For the Adherent of Pop Culture
Adventures of Jack Burton ] Back to the Future ] Battlestar Galactica ] Buckaroo Banzai ] Cliffhangers! ] Earth 2 ] The Expendables ] Firefly/Serenity ] The Fly ] Galaxy Quest ] Indiana Jones ] Jurassic Park ] Land of the Lost ] Lost in Space ] The Matrix ] The Mummy/The Scorpion King ] The Prisoner ] Sapphire & Steel ] Snake Plissken Chronicles ] Star Trek ] Terminator ] The Thing ] Total Recall ] Tron ] Twin Peaks ] UFO ] V the series ] Valley of the Dinosaurs ] Waterworld ] PopApostle Home ] Links ] Privacy ]

Episode Studies by Clayton Barr


Indiana Jones: Mystery of Jazz Indiana Jones
"Mystery of Jazz"
(3:33-48:37 on the Mystery of the Blues DVD)
TV episode
Written by Jule Delbo
From a story by George Lucas
Directed by Carl Schultz
Original air date: March 13, 1993

Indy learns to play jazz on the soprano saxophone.


Read the "Spring 1920" entry of the It’s Not the Years, It’s the Mileage Indiana Jones chronology for a summary of this episode


Notes from the Indiana Jones chronology


This episode takes place in Chicago, April 1920.


Didja Know?


    In the United States, this episode only aired as part of a special 2-hour movie event, Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues, combining two episodes shot for the second season of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, "Chicago, April 1920" and "Chicago, May 1920", with bookends featuring actor Harrison Ford as a middle-aged Indy in 1950 (in an attempt to boost the series' ratings with the stunt casting). The two episodes only aired individually in the United Kingdom at the time, with the originally-shot Old Indy bookends. As usual for the PopApostle chronology, we have done the studies as two individual episodes. The Harrison Ford bookends are studied separately in the chronology as a mini-adventure in its specified date of 1950.

    The title I've used for this episode, "Mystery of Jazz", was chosen by the editors of PopApostle in homage of the "Mystery of the Blues" title of the TV movie since this portion deals with Indy's quest to learn how to play the musical art of jazz, while the second half of the movie deals more with the blues musical stylings (though only slightly, with the bulk of that episode devoted to Indy investigating a mob murder).


Notes from the Old Indy bookends of The Young Indiana Chronicles


The Old Indy bookends of this episode take place on Staten Island, March 1993.


Indy tells his grandson Spike and the boy's hard rock band that they sound like a bunch of cats on a hot tin roof. Besides the obvious "howling cats" reference, the phrase he uses is borrowed from the title of Tennessee Williams' 1955 Pulitzer Prize winning play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.


Old Indy's last few sentences of the opening bookend are also the same ones used by Harrison Ford's middle-aged Indy in the bookends of the Mystery of the Blues TV movie version.


Notes from The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones


The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones is a 2008 publication that purports to be Indy's journal as seen throughout The Young Indiana Chronicles and the big screen Indiana Jones movies. The publication is also annotated with notes from a functionary of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation, the successor agency of the Soviet Union's KGB. The KGB relieved Indy of his journal in 1957 during the events of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The notations imply the journal was released to other governments by the FSB in the early 21st Century. However, some bookend segments of The Young Indiana Chronicles depict Old Indy still in possession of the journal in 1992. The discrepancy has never been resolved.  


The events of this episode are not directly covered in the journal as published. The pages jump from November 1918 and the end of the war (Treasure of the Peacock’s Eye) to April 25, 1920, approximately when this episode takes place, but without mentioning any of the events of the story. Indy's entry here seems to imply that he's only just beginning to hear back from the various universities he applied to, with several notations by him of schools that have rejected his application. (Why would they reject an extremely intelligent student like Indy...maybe because he didn't finish high school as noted in the study of "Winds of Change"?) Indy's sole journal entry for this period is presented to the right (it is possible additional pages from this time were excised from the journal by the FSB for some reason when it was in their possession).

It is interesting to note that Indy's class schedule for Fall 1920 here indicates his declared major is linguistics, not archeology, even though his father's note here suggests Indy was majoring in archeology against his father's wishes that he study linguistics or history, and Indy's own statements previously in "Winds of Change" that he would be an archeology major. (In our current episode, it's not clear what Indy is majoring in.) It might be argued that Indy declared linguistics as his major when he got to Chicago in a last ditch effort to appease his father and patch up their relationship after their chilly argument at the end of "Winds of Change". The novel Peril at Delphi (set in 1922), sort of takes this route, stating that Indy has graduated from the University of Chicago with only an undergraduate degree in linguistics and heading to the Sorbonne in Paris for a further degree.


The boxed set of DVDs of the complete The Young Indiana Chronicles TV series has notations and drawings in the storage slot for each disk that suggest they are meant to be excerpts from Indy's journal. Most of these notes and drawings do not appear in the The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones book. Here is the slot image for this episode:


Characters mentioned in the journal not appearing in the episode


Henry Jones, Sr.


Characters appearing or mentioned in this episode


Indiana Jones


Spike's bandmates

Big Jim Colosimo

Colosimo's Restaurant patrons

Sidney Bechet

Sidney Bechet's band

Colosimo's Restaurant waiters

Ceasarino (chef at Colosimo's)

King Oliver

Louis Armstrong


Eliot Ness

Aunt Bessie (mentioned only)

doorman at The Royal Garden

Royal Garden club patrons

Goldie Williams

Baby Dodds

Johnny Dodds

Royal Garden waiters

CJ Williams

doorman at The Four Deuces

racist at the Four Deuces


Susie Hilton


girl at frat party

University of Chicago professor


Mr. Williams

Mrs. Williams

doorman at Pekin Inn


Royal Garden club band




Didja Notice?


    As the episode proper opens, Indy is working as a waiter at Colosimo's Restaurant as he puts himself through college at the University of Chicago. This was a real restaurant at the time, owned by Big Jim Colosimo (1878-1920), who was a real world Italian-American Mafia crime boss in Chicago. Whether Colosimo's was actually known for the best food, service, and jazz in the city as Old Indy claims in the opening bookend, I've been unable to confirm.

    The restaurant sign seen here is very much like the original at 2128 South Wabash.

Colosimo's in this episode The real Colosimo's circa 1930


Often playing at Colosimo's while Indy works there is Sidney Bechet (1897-1959), an African-American jazz clarinetist, saxophonist, and composer. He went on to fame in the 1940s.


One of the patrons at Colosimo's complains that Indy brought him the wrong dish, fish instead of osso buco. Osso buco is Italian for "braised veal". This is a dish of veal braised with broth, vegetables, and white wine.


Indy tells Bechet that he heard King Oliver play in New Orleans when he was 12. Joseph Nathan "King" Oliver (1881–1938) was an African-American jazz cornet player and bandleader who taught and mentored the legendary jazz trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong.


It takes a while for Bechet to warm to Indy, with one of Bechet's bandmates remarking, "He talks to people he likes." Although I've not been able to confirm how talkative or not Bechet was, he was known for having an erratic temperament.


The band member playing piano for Bechet is portrayed by Damon Whitaker, brother of famed actor Forest Whitaker.


Indy's roommate in this episode and the next ("Mystery of the Blues") is Eliot Ness. Ness (1903-1957) will go on to become a famed and incorruptible agent of the U.S. Bureau of Prohibition in 1926, leading the team of agents popularly known as the Untouchables. He actually did attend the University of Chicago at this time and was known for practicing jiu-jitsu.


Indy begs Eliot to go to the Royal Garden club with him to catch a set of jazz. This appears to be a reference to the Royal Gardens Cafe, an important jazz club in Chicago at the time.


When Eliot tries to beg out of going to the Royal Garden with Indy, Indy retorts, "Just don't ask me to keep you company at another one of your aunt's dinners." In "Mystery of the Blues", Eliot's aunt is said to be named "Bessie". PopApostle has not been able to confirm whether Ness actually had an Aunt Bessie; our private detective is still investigating.


At 6:30 on the DVD, an advertising sign on the side of a building for Fontella Cigars is seen. This was a real world brand at the time.


    As they enter the Royal Garden club, Indy points out to Eliot that Baby Dodds is playing drums and his brother Johnny is on clarinet. Warren "Baby" Dodds (1898–1959) and his brother Johnny Dodds (1892-1940) were both important early jazz performers.

    The woman on stage is singing "I'm a Little Blackbird Looking for a Bluebird" when Indy and Eliot sit down. But that song was not published until 1924, lyrics by Grant Clarke and Roy Turk.

    As they sit, Eliot remarks the place is not like the Rosemont cotillion. He may be referring to the village of Rosemont, Illinois, not far from Chicago. He goes on to say that the music is not better than Mozart or Puccini, referring, of course, to the classical music and opera composers by those names.


When Indy orders water for himself and Eliot at the club and are served glasses of gin, Eliot freaks out, hissing, "You know my brother-in-law works for the Bureau of Investigation. It would not look good for him if somebody saw me here." Ness' brother-in-law was Alexander Jamie, who did work for the Bureau of Investigation (which became the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935).


Indy tells Bechet and the band he grew up listening to Tom Turpin, Eubie Blake, and Jelly Roll Morton, that he has all Scott Joplin's music, and when he went to New Orleans his parents had to drag him away from Preservation Hall. He also mentions Liberty Hall and Pitman's. The people named are all historical jazz and ragtime performers. Preservation Hall is a venue for jazz music in the French Quarter of New Orleans, but was not established until 1961. There are a number of music venues called Liberty Hall in the U.S. but none called Pitman's that I'm aware of.


When Bechet opens the saxophone case at 11:21 on the DVD, a "King" emblem can be seen on the inside lid. King was a manufacturer (and now just a brand) of musical instruments founded in 1893.


Bechet and his band take Indy to the Four Deuces to hear them play. The Four Deuces was a brothel and speakeasy opened by Big Jim Colosimo and his second-in-command John "The Fox" Torrio at 2222 South Wabash, Chicago.


At 13:28 on the DVD, Goldie arrives at the Four Deuces in a Ford Model T.


The song Goldie sings at 14:57 on the DVD is "My Handy Man" by Andy Razaf, but it wasn't written until 1928!


The exterior of the dorm building where Indy & Ness room is actually the Languages Building at Duke University in Durham, NC.


Indy and Eliot go to a party at the Sigma Chi fraternity house. The house seen here does not appear to be an actual Sigma Chi frat house in Chicago. The exterior is the historic Honnet House in Wilmington, NC.


At the frat party, Indy plays some sax with a frat band, the song being "April Showers", but he gets the boot because they don't like his jazz style. The "April Showers" song did not debut until October of '21, in the Broadway musical Bombo starring Al Jolson. After Indy is booted, the band starts playing "Toot, Toot, Tootsie (Goo' Bye!)", a song that was not written until 1922!


One girl at the party tells Indy she liked his music and "...if that square from Delaware weren't in charge, you could've really shook the place up." "Square from Delaware" was a slang term for someone of the most conventional sort, used mostly in the 1930s-50s.


At 22:25 on the DVD, half of an advertising sign for Shoninger and Thompson brands of pianos is seen on the side of a building as the L train speeds by. These were both actual piano brands at the time.


When Indy fails at playing jazz during the Bechet band's song at the Four Deuces, Bechet tells him, "You can play 'Happy Birthday' in jazz or you can play 'St. Louis Rag' so straight, it won't be jazz no more." "Happy Birthday to You" is a traditional English language birthday song sung at birthday parties. 'St. Louis Rag' is a 1903 ragtime song by Tom Turpin.


Bechet's band plays "Turkey in the Straw" in several different ways to show how jazz's rhythm and improvisation influences the mood. "Turkey in the Straw" is an American folk song from the 19th Century.


At 27:42 on the DVD, Indy and Bechet walk past the Altobellis Bros. Cafe and G. Barnes Millinery. These appear to be fictitious businesses. Millinery is the practice of hatmaking.


Bechet instructs Indy to play "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" on his sax for as long as it takes for him to know the tune backwards and forwards, then maybe he can think about jazzing it. "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" is a 19th Century English lullaby with lyrics from the 1806 poem "The Star" by Jane Taylor.


I have not been able to identify the gospel song Goldie sings at the church. If anyone knows, send it on to PopApostle!


During dinner at Goldie's house, Indy learns that her brother, CJ, was in the war, a machine gunner in Second Division at Marbache, France. Marbache is a town in northeast France.


During dinner, Goldie's father tries to calm CJ's rhetoric with the ideals of Booker T. Washington. Washington (1856-1915) was a former child slave of the American south who grew up to become the dominant speaker of the Africa-American community, though controversial at the time among them (as it is for CJ here) for what some perceived as his accomodationism to the white establishment.


CJ and his father argue about CJ's participation in a riot that took place in the not too distant past, apparently a race riot provoked when a black boy who was swimming and got a cramp reached out for a white family's boat on the lake and the family began throwing rocks at him and the boy drowned. As far as I can find, this riot is fictitious, but sounds similar to the Chicago race riot of 1919, wherein a black teen accidentally swam into the white area at a segregated public beach and was pelted with rocks until he drowned.


Indy accompanies Bechet's band to see King Oliver and Louis Armstrong cut a session at the Pekin Inn. The Pekin Inn was the first African-American musical and vaudeville theater in Chicago, founded in 1905.


I have not been able to identify the tune played by King Oliver and Louis Armstrong as Indy and the Bechet band enter Pekin Inn, but when it ends, they get Goldie to come up and sing with them, and that song is "I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me", written in 1926.


The exterior building at the University of Chicago at 42:15 was shot at the Sociology/Psychology Building of Duke University. The class Indy is seen attending is presumably a history course, as we hear the instructor lecturing, "And so we find that the conditions of war and of the warrior classes remained fundamentally unchanged in the 1,500 years that separate the Trojan Wars from the battlefields of Charlemagne." There were at least four Trojan Wars during the 15th-13th centuries BCE. Charlemagne (747-814 CE) was a European king and Roman Emperor who united much of Europe and expanded the Roman Empire through numerous military campaigns.


At 42:54 on the DVD, Duke Chapel is seen in the background as Indy practices sax on a bench in the university yards.


As Indy and Bechet enter the Royal Garden club near the end of the episode, Goldie is singing "Am I Blue", a song from 1929.


The "closing scene" of this "episode", with Eliot complaining about Indy's four-in-the-morning entrance to their dorm room, etc. seems to be an interstitial scene to (sort of) bridge the two episodes that comprise the Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues TV movie, as it really adds nothing as a denouement to Indy's jazz learning path seen in the story leading up to it. The scene also doesn't add much to the following "Mystery of the Blues" episode.


Memorable Dialog


you may know 30 songs but you play them all equally badly.mp3

a bunch of cats on a hot tin roof.mp3

Grampa, not another story.mp3

he never talks to me.mp3

world's youngest stuffy old fart.mp3

fine by me.mp3

why don't you practice a little bit.mp3

she has taste.mp3

you were thinkin' that.mp3

you'd think they'd never seen a white person before.mp3

the rats in France could take over the world.mp3

I don't want a war.mp3

I'm equal Jonesy, so I want to be treated like it.mp3

Jonesy--sax man.mp3

Jonesy's big debut.mp3

the journey along the way is bound to be interesting.mp3


Back to Indiana Jones Episode Studies