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(This page is a continuation of 
TURKS IN THE GENERAL AMERICAN MEDIA)


Turkey and the Turks are fairly invisible from the American small screen, unless in the form of anti-Turkish feature film presentations (see link at bottom) or documentaries where Turks almost always come across as history’s villains… notably from America’s Public Broadcasting network, PBS (The only “Pro-Turk” program which I have ever seen was ISLAM: EMPIRE OF FAITH, where the accent was not directly on Turkey. However, it was an excellent, rare, open-minded show, and PBS is to be commended for not being its typically prejudiced, anti-Turkish self) … in such vehicles as THE GREAT WAR, ARMENIA: SURVIVAL OF A NATION, THE FORGOTTEN GENOCIDE and AN ARMENIAN’S JOURNEY.

 PBS is far from the “non-fiction” interloper… programs such as CBS’s 60 MINUTES has been known to set its sights on the favorite whipping boy nation covering topics from Kurds to Human Rights… and NBC-TV has engaged in what appears to be a systematic campaign over the years to make Turkey look as bad as possible… all the way down to blatantly and deliberately hiding Turkish athletes during certain years of the network’s Olympic coverage.

However, the idea of this page is to show examples of fictional depictions of Turks on American television. I will provide three examples; one from years back, one from relatively current times, and lastly…

THE ONLY TRULY “FAIR” AND NON-HOSTILE “FICTIONAL” DEPICTION OF TURKS EVER, IN (PROBABLY) THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN TELEVISION

 
“A BERSERK TURK”

 

The now-classic television series

The 1970s television series MASH is deservedly recognized as one of the finest examples of quality offerings ever to grace the screen of the American boob tube. MASH is one of the only examples of a TV series perhaps going on to outdo the original film the series was based upon (1970’s M*A*S*H, directed by Robert Altman). The reason why the series excelled was not only for its great cerebral wit, but because the show (co-produced and often written by comic “genius” Larry Gelbart) was headed by a team of crack writers who succeeded in touching the nerve center of humanity and compassion, underneath the yuk-yuks. (Along with Gelbart, the writers for the third season of the show included Laurence Marks, Jim Fritzell, Everett Greenbaum, Sid Dorfman and Simon Muntner.)

Which is why it is so heartbreaking that a program noted for its great intelligence and sensitivity still succumbed to the anti-Turkish stereotype… in ways not only huge, but ironic as well.

I remember as a kid noticing the television magazine (TV Guide) blurb for the episode aired on December 3, 1974, entitled “A Full Rich Day”… three hectic happenings were described for this full rich day, headed by… “A BERSERK TURK.”

The Turk (Sirri Murad) slashes his was out of his strtcher in the MASH episode

What would a Turk be without a knife?

On this episode …which is the one where we learned how “Hawkeye” Pierce (Alan Alda) got his nickname (from "The Last Of The Mohicans", the only book his father ever read), Hawkeye dictates a letter to his dad, describing the events that took place yesterday. A heavily sedated Turkish soldier (Sirri Murad) arrives at the medical compound, but is still awake… in that “Frankenstein”-like inhuman tough way Turks are known for… and even Klinger thinks the Turk is demented. ("Turkish soldier, sir; I'm pretty nuts, but this guy could open a crazy school.") The Turk slashes his way through the stretcher lying on top of him, and the MASH unit gets another arrival, a wounded man in the back of the jeep whose friend (Lt. Smith) orders Frank to take care of, at gunpoint.

The Turk arises, "Frankenstein"-style

It's alive... ALIVE!!

Hawkeye tries to explain to Smith that one man isn't as much as a priority as is a man who is more severely wounded (which I guess would be the Turk, so we learn Hawkeye regards the Turk as a human being, much to Hawkeye’s credit; on the other hand, he could have been talking about another soldier, since the Turk didn’t appear that badly wounded…so scratch that credit). Smith says he understands but then orders Hawkeye inside, or else.

Meanwhile the Turkish soldier, who was getting restrained, refuses to go under, and Col. Blake mistakenly gets injected by the needle instead, twirling as he falls to the ground. The Turkish soldier escapes (the “Frankenstein” parallel, again) and the camp gets searched.

confrontation

Henry Blake confronts the mad Turk

Radar finds the Turkish soldier held up in the kitchen, but we all know Radar would not be able to handle the tough loon, and so he summons Hawkeye … who tries to reason with the Turk in English, as all Americans do with people who don’t speak English. The Berserk Turk swings his menacing butcher knife around, yelling in Turkish.

Now here is what the essence of a Turk boils down to

The ideal "Turk" depiction, in the West

Radar shows how much smarter he is than Hawkeye (maybe the little guy didn’t need to fetch Hawkeye in the first place, for all the good Hawkeye was able to do, so far) by looking up what the Turk is saying in a Turkish-English dictionary that must have been standard issue in all MASH compounds. The Turk has been saying, “Chinese,” which really makes Radar out to be a Mensa member, as how he knew to spell the Turkish word for “Chinese” (which begins with the weird “Ç” symbol) isn’t elaborated on.

Hawkeye figures it out… the Turkish soldier doesn’t care about whatever wounds he has that got him brought into the hospital to be tended to… ALL HE WANTS IS TO GO BACK OUT INTO THE FRONT TO KILL MORE CHINESE! It… it’s just like Henry “Holier-than-Thou” Morgenthau has been telling us; Turks ARE bloodthirsty savages!

Hawkeye swings a knife

Hawkeye proves just what a cut-up he can be

Hawkeye puts his agile mind to good use at this point (the kind that allows him to effortlessly banter with Trapper John; example from this episode: a Luxembourg soldier thought to be dead gets a memorial service, but he joins the mourners by saluting his own dead self. Hawkeye says to Trapper, "I thought you said he was dead?" to which Trapper replies, "He got better"; the Luxembourg soldiers, by the way, are depicted with the utmost dignity), and decides on speaking to the beast in his own primitive language. He does this by GRABBING ANOTHER KNIFE and SWINGING IT AROUND, acting JUST AS MURDEROUSLY. The Turk recognizes a fellow savage when he sees one, and this soothes his wild nature momentarily… he puts his own knife down and calls Hawkeye "A damn good Joe." (Click HERE to listen to the dialogue.)

As a MASH fan site describes it, “Hawkeye makes Radar get out of his uniform so the Turk can have it and go back to the front. In celebration, the three have a drink, and has Radar put something in the Turk’s drink that will make him fall asleep. Radar and the Turk get in a jeep and drive off, and Hawkeye tells Radar to turn around when the Turk falls asleep.”

Hawkeye tries to talk turkey

Hawkeye tries to talk turkey

Alas, Hawkeye notices soon the plan went awry when the Turk drives Radar back, as it is Radar who has fallen asleep. (Mighty nice of the savage to have taken the trouble to drive Radar back.) When Hawkeye tries to get the Turk out of the jeep, the Turk puts his palm upon Hawkeye’s head, and pushes the man twice his size (down to the ground… which might give evidence that Alan Alda truly was the feminized, “weak” man that was his image during these years of the raging Feminist Movement), calling Hawkeye a “damn good Joe” again… before driving off.

This script, written by John D. Hess, perpetuated the brutality of the Turk… even though, once again, MASH was the product of the most humane, understanding, compassionate, sensitive writers Hollywood had to offer.

MASH celebrates Greece

The MASH unit was at one with adorable Greeks

To top it off, one episode later, entitled “Private Charles Lamb” and airing on December 31, 1974, the story concerned Greek soldiers who came across as true, noble good guys, when Radar stole the lamb they were preparing for a feast, unable to bear the animal’s destruction (“Thus, Hawkeye and Trapper invent the famed Spam Lamb!”). The message once again: Greek=good, Turk=bad.

What if it were a Greek swinging that knife acting like an out-of-control madman, and it was the Turks preparing the lamb feast? Are you kidding? Even the possibility of such a role reversal would have been inconceivable.

The irony is, this was no typical example of Turk-bashing. Regarding the Korean War: not that other allied nations did not contribute to the war effort, but none of them saved a U.S. division from total destruction; no other nation's soldiers suffered higher casualties, none gave hope to a "demoralized American nation," and I doubt any of these other nations received obvious heartfelt praise by American major players (such as President Dwight Eisenhower and General Douglas MacArthur) words to the effect of the Turks being the “Bravest of the Brave” and the “Hero of Heroes.”

Although the Turks’ heroism has never been publicized, as the rule in American media is nothing positive about Turkey must be allowed to slip out, I suppose there were still four or five Americans who were aware of what an ugly black eye the MASH program represented, and made their voices heard. This is probably why the same Turkish-American performer was brought back to act in an episode entitled “Captains Outrageous” (aired four years later, December 10, 1979), regarding a brawl in a bar that required the doctors to run the saloon. Sirri Murad (whom I understand was sorry to have taken on the previous role) had a “nothing” background role, but just to be on the safe side… since his Turkish character was now actually “human”… the producers decided to feature a “good” GREEK soldier, too!

Please visit TAT’s Korean War page; toward the bottom are two interesting accounts relevant to the action of this episode: How the Chinese and the Turks got along, and how American doctors were really affected when they treated Turkish wounded.



ADDENDUM, 9-08:

A TAT reader has kindly informed us that three years after "A Berserk Turk," the M*A*S*H program made amends by showing Turkish soldiers in a good light:


While I agree that a fair view of Turkish people has almost never been presented in popular media and should be, I noticed you may have overlooked one detail which partly (a small part) redeems M*A*S*H from being a total disaster when it comes to portrayals of Turkish soldiers. You might want to put this in.

That is the episode "Post-Op", in which the MASH is running out of blood and everyone is donating. At the end of the episode a truckload of Turkish soldiers pulls up. Their commanding officer Sgt. Attias (an elegant man without a hint of savagery, played by Broadway actor Zitto Kazann) announces they heard about the shortage and are here to help. They could have shown any other group but they chose to show Turks.

That is MUCH more like what I know about the Turks as allied soldiers in Korea (even before reading your pages). I just wish they'd made the effort to show brave, honorable Turks more than once. It was a golden opportunity.

Jay Young
June 2, 2008

THE FEREY MÜHTAR TALK SHOW


For a more current treatment of Turk-treatment on American television, we can turn to the long-running late night comedy institution, Saturday Night Live.

Some years back, I wrote a letter to “SNL” when I noticed the Turk they had dressed in a photograph, for a bit on their “weekly news” segment, had appeared in a fez, sunglasses and long cloak… since most Americans believe Arabs and Turks are indistinguishable. I told them it’s okay to make fun of Turks (after all, it is a satirical type of show, and everyone is open game), but I wished they would base their attacks on reality.

SNL's spin on Turkish Talk Shows

Perhaps the letter had an effect (although I’d doubt it), but for the latest round of Turk-ridiculing, at least somebody did their homework. There is now a parody of a Turkish TV show, and the names and costumes for the characters in this “program” are at least not off the mark. Although all the characters are loutish and unsophisticated, cheap gold-chain-wearing, chain-smoking subhumans, at least some effort was made to come closer to reality…. And that cheap gold-chain-wearing, chain-smoking stereotype does exist in the mid-to-lower classes of the Mediterranean nations (and people of other nations, like East Europeans, and South Americans). So I can’t criticize Saturday Night Live too much… however, the unfairness here (even in the area of a satirical program, where anything goes) is that out of all the ethnic types to make fun of, it is once again the maligned Turk who gets picked on. Ah, well. At least, even though the Turkish characterizations are all of the same mold, that of rude, stupid, bad-taste simpletons… there are tiny, tiny nuances of “humanity” that slip out, and it’s these little crumbs that make such a portrayal bearable. (In other words… in an environment of near-total hostility against Turks… anything short of total monstrousness, Turks should be grateful for? Exactly what am I pathetically suggesting..?)

I’m not a regular viewer of SNL, but I did catch two episodes with the Turkish TV host character, so it’s obviously not a one-shot idea. The first go-round (aired March 16, 2002) featured frail Briton Ian McLellan as a macho Turkish idiot, qualities at the opposite end of the actor’s persona. (The excellent actor was wonderful in OF GODS AND MONSTERS, but as the powerful supervillain “Magneto” in X-MEN…. hoo-boy!) The second of this recurring series I happened to catch aired on November 9, 2002, when the Greek-American star of MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, Nia Vardalos, played host.

Nia Vardalos Nose this is her golden chance to stick it in

Granted, her character certainly had to fit in line with the established “low-class” humans that formed the very essence of the theme. This is why even though her role was that of a beautiful Turkish celebrity, complete with eyebrows that connected, a la “Bluto,” the big, bully guard of MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, I could accept it; even the most beautiful Turkish woman had to appear as if she resembled an animal, within this established context. However, when Ms. Vardalos chose to lovingly pick her nose at one point, like the low-class defense lawyer in MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, I thought she was rubbing her advantage in a bit too much.

I may not have felt as strongly if the actress weren’t Greek. However, it just seemed like Nia Vardalos relished the opportunity to do a number on the Turks. It’s okay when Greeks exercise their ugly displays of Turkish hatred amongst themselves, but the way she handled herself was particularly insensitive, given the animosity that exists between the two peoples. I believe almost any Turkish actor, when given the opportunity to make a Greek look lousy in front of others’ eyes, would not have gone anywhere near as overboard, and more likely would have made sure to inject positive values into the character… so as not to take unfair advantage of the situation. I’d think a Turkish actor wouldn’t act much differently even on Turkish television, when portraying a Greek.

One can summarize by saying the two qualities in short supply here, at least on the part of the actress, were 1) Fairness and 2) Class. As far as on the part of the show… Fairness and Class are incongruent to the nature of the program, so SNL is mostly off the hook. I’d say what they’re in short supply of is the quality of “courage.” During the show’s beginnings, when it was a hot property, Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd played two “Czechoslovakian” brothers who thought they were great lovers but, in fact, were totally clueless. As “stupid” as they were, at least they were “lovable” and the choice of ethnicity then was a safe one, since Czechs and Slovaks were unknown entities in America (save for a couple of one-time tennis superstars). Besides, the viewer understood these silly characters were not meant to represent all Czechs/Slovaks. The point of this “talk show,” though, is that all Turks are represented as below average on the evolutionary scale. If SNL decided to “go to town” on an ethnic group, it was much easier to pick on a group already established as an open season target. It would have been much more interesting – and gutsy – to focus on a group with power… not excluding Nia Vardalos’ ethnic kind. (Although that would have entailed the short-circuiting of SNL’s switchboard.)


ADDENDUM:
"24," and others

Yes, I know above I wrote only three examples of Turks in American television would be provided. However, it is now January 2005... late in the phase of Western Turcophobia, where one would think producers would tread carefully before portraying Turks as the typical villains. After all, there are so many other ethnic groups waiting their turn.
Turkish villain in the fourth season of "24"; this one was identified as a "Turkish national"

Bad Turk

Turkish villain in the fourth season of "24"; at least, the audience was led to believe the villains were Turkish

Really bad Turk

A caveat here must be added; I'm jumping the gun and providing this write-up based on the first two episodes of the fourth season of this excellent program, "24," starring Kiefer Sutherland. Perhaps later in the story, there will be Turkish characters to counter-balance the heartless villains that were offered thus far. For example, in the second season, the writers made sure to cast suspicion on an Arab character who later turned out to be a "good guy." Thus, the audience was taught the invaluable lesson not to judge a book by its cover, in the wake of the anti-Muslim hysteria brought about by 9/11. (Only the teen-age son of the terrorist masterminds, Behrooz, appears to be a sympathetic Turkish character, in these initial episodes.)

Behrooz, portrayed by Iranian-American Jonathan Ahdout

Behrooz, portrayed by Iranian-American
Jonathan Ahdout

Granted, the Muslims are the "bad guys" in the West, in fuller force these days. But... of all the Muslims in the world, what possessed the producers to pick on the Turks? (Okay, they've already done "Arab," so it was time to focus on another bunch of ethnic Muslims. For example, there's traditional enemy and member of President Bush's so-called "Axis of Evil," Iran. Why focus on the one ethnic group that has more than paid its dues, in Western movies and television, as the acceptable villain?

Mama is Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, of "The House of Sand and Fog"

Mama is Iranian actress
Shohreh Aghdashloo, of "The
House of Sand and Fog"

For example, if one is to do a story on terrorism, how about the Greeks? Didn't Athens have a reputation regarding the healthy relationship with terrorist groups, from the PKK to the PLO, for many years? And what about the Armenians, who wrote the book on terrorism with the Ottoman Bank takeover in 1896, creating a model for future terrorists to follow? Didn't the U.S. Department of Justice include the terrorist state of Armenia among those to watch for in 2002, until the Armenian uproar clamped a mysterious lid on the move? (Who knows why the U.S. government has allowed Armenia's terrorist organization, The Armenian Revolutionary Federation ["A.R.F."], to be headquartered in America's own soil of Boston.) In addition, wasn't Turkey the oneArmenian Revolutionary Federation ["A.R.F."] emblem nation that warned the world against the plague of international terrorism, years before the world sat up and took notice? How ironic to single Turks out as terrorists... but we all know the repercussions would be red-hot if an untraditional group for screen villainy, as Armenians and Greeks, would be selected as the bad guys.

I knew we were in trouble when a hacker discovers code meant to spell disaster for the world's computer systems. Not all of it is in English, he tells his friend at American intelligence. No, some of it looked Middle Eastern... like Arabic... or... Turkish!!

For the love of Mary! Don't the writers believe in conducting at least some basic research? A Latin alphabet replaced that old Middle Eastern hieroglyphics some three-quarters of a century ago.

Scene with William Devane as hostage of Turkish terrorists in "24"

And here we have a depiction of the terrorists wearing Arab-style head-coverings against Arab-style lettering. Straight out of today's headlines featuring the barbaric no-goodniks who perform the beheadings and such. Only... these characters are meant to be Turkish.

Just what the American public needed... further confirmation of how evil the Turks are, after the centuries long imprinting of racist imagery. It plain ain't fair.

ADDENDUM: After watching a few more episodes until mid-February, no further clues have been presented as to the "ethnic identity" of the villains. The bald baddie (pic on top) was identified as a Turkish national operating from Ankara, so we're still left with the impression this "Osama bin Laden" bunch are Turks. Even though the names of the characters aren't Turkish; the name of the son (of Iranian ancestry, also appearing in "House of Sand and Fog"), for example is the Persian "Behrooz" instead of what I thought I had heard, "Firuz."

[Here is a protest letter from a retired American military officer.]

 

DISHONORABLE MENTION

Alan Alda, Bradley Whitford and Jimmy Smits of The West Wing

Alan Alda, Bradley Whitford and Jimmy Smits,  
of "The West Wing."

NBC Universal Photo: Mitch Haddad

It seems to be "Open Season" on Turks in early 2005. "The West Wing" made the secular nation out to a "Taliban" state, on its Jan. 26 broadcast. As "King Corn" reports, a CNN "newscaster starts talking about a woman in Turkey who was apparently convicted of adultery and condemned to death after having sex with a co-worker." Funny thing is, the CNN itself had reported that Turkey had abolished the death penalty in 2002, the last execution having taken place in 1984. There are also no laws criminalizing adultery.

Tom Schantz, Turkey Peace Corps 1966-1968, wrote: "We will be mobilizing former Turkey Peace Corps volunteers to point out the dangers that an ignorant scriptwriter can create." (Thanks to JFK's fine program for allowing at least a few Americans to have learned the real scoop on Turkey..!)

Prof. Christian Christensen reflected on the episode, in an essay entitled "Turks on NBC's 'The West Wing': Head-Chopping Lunatics," in Common Dreams.

Looks like NBC-TV is still continuing its anti-Turkish perspective, ongoing for many years.

 

ON THE LIGHT SIDE

"The Simpsons" on the deck of a Turkish freighter

"The Simpsons" on the deck of a Turkish freighter

When it rains... Early 2005 is sure giving Americans a taste of Turks! I accidentally caught the end of an episode of "The Simpsons" where the kids find themselves aboard a Turkish freighter, and Homer and Marge engage the captain in a conversation, from the dock. Homer asked something like whether the kids will still remain Christian, bringing up the idea of forced conversion we've seen countless times in anti-Turkish propaganda. The captain answers, "Coptic Christian?" Homer yells something to the effect that the Turks are "Cyprus Stealers." Finally, all is well and the Simpsons are on board, eating, playing soccer and music. Marge seems drunk and the Turks beside Homer ask if they should mellow her out by offering hashish. Then Marge asks this pertinent question. (Which you can also listen to by clicking on the above picture; she obviously has never been to the relevant page on the TAT site.) Naturally, the program made references to some stereotypes, but you can tell the producers had knowledge of real Turkish ways and were not approaching the subject from a perspective of animosity. While I rarely watch the show, "The Simpsons" deserves its long run, representing true quality television.


THE RARE “PRO-TURK” DEPICTION

Allow me to clarify: when I use the term “Pro-Turk,” I don’t mean the makers of the program I’m about to discuss happened to be in love with Turks… since it’s the extremely rare Westerner who loves Turks, being barraged by anti-Turkish messages as Westerners are… any more than Admiral Mark Bristol loved Turks, or historians Justin McCarthy and Heath Lowry love Turks. Since the prevailing rule in each of these cases is that Turks are only around to have mud slung at them, the moment someone steps in and treats Turks in an even-handed and open-minded manner… they must be labeled as “pro-Turk,” or have some sort of weird ulterior motives. “Pro-Turk” is the unfairly recognized term for trying to be fair and truthful.

When George Lucas’s THE YOUNG INDIANA JONES CHRONICLES ran on television back in 1992, I tried not to miss an episode. This program was television at its greatest. George Lucas had the financial muscle and access to up-to-date technology (behind his “Industrial Light and Magic”) to come up with a program that obviously was a labor of love… even though the program was a ratings bust, since it did not follow the action packed formula of the Indiana Jones movies.

THE YOUNG INDIANA JONES CHRONICLES

The show's logo

 

Denholm Elliott and John Rhys-Davies in INDIANA JONES AND THE LOST CRUSADE... in 1938 Iskenderun, Turkey

Denholm Elliott and John Rhys-Davies in the
third and last Indiana Jones film adventure.

Young Indiana Jones was first introduced in the third and final film in the series, INDIANA JONES AND THE LOST CRUSADE, played by the late River Phoenix. The depiction (below) of 1938 Iskenderun (a Turkish port city near the Syrian border) was disappointing, as the men in a crowd scene were mostly seen wearing fezes (outlawed circa 1925) and all the women were dressed in the familiar head-to-toe covering Moslem wear. (By then, the first female Supreme Court justice had been appointed some four or six years prior, beating the United States' doing the same by generations; here's a 1923 note on suffrage) So either someone didn't do their homework, or took a little poetic license... since the "gag" for the scene was Indiana's family friend-sidekick needing to stick out in an exotic setting. Of course, a true-to-life exotic setting could have been selected, so somebody didn't do their homework... as usual, when it comes to things Turkish. Consequently, Mr. Lucas' record was spotty, as far as sticking to authenticity.


ADDENDUM: Well, Holdwater is a monkey's uncle! As it turns out, it was I who didn't have the facts straight... as reader N. Kartal Toker points out: "Indy3 takes place in 1938, when Iskenderun was not a part of Turkey. Iskenderun and Antakya (Antioch) voted for joining Turkey in 1939. Therefore during the time of Indy3, the modern dress-code laws of Turkey were not in effect in Iskenderun."


1938 Iskenderun, Turkey as depicted in INDIANA JONES AND THE LOST CRUSADE.

Boy, did he make up for it.

Sean Patrick Flanery appeared as Young Indiana

The actor was well cast for the role

At first, the humorously cerebral TV-show simultaneously featured Indy as a young boy, which was soon dropped in favor for the second part of Indy’s depiction…. that of a young man, played capably by Sean Patrick Flanery. A reviewer called each of the handful of episodes made “a cinematic production in its own right, light-years better than your typical movie-of-the-week or mini-series.” Very true words. Moreover, the show presented principle personalities of the early 20th Century, including Albert Schweitzer, Charles de Gaulle, Mata Hari… as Indy found himself in the midst of the skirmishes of WWI. (I vaguely remember an exciting episode where Indy and a German officer were reluctantly partnered in a balloon.)

I recognized this show to be the brilliant production it happened to be… a program that made an effort to be conscientiously authentic within a fictional format. I wrote George Lucas a letter, telling him that he had the opportunity to tell the tale of the Ottoman Turks from the vantage point we Americans never get to hear: the side of truth.

George Lucas

George Lucas

Mr. Lucas probably never received or read that letter; regardless, I was overjoyed when finally… FINALLY… an American movie or television production tackled this subject from the rare, “Other Side”… using Professor Stanford Shaw as their consultant.

Thank you, George Lucas, for your courage and integrity.

 

 

1918 Istanbul


A scene from 1918 Istanbul, in "Young Indiana Jones"

Istanbul: always good for a flavor of mysterious espionage

The Ottoman Empire was explored in two hour-long episodes. Indy pretends to be a fake  journalist (perhaps the fictionalized Emile Hilderbrand, said to have interviewed Atatürk in a phony June 22, 1926 interview for The Los Angeles Herald Examiner?) who is first shown cavorting with Halide Edip (Zuhal Olcay; CLICK for PICTURE), the renowned novelist who became one of the heroes of the national independence movement. He asks to get an interview with Atatürk, which Ms. Edip is reluctant to arrange.

Billy Hayes can tell you being stopped by a Turkish lawman can be cause for concern

Next stop: Meeting with Ataturk

There are many twists and turns of intrigue that follow, and here is the gist of the goings-on: Indy does get a chance to meet the uncertain-of-himself but kindly Sultan (Nüvit Özdogru), while Enver Pasha (I presume, played by Ali Taygun, not a very “Young" Turk) rants in the back. (Click on the Sultan to hear his words.)

Nuvit Ozdogru plays the Sultan in Young Indiana Jones

The Sultan feels his nation doesn't get a fair shake in the West

 

Kevork Malikyan plays the Armenian Agent in Young Indiana Jones

The most Turkish "Turk" from "Midnight Express"

Then there is an Armenian agent working to undercut his nation (WHOA! That’s an unheard-of concept), and he is played by Kevork Malikyan… the Armenian-American actor who spoke the only decipherable Turkish in MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, as the prosecutor! (This is the great thing about the Indiana Jones TV program…their attention to detail. Not only did they seem to spare no expense to shoot on location, they made an effort to match the ethnicity of the actor with the character they were playing).The Armenian succeeds in wounding our hero, from the shadows.

Indy has a fateful meeting with Atatürk (Ahmet Levendoglu), where French terms for peace are heartily rejected. (Click on “Atatürk”s picture below, to hear the words.) Is this the only time Atatürk has been portrayed in an American/Western film or TV show? Unbelievably, it probably is.

Ahmet Levendoglu plays Ataturk in Young Indiana Jones

"Atatürk" doesn't mince words

 

Boris Isarov is Vasily,and Huseyin Katircioglu is Nico in "Young Indiana Jones"

One of these men, among others, is a backstabber. (Gasp.)

Indy, wounded, must protect papers in his possession, but he suspects someone in his nest of spies is working as a double agent. There is a whole hodgepodge of ethnic representations within this group… including a Bulgarian, a Jew (I believe), and a Russian. The production hired Russian actor Boris Isarov to play Vasily, who is deliciously sinister. The main actor the production seems to have failed in matching the ethnicity of is the Greek, Nico. He is played by the Turkish actor, Huseyin Katircioglu, which must have been a FIRST in American/Western cinema…. A Turk playing a Greek, instead of the always-expected other way around. (For the record, Mr. Katircioglu does not have Nico picking his nose. Quite the contrary, Nico comes across as a handsome, robust, dashing sort.)

It appears the Lucas company re-edited some of the show’s episodes and put them out as direct video release movies. A variation of the segment I’ve described is part of what is now called THE MASKS OF EVIL (1999), which apparently has been combined with another episode regarding Indy’s meeting with… Dracula?

INDY vs. "VILLAINOUS" TURKS (Addendum, 2-08)



Old chums Lawrence and Indy

The old repackaged episodes are surfacing on television's History Channel, and the two episode presentation, "Daredevils of the Desert," documents the British-Australian conquest of Beersheba, in the same pattern as Australia's THE LIGHTHORSEMEN from 1987. That is, even though the Turks are the villains, they are the "good" villains, next to the Germans, who were the real bad guys.

Haluk Bilginer

The Germans of Young Indiana Jones are treated a little more humanistically (the Aussie film presented them with a Nazi-like flair), and the Turks are treated even more respectfully. The Turkish soldiers are, overall, more decent-looking (no close shots of dirty fingernails, as with the Australian depiction), and they don't run away in cowardly fashion. Whereas the Turkish commander of the Australian film was dark, scarred and sinister in appearance, the actor chosen for these Indiana Jones episodes was handsome (Turkish actor Haluk Bilginer, playing "Colonel Ismet Bey") and assertive.

In fact, when the end becomes clear based on the miscalculations of the German officer that Ismet Bey served under, the Turk angrily slams the German against the wall, and calls him an "idiot." (What a first! We might remember how the WWI German, as played by Herbert Lom, kept calling his second-class underling "stupid Turk," in 1985's KING SOLOMON'S MINES.)


After assaults on Gaza are hurled back, the Brits plan on taking "Beersheba before Johnny Turk knows what hit him." The 50,000 troops will have run out of water by then (400,000 gallons a day would normally meet their need, we are told), and a secret agent is needed to make sure the wells will not be blown up. Lawrence of Arabia suggests his childhood friend, Young Indiana Jones, "one of the best," currently working for "French intelligence in Cairo," and fluent in both Arabic and Turkish. (Did you know that about Indiana Jones? Next time we watch "Raiders," we must pay attention to how he communicated with the Arabs.)

(In the "Dracula" episode noted at the end of the previous section, we got a better idea of Indy's language skills; he knows twenty-seven languages! Not that we would know from the samples the show has provided. A re-viewing of the "Ataturk" episode gives us a taste of Indy's Turkish, when he communicates with a Gypsy fortune-teller. Even MIDNIGHT EXPRESS's "Bluto" offered a few words that could be better understood! Furthermore, in the "Dracula" episode, our hero finds himself in Venice, and has an exchange with another fortune-teller. When he thanked her in Italian, it sure sounded like he said "gracias," instead of "grazi.")



Catherine Zeta Jones, action star

The two-faced semi-romantic interest is played by Catherine Zeta Jones, whom our hero shoots by the finale. (And, upon wounding her, Indy keeps shooting while she tries to make her escape. Say, doesn't that go against the rules?) As our heroes reign triumphant, Indy tells us there were only thirty-one casualties, out of the 50,000-strong British-Australian force; if such is historically accurate, that is truly amazing.

The episode, directed by Simon Wincer, was excellent; the action scenes were rousing, and this TV fare served as a true mini-movie in itself. The producers deserve thanks for straying from a demonic portrayal even when the Turks were the villains, and one can't help but wonder what a "good guy" like Indy (despite his attempt to murder a female on the run) was doing, fighting against the poor Turks in the first place.


Ottoman troops surrender and their flag gets lowered. Some of these
POWs would get blinded
by the British, under the
influence of Armenians.


















 


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TURKS IN AMERICAN AND WESTERN CINEMA



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