- Movie Rating -

Arthur (1981)

| July 17, 1981

Arthur is a strange and often very funny screwball comedy, the kind that Howard Hawks might have made in the 1930s.  These movies are always a challenge, finding characters that seem to have started out in the writing stage as cliches and stereotypes but honed down with a measure of humanity and self-reflection.

That, in a nutshell, is Arthur Bach, a hopeless drunken multi-millionaire whose strange tendency in life is not to flaunt his wealth but to spend his days and nights in a never-ending search for love and understanding.  Yes, he races cars; Yes, he has a stable full of horses; Yes, he has a manservant and, yes, he is worth $750 million but something is missing in his life, a true emotional bond that has nothing to do with his bank account.

Arthur is played in a wonderful performance by Dudley Moore who has never found a more complete character, a man who seems self-defeated but who never stops looking for someone who understands him, someone who doesn’t care about his money but only loves him for who he is and what he can offer.  He would never think of buying anyone’s affections.  And yes, he is a drunk, a laughing drunk you should know.  He’s the kind of screaming, laughing drunk who can never quite explain what he’s laughing about.

The booze filter through Arthur’s world with alarming regularity.  He’s three-sheet to the wind already while still demanding his next drink.  When he wakes up the next morning, his butler brings him his first drink of the day.  However, like most comedy drunks, the worst effects are a slight hangover and the exasperation of those in his immediate hemisphere.  The only person who seems to care is his manservant Hobson (John Gielgud in a wonderful performance) who has cared for him for years but is honest with him to a fault.

His predicament is that he is otherwise engaged to Susan (Jill Eikenberry) a boring heiress that he does not love and who does not love him.  Their arrangement is purely financial, which is purely satisfactory to everyone around him.  He resists but he also knows that resistance is futile, for if he doesn’t marry Susan, his grandmother (Geraldine Fitzgerald) will cut him off without a cent and his future father-in-law will kill him.

Can Arthur live without money?  Based on what we’ve seen no, but that’s a challenge when he meets a smart working-class girl named Linda (Liza Minelli) whom he meets when she shoplifts a tie.  She’s everything he’s looking for.  She doesn’t care about his money, but she cares deeply for him and there are sparks when they are together.

Arthur is a movie with a lot of humanity, a lot of human frailty and it’s very funny.  It’s one of those screwball comedies that gathers a lot of nutty people together and oddly constructs how they fit together, yet in the middle is the human element and that’s the greatness of it all.  I liked it’s warm humanity and it’s broad comedy and Dudley Moore’s performance which is pitch perfect at every turn.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1981) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized