Movie Information

In Brief: I object to Arthur on the basic principle that the cuddly, lovable alcoholic is a worn-out concept that puts a happy face on something that is neither cuddly, nor happy. It's a comedic notion that's older than the movies and had outlived its value long before this movie was made in 1981. That said, I cannot deny that the film — while overplaying star Dudley Moore's laugh — has an undeniable charm. I sat down to mostly refresh my memory of it and ended up watching the film straight through. The story is certainly no great shakes — filthy rich, usually drunk playboy Arthur Bach (Moore) is going to be disinherited unless he marries a woman (Jill Eikenberry) he doesn't love, whereupon he has the added misfortune of falling in love with a slightly larcenous waitress (Liza Minnelli). The question of what's going to happen is a foregone conclusion. However, bright dialogue and the charm and chemistry of Moore, Minnelli and John Gielgud make it seem much better than it has any right to be. Plus, it's just such a shimmeringly good looking movie world of a picture that it's kind of irresistible. The Hendersonville Film Society will show Arthur Sunday, Jan. 4, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Director: Steve Gordon
Starring: Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli, John Gielgud, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Jill Eikenberry
Rated: PG



The comic drunk has been a staple of the movies for as long as there have been movies — by the time Chaplin was doing this sort of thing on the screen, he’d already done it on the stage. Two men I can think of — Arthur Housman and Jack Norton — made a career out of this, but they were generally limited to bit parts. Arthur — an awfully late in the day addition to the cycle — may be the only film (excepting its recent remake) to build a romantic comedy around such a character. Yes, it’s a thoroughly irresponsible and utterly unrealistic concept, but there’s no denying that Arthur mostly succeeds in keeping that realization at bay — at least while you’re watching it. Afterwards may be another matter.




Arthur was made in the wake of Blake Edwards’ 10 (1979) having propelled Dudley Moore into — relatively short-lived — the realm of a bonafide movie star. The film would have been unthinkable without him (as the Russell Brand remake proved), but it really wouldn’t have worked without the easy chemistry he shares with John Gielgud and Liza Minnelli. Gielgud’s acerbic wit keeps the film alive, though at least one critic at the time found it slightly ironic that the greatest actor of his generation should win an Oscar for saying, “Perhaps you would like me to come in there and wash your dick for you, you little shit.” The truth is there’s more to Gielgud’s performance than his zingers, though they are what is best remembered. His assessment of Liza Minnelli with, “Usually one must go to a bowling alley to meet a woman of your stature,” is admittedly golden. But it’s interplay of Moore, Gielgud, and Minnelli that carries the film through its excessively predictable plot.

The Hendersonville Film Society will show Arthur Sunday, Jan. 4, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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