WHEN Harrison Ford stepped up to the mike, all 19 TV cameras in the Palm Court swung around to focus on him. Mr. Ford, star of the new film ``Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,'' was there to donate a hat and jacket. But the press and the crowd behind the ropes outside were there for a ``photo opportunity'' or a glimpse of the actor who has brazened and blazed his way through three Indiana Jones movie hits. In person, Ford looked younger than in his new film, a little more gee-whiz and cowlicky, with his ruddy tan and city duds: navy blue blazer, pale blue striped shirt, navy tie with white streaks. But the familiar crooked grin was there, as he talked about the event.
The event was the giving of Indiana Jones's infamous brown fedora and leather jacket from ``Raiders of the Lost Ark,'' ``Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom'' and ``Last Crusade,'' presented to the National Museum of American History by Ford for Paramount Pictures and Lucasfilm Ltd. The fedora and the leather jacket, its pockets and seams rust-colored with apparent age, sat on mannequins on stage surrounded by the Victorian d'ecor of the museum's Palm Court.
When a reporter asked how many leather jackets Indiana has worn over the years, Ford said he didn't know. ``They all look the same to me.'' ``Is this the last one?'' the reporter persisted. ``I'm sure all the rest have been destroyed,'' Ford said with a nearly straight face. The museum notes in its press release that the Indiana Jones Collection is not yet on public display.
Indiana Jones the archaeologist would have enjoyed the stately museum presentation enormously. Museum director Roger Kennedy compared Indiana to Don Jos'e in Bizet's ``Carmen'' and another character in Wagner's ``Parsifal.'' He suggested that Ford, as Indy, brings to the screen ``a kind of redemptive diffidence. He doesn't represent something other than us - he is us at our baffled best, doing what we can within the larger forces, most of which are beyond our control.''
As ``The Last Crusade'' proves, Indiana Jones is at home in the world of museums and priceless artifacts, but only after he's saved the priceless Cortez gold-and-pearl ``Cross of Coronado'' and sleuthed his way through the mystery of the Holy Grail.
This time, he doesn't do it alone but in tandem with daddy, medievalist professor Henry Jones, played with a merry bravado by Sean Connery, who nearly hijacks the film from Ford.
But Ford himself is a reckless delight in his third appearance as Indy. Indiana's father has devoted his whole life to finding the Grail and, with it, the mythical chalice containing the ``water of life.'' But when he disappears in Venice, it is Indiana who, in the best ``Raiders of the Last Ark'' tradition, follows the clues from his father's diary and hacks his way through an ancient Venetian stone floor. There he finds an underground crypt bearing a major clue engraved on the shield of one of the last crusader.
This new Indiana Jones epic has the stamp of director Steven Spielberg's series: rip-roaring, fast-paced adventures, full of thrills, spills, squeal, and shocks. But the perils are, in Indiana Jones style, taken lightly. Dr. Henry Jones, who has sent his precious diary of clues to his son for safekeeping, sums it up: ``I should have mailed it to the Marx Brothers.'' Denholm Elliott turns in a droll performance as Indiana's bumbling professorial sidekick.
There is a bit of romance, too, as Indy becomes involved with a coolly beautiful blonde (Alison Doody) in this pell-mell movie. But at its heart it is the Bam!-Pow! boys' adventure film that Spielberg does so well. At times, though, it loses that kids' comic-book feeling and veers into some grisly moments, gory horror film stuff, that make ``Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade'' too violent for a family with small children.
At the urging of the press to ``try the hat on one last time,'' he gave them a long, deadpan look, then pulled the hat brim rakishly down over his eyes. Finally he flipped it up, hayseed style, and smiled.
With the signing of what the museum's director, Roger Kennedy, called ``the deed of gift,'' the show was over, and the fedora and jacket joined the History of American Entertainment collection in the division of community life at the Smithsonian Museum's National Museum of American History.
It will eventually be on view with such other artifacts as Judy Garland's ruby slippers from ``The Wizard of Oz'' and a Groucho Marx frock coat.