Friday, August 22, 2014


For those of you who have the Encore package of premium channels, the 1981 movie Arthur is coming up twice tomorrow (August 23) on the Encore Classic (formerly Encore Love Stories) channel, at 11:00 AM and 7:20 PM.

Dudley Moore plays the title role, a man we first see being chauffeured in his Rolls Royce through New York City one evening, while he's drunk in the back seat. He stops the car in front of a couple of woman who are quite clearly hookers, and takes one of them with him to the finest restaurant in town, not caring what anybody thinks about him. And all of this is supposed to be funny -- Arthur is a lovable drunk, or at least the intention is that the audience likes him. Obviously, there are other people who don't like the fact that Arthur is a drunk with no ambition in life. Among these are Arthur's butler Hobson (John Gielgud), who is almost a second father to him; and the rest of Arthur's family, in cluding his father Stanford and grandmother Martha (Geraldine Fitzgerald). They're to the point of issuing an ultimatum to Arther: stop the carousing and marry a respectable woman, or lose your $750 million inheritance. And they've got just the woman for Arthur, in the form of upper class Susan Johnson (Jill Eikenberry).

Arthur unsurprisingly decides that he'd like to keep that money, so he'll get engaged and married to Susan. But then a funny thing happens: Arthur is doing some shopping in Bergdorf Goodman, and sees a woman shoplifting neckties. To keep her from getting arrested, Arthur has the ties put on his account, and then offers the woman a ride home in his Rolls. That woman, Linda Marolla (Liza Minnelli), is of a decidedly lower social class, living with her unemployed father Ralph (Barney Martin). Still, you can guess what happens next, which is that Arthur falls in love with Linda. So we get the old staple of the movies: is it better to marry for love, or for money?

If there's one bad thing about Arthur -- and this is an exceedingly minor quibble -- it's that the movie fairly quickly paints itself into a corner where wither you're going to have the predictable but happy ending that you can see coming from a mile away, or you're going to have the unpredictable, but uappealing ending. So instead, Arthur winds up being one of those movies about the journey to its destination, and the characterizations put on screen by the characters. In that regard, Arthur succeeds spectacularly. Sure, Arthur is a rich, spoiled playboy. But at the same time, he's somebody who would be willing to use his millions to party with us if our paths crossed, and he'd be able to put on a damn good party. I'm generally not the biggest fan of Liza Minnelli, but she's fine here. Jill Eikenberry has the thankless task of being even more of a drip than any of the characters Ralph Bellamy played, and that's saying something. She might even out-drip the thoroughly unromantic Wendell Corey. But the best of them all is John Gielgud as the butler. He doesn't like what Arthur does, but he still loves Arthur dearly, and gets to deliver one witticism after another in the attempt to get Arthur to do the right thing, even taking matters into his own hands at one point. Gielgud won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this and really deserved it.

Arthur is availalbe on a discount DVD if you don't have the premium Encore Channels. It's a movie that, if you haven't seen it before, is well worth watching, capturing a time and attitude and thoroughly entertaining us along the way.

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