by Christopher Hodapp
“Brother to a Prince and fellow to a beggar if he be found worthy.”"I have been fellow to a beggar again and again under circumstances which prevented either of us finding out whether the other was worthy. I have still to be brother to a Prince, though I once came near to kinship with what might have been a veritable King and was promised the reversion of a Kingdom — army, law-courts, revenue and policy all complete. But, to-day, I greatly fear that my King is dead, and if I want a crown I must go and hunt it for myself..."
—The Man Who Would be King
I saw this morning that Sir Sean Connery has passed away. Few actors can sustain the sort of consistent persona Connery had for as long as he did.
I grew up watching Sean Connery movies, and he was present in my pop culture life as early as I can remember. Alfred Hitchcock once said he cast Connery in Marni because he had an animalistic quality and a face that made you unsure of what he might do at any second. To be brutally honest, he really didn't have much in the way of range. He wasn't a chameleon, he didn't disappear into his roles. That distinctive voice and accent did a lot to prevent that. But whether he was playing a cool American executive, a Russian submarine commander, a lunatic poet, a tweedy history professor with an adventuresome son, a firefighter, a thrill seeking TV reporter, the king of Mycenae, the true born King of All England, or James Bond, he was really always Sean Connery and always just damned interesting to watch and listen to. Because as Hitchcock said, you were always unsure of what he might do at any second.
In the 1980s, Connery was in two movies that both ruined their endings solely because Sean Connery's persona transcended the scripts and stories. In Time Bandits, young Kevin should have climbed on the firetruck. Why? Because everyone in the audience would have gladly followed Sean Connery to the ends of the Earth. Or at least to Troy, because he was really Agamemnon.
In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusader, Connery as Henry Jones should have taken the place of the old Templar Knight and stayed behind to become the next immortal guard of the Holy Grail. Why? Because only Sean Connery should be entrusted to protect the eternal relics of God on Earth for the rest of us all.
Despite what some Masons have thought or believed over the years, Connery wasn't a Freemason. I've seen lots of Facebook messages today assuming that he was. But, alas, no. But he did play a brother Mason once long ago. He once portrayed Right Worshipful Brother Daniel Dravot in what has always been, for me, the very best Sean Connery movie ever. The announcement of his passing compelled me to go back this morning and re-read the short story that inspired the movie. Long before I became a Mason, I saw The Man Who Would be King in the theater. I was happy to later find that the film follows the Kipling story quite closely.
And what a story it is.
Connery's Daniel and Michael Caine's Peachy are both lower class Englishmen, packed off to fight in India for the Empire. But they have dreams far beyond the notion of dying to keep India English and returning home to a dreary life. At home they know they will return to no prospects. But in the East, there were limitless possibilities.
"We have decided that India isn’t big enough for such as us... Therefore, such as it is, we will let it alone, and go away to some other place where a man isn’t crowded and can come to his own. We are not little men, and there is nothing that we are afraid of except Drink, and we have signed a Contrack on that. Therefore, we are going away to be Kings.”"They have two and thirty heathen idols there, and we’ll be the thirty-third."
And so the two intrepid Brother Masons set off to become kings in Kafiristan.
"Peachey came home in about a year, begging along the roads quite safe; for Daniel Dravot he walked before and said:— ‘Come along, Peachey. It’s a big thing we’re doing.’ The mountains they danced at night, and the mountains they tried to fall on Peachey’s head, but Dan he held up his hand, and Peachey came along bent double. He never let go of Dan’s hand, and he never let go of Dan’s head. They gave it to him as a present in the temple, to remind him not to come again, and though the crown was pure gold, and Peachey was starving, never would Peachey sell the same. You knew Dravot, sir! You knew Right Worshipful Brother Dravot! Look at him now!”
As I finished the story, I realized that Kipling's opening line captured the way I feel this afternoon after hearing of Connery's passing.
"Today, I greatly fear that my King is dead, and if I want a crown I must go and hunt it for myself..."
I like to think when I finally enter the Land of Shades myself, I'll hear Sean Connery, beckoning, ‘Come along, Peachey. It’s a big thing we’re doing.’
(Sean Connery's autographed photo as King Daniel of Kafiristan appropriately hangs in my bar, and yes, he signed it upside down. "I had great fun making that picture," he said, "but it was a wild time. So it deserves to be autographed upside down.")