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All the best lines belong to Gielgud, and the Academy Award was hardly adequate for such a legendary performance. Moore's lovable drunk would wear thin in later years, but here it is a fresh and delightful tour de force in the most politically incorrect way. Liza is flawless, but one hates to see her in a non-musical role, for fear of squandering such an immense talent. But the chemistry, the synergy between these legends is palpable.
The laughs never get old. It is, however, a tragedy that the DVD is not available in cinematic aspect.
The standard complications ensue but in a most endearing way with loads of alcohol-fueled slapstick executed with classic élan by Moore. That he makes such a spoiled character likable is a credit not only to his comic talents but to Gielgud's feisty, acidic turn as Hobson, Arthur's devoted but reality-grounded valet. It's the type of role he could play in his sleep, but Gielgud makes Hobson such a truly memorable character that his fate in the film brings a welcome injection of poignancy in the proceedings. In probably her most likable film role, Liza Minnelli hands the picture to her male co-stars by toning down her usual razzle-dazzle personality and making Linda quite genuine in motivation.
A pre-"LA Law" Jill Eikenberry plays Susan just at the right passive-aggressive note, while Barney Martin (Jerry's dad on "Seinfeld") steals all his scenes as Linda's slovenly father Ralph. The one fly in the ointment is veteran actress Geraldine Fitzgerald, who overdoes the eccentricities of the grandmother. And I have to admit that I still can't stand the very dated, overplayed Christopher Cross song that inevitably won the Oscar for that year's best song. Unfortunately, the 1997 DVD, certainly in need of remastering, has no extras worth noting except some photos and production notes.
HOWEVER this movie, the original, showed how much better movies were 'back in the days'. Considering it was made exactly thirty years ago, i was surprised how much the comedy still stuck me with this gawkish grin through the whole thing...
I am outraged that Moore didn't win the Oscar for his performance! If Peter Cook (who Moore was said to have based Arthur on) was really like this when he was drunk then i don't why any comedians stay sober!
Now, without making unnecessary comparisons to the remake, i thought that considering that Dudley Moore was in his forties when he made this i couldn't deny his decidedly English charm oh and that laugh!
I am utterly ashamed i didn't know of this movie before, but at least thats something i can thank Russell for!
Nobody has ever given a genuine drunk performance than Dudley Moore as Arthur. I have just read that Russell Brand is going to star in the remake of this film. As much as we love Russell Brand, I don't think he could do as good of a job as Dudley Moore did. Moore and whoever plays his butler are delightful, and this is a classic motion picture that should not have been touched. Though Brand is perfect, not perfect enough.
Moore obviously plays Arthur, a drunk playboy who finds out that his father will stop giving him money unless he marries the girl that he doesn't love. But then he meets Linda(played wonderfully by Liza Manelli) and he considers ditching the money.
The acting is delightful. So is the story plot. The relationship that Arthur and Hobson(the butler) is wonderful. This is just truly a wonderful film. Flawless. If you haven't seen it, you must. Before the remake comes out. It's a delightful film on everyone's behalf.
Arthur Bach (Dudley Moore) is a funny alcoholic. As such, we'd hardly care about him. He wouldn't get into the finest restaurants. He wouldn't go on elaborate shopping sprees. And we wouldn't get the girls. However, Arthur is also the heir to a fortune approaching a billion dollars. He's never worked a day in his life and he has two servants, Hobson and Bitterman, who have been with him forever. But his father finally makes an ultimatum -- either Arthur marries the devoted (and rich) Susan Johnson (well pre-LA Law Jill Eikenberry), or he'll be cut off. And wouldn't you know it? This happens just as Arthur is falling in love (perhaps for the very first time) with waitress/aspiring actress Linda (Liza Minnelli). Will Arthur choose the money or the girl? You've seen this kind of movie before, so you know where it's going.
Steve Gordon's script is so wonderful that you forget that as a director he's basically standing as far back as possible and letting the cast kick the great dialogue up a notch.
Arthur is about Dudley Moore's laugh. It's the first thing we hear and it rings through the whole film. It's a manic uncontrollable thing and probably if your neighbor laughed like that, you'd get sick of him within an hour. For some reason, Moore makes sure that we never get sick of Arthur. We don't get sick of his life of privilege, of his demands, of his embarrassing himself and the people who love him. We don't get sick of his silly rationalizing for his drunken state. And these are remarkable facts. Moore also gets to play the piano (a brilliant skill), fall over things (one of Moore's best), and kiss a horse (no comment required). Moore also has terrific chemistry with Minnelli, who certainly hasn't been better since. Minnelli's character's major flaw is that you never really get the minute she stops liking Arthur for his money and starts loving the man. I don't blame her for that.
The first two thirds of the movie, though, completely belong to John Gielgud. One of the three greatest Shakespearean actors of his generation and this is what most filmgoers remember him for. Playing a butler! And yet the amazement of his performance is that you never feel that he's slumming, even when he's sitting in bed wearing a cowboy hat. Beyond just being the moral center of the film, nobody does better service to Gordon's dialogue. Gielgud's Hobson may be quick to tell people off, but you never doubt he cares.
As I said earlier, the film doesn't really make it all the way to the end. It's not a spoiler to observe that the ending feels arbitrary and unmotivated. You would also be correct in wondering if this film's depiction of alcoholics is troublingly frivolous, even for a light comedy. But honestly, see how long you're troubled for. I suspect it won't last through Arthur's first dinner date with hooker in stretch pants.
This is a 7.5/10, I think. And I'll alert the media.
I'm no Dudley Moore fan, but this grew on me and I found him not only hilarious but, as intended, touching. He is supported by two very different kinds of actors—John Gielgud and Liza Minnelli—but they form a wonderful trio.
The story is a timeless one—the rich man who is out of touch with what really matters in life. This isn't pushed very far, and the end is pretty inevitable, but the journey is great fun mostly because Moore is relentlessly funny. Minnelli plays a great strong woman foil to him, and is obviously what he needs in life. The "romance" between them is never very convincing because it remains a bit practical—they don't have that great scene where we expect them to truly "fall in love," and that's just fine. (The closest is the scene in the horse barn, which has one of the funnies lines in the movie, which almost feels like a Moore ad lib, you'll see.)
The aging butler played by Gielgud is more nuanced and funny than the cliché of the English butler in so many movies. It's weird to see him play this kind of role when his repertoire ranges more to Shakespeare (he's one of England's great 20th Century stage actors).
So love this not for the story, which is lovable but plain, but for the three actors and their ongoing wit and verve. A fun fun movie.
Secondly though, I actually knew a real life Arthur Bach. He was not quite as wealthy as Arthur, but spent 47 years of his life basically as a kid. His parents tightly controlled his purse strings, but his rent and utilities were paid for in a basement apartment in Greenwich Village. He spent a good deal of his time getting himself intoxicated on various spirits and making a public spectacle of himself, just like Dudley Moore does.
The wonder with Arthur is why anyone would bother with him wealth of not. But that's the other half of the equation. My friend was a most charming person when you got to know him. In fact it was almost a compulsion to be charming. He couldn't buy a newspaper or magazine without trying to establish some level of relationship with the vendor. He spent his life being a perfect party guest. The term wastrel which was in common use in the 19th century would apply to him.
And that's what Dudley Moore is, a wastrel. Unlike my friend Moore has John Gielgud to clean up after him. That's a full time job as we see demonstrated in Arthur. My friend also never found a Liza Minnelli, a male Liza Minnelli in fact because he was gay. Still Moore's portrayal of Arthur Bach is deadly accurate and so real for me.
Arthur, 20th century wastrel, is being forced to marry another trust fund baby in Jill Eikenberry. Since he won't work for a living, the threat of being cut off is quite real for him. He only has his butler Hobson played by John Gielgud and chauffeur Bitterman played by Ted Post to pour his troubles out to. We should all have such troubles.
John Gielgud in his nearly century of life certainly did better work than in Arthur on film and in fact Gielgud is more prominently known for his stage performances. Yet 1981 was a year of sentiment at Oscar time. The Academy gave Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn Oscars for On Golden Pond and Gielgud the Best Supporting Actor Award essentially for the work of a lifetime. That man was amazing, still at his craft almost to the end.
So to Frank Graham who worked in the film and to Jackie Weiss, a genuine real life Arthur, I dedicate this review.
If not, this movie should jog your memory.
In a role that he would forever be identified with, Moore makes the part of "Arthur" all his own. As a poor little rich boy who refuses to grow up and desires to spend his every waking moment drunk, Moore breathes life into what would otherwise be a caricature, making him touching, human and as frail as a child.
Steve Gordon's writing and directing are both impeccable; the look is befitting a fairy tale. And the dialogue, while romantic at heart, also lets loose with some of the most quotable zingers ever written, beginning to end. And everyone gets at least one or two good ones.
Minelli, Fitzgerald, Ross, Eikenberry, Martin and everyone else resist the urge to overplay, but instead just say their lines as anyone else would say them. In the process, making them all the funnier. I especially liked Moore's scene with Hamilton near the end where the prevalent line is "Oh, my GAHD!" I can explain no more, you'll just have to see it.
In contrast, Gielgud's part as Hobson, the proper yet protective valet, is as showy as anything. Yet Gielgud is such a pro that it comes off as easy as a walk in the park. His lines steal the show, and he earned every award he won for his role. In the end, even Hobson finds that he needs Arthur as much as Arthur needs him.
I can't say enough good about "Arthur". Really. If you want a lift in your day, watch it.
Is "Arthur" that good? It doesn't suck.
Ten stars. Cheers.