Raiders Of The Lost Ark’s Karen Allen Fought Against Marion Becoming A ‘Damsel In Distress’

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In each installment of the original trilogy of Indiana Jones movies, Harrison Ford’s legendary archeologist is accompanied by a different female lead, a la James Bond and the many Bond Girls. However, most fans would cite Marion Ravenwood, played by Karen Allen, as the most beloved of Indy’s love interests, particularly because the heroine of Raiders of the Lost Ark - which is being released on 4K Ultra HD for the first time along with the series' three subsequent adventures - is the most definitively heroic of the bunch.

Indy could have had something with Alison Doody’s Dr. Elsa Schneider in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade if not for her collaboration with the Nazis (and romantic competition with his father, apparently) and while lounge singer Willie Scott (Steven Spielberg’s real-life spouse Kate Capshaw) never sides with evil, she spends most of Temple of Doom needing the title hero to come to her aid. Marion Ravenwood is instead often praised as the opposite of either characteristic which, as it turns out, was not for a lack of trying on Karen Allen’s part.

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first of Indiana Jones’ big screen adventures, and the 4K Ultra HD release of the entire series, the actress spoke to CinemaBlend about her best-known character - a feisty bar owner and the daughter of Indy’s former mentor who joins him in a race against the Nazis to find a powerful biblical artifact in Cairo. Allen ended up becoming very instrumental in the evolution of Marion Ravenwood from the pages of Lawrence Kasdan’s script to the screen, thanks to her theatre-based training and director Steven Spielberg’s willingness for collaboration.

Karen Allen provided further insight into how and why she fought to develop Marion into the strong, independent character she is known for today here:

Along the way, there were some places where the script sort of tipped Marion into the old ‘damsel in distress’ version of a female character and I was very much fighting for her to have a consistent strength… I don’t think you can create a scene like that in The Raven bar and then suddenly make someone go, ‘Ooooh, help!,’ you know? [laughs] It doesn’t really work, so I wanted to keep her strong and resourceful and keep her a woman who had something and reached out for a solution in every situation as opposed to going, ‘Oh my god, I can’t handle this,’ or, ‘I can’t do this.’

The sequence in Marion Ravenwood’s bar, called The Raven, that Karen Allen refers to sees her and Indiana Jones take on Nazi Gestapo agent Arnold Ernst Toht (you know, the melted face guy) and his henchman as the establishment goes up in flames. While Indy’s interference initially helped her escape Toht’s interrogation, she holds her own against the attackers quite well, even after beating one of her patrons in a drinking game just moments earlier and catching a swig of some extra liquid courage pouring from a bullet-holed barrel during the commotion. You certainly never see the “damsel in the distress” version of a female character do that.

The last we saw of Marion Ravenwood was in 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, in which she and Indy - with whom she had conceived Shia LaBeouf’s character Mutt Lange - get married, seemingly ending the hero’s string of rotating female leads. However, there is no word at the moment suggesting if Karen Allen is involved with director James Mangold’s production of Indiana Jones 5, which recently cast Emmy-winner Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the female lead.

Even if that controversial fourth installment is truly the last we ever see of Marion Ravenwood, I think we should at least be glad that Raiders of the Lost Ark introduced us to one of the most memorable and admirable characters from the franchise and that we have Karen Allen to thank for helping ensure that legacy.

The 4K Ultra HD Indiana Jones 4-Movie Collection is available to purchase as of Tuesday, June 8, 2021.

Jason Wiese
Content Writer

Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.