williams (Maria Howell) take a little more convincing. Writer Jule Selbo's script presents the struggles of black people finding work after the war. In one scene CJ gets into an argument with his father about gaining nothing from WWI while Indy ponders the amount of people he's had to kill on the frontline. Selbo's script is both thoughtful and emotional. Then there's the cast. A young Jeffrey Wright as Bechet puts in a charming performance as do Pridgen and Maria Howell. Actually Howell's singing is a joy to listen to helped by Joel McNeely's instrumental music. It fits the atmosphere perfectly. We also get some cameo appearances from King Oliver (Keith David) and Louis Armstrong (Bryon Stripling) although this feels unnecessary as it doesn't add anything, feeling more like an afterthought.

    If there's any major criticism with the first part of this story is that Indy's new obsession with jazz seems to have come out of nowhere. Perhaps another story needed to be produced to show him getting introduced to this music but it feels like it's come out of the is that the blues... The first part of 'The Mystery of the Blues' starts well although I suspect that the inclusion of Harrison Ford promised more adventure that what this episode delivers. In retrospect, on it's own terms ignoring the bookends it's well written and director Carl Schultz does a good job with the whole setting. As Indiana learns in the second part mastering jazz is only the first step. To master the blues means drawing on emotions from recent experiences and he'll experience a lot in Part 2 when he has to deal with gangsters!moreless
Corey Carrier

Corey Carrier

Young Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr. at age 8-10

Sean Patrick Flanery

Sean Patrick Flanery

Young Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr. at age 16-20

George Hall

George Hall

Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr. at age 93

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (3)

    • Eliot Ness was a 1925 graduate of the University of Chicago where he studied law and business (and later Criminology).

    • The white cornet player in the scene when Sidney starts teaching Indy about the blues is Bix Beiderbecke, an American jazz cornet player and composer, as well as a skilled classical and jazz pianist. In the Twenties, he was one of a few horn players considered to be in the caliber of Louis Armstrong, although their differences were very different. He grew up on in Iowa on the banks of the Mississippi where he listened to music on the riverboats coming up from the south. He died at age 28 from chronic health problems exacerbated by alcoholism.

    • TRIVIA: For one of his brief appearances as the middle-aged Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford sports a beard. This is because he was filming the 1993 film The Fugitive at the time his scenes were shot, and he didn't have time to shave it off.

  • QUOTES (0)

  • NOTES (2)

    • This episode is included on Volume 3 Disc 6 of the DVD collection. The companion documentaries are on Disc 7, and they include:
      -Jazz - Rhythms of Freedom
      -Al "Scarface" Capone - The Original Gangster
      -Prohibition - America on the Rocks
      -On the Trail of Eliot Ness
      -Louis Armstrong - Ambassador of Jazz
      -Ben Hecht - The Shakespeare of Hollywood
      -Hellfighters - Harlem's Heroes of World War One

    • Part 1 of the video Mystery of the Blues with The Mystery of the Blues, Chicago, April 1920 (2).