Raiders of the Lost Ark Unfolds Once Again

Raiders of the Lost Ark Unfolds Once Again  by Rosemary McKittrick

Photo courtesy of Bonhams.

For 50 years talk spread through archaeological circles about an ancient Peruvian Chachapoyan Temple that had never been plundered by treasure-hunters. 

I’ve never enjoyed making a film as much as this one.  I felt like I was playing the role.  I was the Indiana Jones behind the camera.
— Steven Spielberg

The film showcases Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) holding one piece of an old parchment map leading to the ancient site.  The problem is two coldblooded Peruvian guides possess the other map fragments needed to complete the map. 

When golden figurines from the ancient temple begin to show up on the market Jones and Marcus Brody, curator of the National Museum assume the temple has been discovered and pillaged.

If non-stop action was a must in filmmaking then “Raiders of the Lost Ark” wins the prize for keeping audiences teetering on the edge of their seats through an ungodly chain of events. 

It was hard to come up for air with this film.  But audiences loved the high drama. 

As the swashbuckling archeologist and head honcho in the thriller maybe Indy’s mistake was to go after the golden representation of the Chachapoyan goddess of fertility and childbirth, said to be hidden in the heart of the temple which was heavily booby-trapped. 

But the whip-carrying Indy is confident.  He has in his possession the journal of a 19th century explorer and contacts in South America who can help him locate the sacred site.  Indiana Jones and his adventures take him and audiences to the four corners of the world in a white-knuckle, cliff-hanger attempt to uncover the temple’s mysteries and make it back alive. 

The story goes that the script for “Raiders of the Lost Ark” unfolded as film producer George Lucas sat down in front of his tape recorder in Hawaii for five days with scriptwriters and hammered out the plot.  It took another six months to fill in the words. 

Tom Selleck wasn’t able to disentangle himself from his TV show “Magnum P.I.” to play the part of Indy.  That’s when Harrison Ford stepped in and rewrote much of his part in the ten hours he spent flying over to England to begin filming in 1980. 

The film was released on June 12, 1981, and was the top grossing movie of 1981.  It brought in $242 million with a worldwide box-office of approximately $384 million.

 “I’ve never enjoyed making a film as much as this one,” said director Steven Spielberg.  “I felt like I was playing the role.  I was the Indiana Jones behind the camera.”

“Raiders of the Lost Ark” reached iconic status among fans.  The film received eight Academy Awards nominations and walked away with four Oscars, mostly in technical categories.

For movie memorabilia fans owning a prop from this film is like owning a piece of the film itself. 

On June 26, Bonhams, featured two iconic props for sale from the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” film in its Entertainment Memorabilia and Animation Art auction.

A Fertility Idol in the shape of a gold-painted statuette with inset green eyes created for the special effects department for use during stunt sequences of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” sold in the auction for $24,400.

The statuette appeared in the opening Peruvian temple scene in the film.  It sold with a typed letter signed by Kit West attesting to its authenticity.  West won an Oscar for his work on “Raiders of the Lost Ark” as Special Effects Supervisor.

The infamous leather bullwhip Indy used in the film also accompanied with a letter of authenticity from West brought $61,000.  Originally there were six whips.  The one sold was the last whip in original mint condition.  

Rosemary McKittrick is a storyteller.  For 26 years she has brought the world of collecting to life in her column.  Her website is a mother lode of information about art, antiques and collectibles.  Rosemary received her education in the trenches working as a professional appraiser.

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