Sunday, October 02, 2011

Short Round: A look back

In a completely random bit of posting today, we look at one of the most popular sidekicks of 1980s cinema, Short Round, who first appeared in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. (And who just turned 40 this year, making a lot of us suddenly feel very old.)

At the beginning of the Temple of Doom, we're introduced to Short Round as he attempts to help Dr. Jones recover the Peacock's Eye, a famous diamond. This, alas, gets him into all sorts of misadventures in India with Dr. Jones and a nightclub singer whose main talent seems to be screaming. At everything.

Since then, various novels, comics and short stories have appeared that fleshed out Short Round's history.

He was a young orphan named Wan Li born in 1927. The oldest child of a steel plant foreman, he was orphaned when the Japanese bombed Shanghai in 1932 and was a young pickpocket for a while.

He learned English and math from a Christian mission that took him in.  He picked up more English from watching American films at the Tai-Phung Theater as he worked in shady areas such as the opium dens on Liu Street.

Dr. Jones first met Short Round when the young man tried to pick his pocket, but rather than turn him in, put him into the care of a man named Wu Han, who was a friend of Dr. Jones. Short Round eventually gained work as a young taxicab driver in Shanghai and served as a contact and source of information to the two men.

Short Round saved Dr. Jones from a precarious situation with the Shanghai crime lord Lao Che. As a result, Dr. Jones decided to invite Short Round to accompany him on further adventures.

An interesting incident during the Temple of Doom involves a moment when he comes to believe the baby elephant he rids on is a reincarnation of his brother Chu.

Following the incident at the Temple of Doom near Pankot Palace, Short Round is sent to Christian School, but remains well-versed in Chinese mythology, and eventually emigrates to the US.  At one point, he helps rescue Dr. Jones from a pirate attack off the coast of Bimini before returning to boarding school, which he claimed was no fun.

Although he and Dr. Jones lost the diamond known as the Peacock's Eye in the beginning of the Temple of Doom, in 1957 he writes to Dr. Jones that the diamond is in Niihau among the Hawaiian islands. Alexander the Great had the diamond, approximately 50mm long by 25mm tall, mounted alongside a second as the eyes to a large golden peacock statue. After Alexander's death, one diamond was taken by Indian princes who cut it apart, while the other was believed lost to history before it was rediscovered and clues were left to its whereabouts. 

Short Round eventually became an archaeologist in the same vein as Dr. Jones. (Although one tongue-in-cheek account suggests he helped cost Dr. Jones his tenure...)

They've never made an action figure out of him, but I think it would be interesting to see a series with him set in the 1960s and 70s. Certainly much more interesting than one with Indiana Jones' son Mutt. But I wouldn't hold your breath for that happening.

And now, back to our regular blog topics!

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