Sunday, November 9, 2014

CANON OF FILM: "ARTHUR"

ARTHUR (1981)

Director/Screenplay: Steve Gordon



I got to meet Anne De Salvo once, she was a guest speaker in one of classes, beautiful woman, btw, still, and she's a director/producer/writer as well, but she's one of those actresses who's name you wouldn't know, but you've seen a hundred times. She worked for Woody Allen, she's been in a lot of TV shows and movies and- normally, I suck at this sort of thing 'cause I never know what to ask anybody, anyway whenever I meet them, anyway. I've met a few people over the years, and I've conducted an interview here-and-there too, but this was no exception, 'cause I wish I could have asked her something more insightful about the business or about acting or directing or something, and the only question I could even pretend formulate into words was, "What was it like working with Dudley Moore?". (She played the prostitute, Gloria, in the film and to this day I wish I asked it, instead I kept my hand down and my mouth shut, stupid me.)  

There's been a lot of legendary portrayals of drunks in cinema, but if I had to pick one favorite, I'd have to conclude nobody plays the happy drunk millionaire better than Dudley Moore in “Arthur.” Moore was a British TV star, who started in a legendary comedy duo with Peter Cook, before they separated and Moore would slowly make his way into feature films. He was also a classically-trained pianist, considered one of the best in the world by some, but his incredible comedic mind and quick-wit were his most amazing attribute, and was never used better than in "Arthur".  The film earned two Oscars one for the legendary John Gielgud a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for being Arthur’s lovable but pompous butler Hobson, and for Best Song for Christopher Cross's "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" but what everybody really remembers is Dudley Moore’s performance stands out as one of the greatest comedic performances ever. Just to say the lines he says in the film, most would be funny, but this is where true acting comes in.

Susan: A real woman could stop you from drinking.
Arthur: It’d have to be a real big woman!
Susan: Arthur, take my hand
Arthur: But that would only leave you with one.

And that’s just the beginning. The most memorable moment from his performance is when he doesn’t have dialogue. While drunk, which Arthur as you’ve probably guessed by now usually is, drives over to Linda’s (Liza Minelli) house stumbles out of the car, and then carefully puts his drink of the hood of the car. Then checks the glass again to make sure the glass won’t fall off. I used to live in a bar when I was younger, and I can vouch that I have seen that before. The story isn’t too difficult or grand. Arthur is informed by his father, Stanford (Thomas Barbour) that he will lose all his money if he doesn’t marry a girl named Susan Johnson (Jill Eikenberry), who’s of another rich family,one of those other boring and typically WASPY type families. It's more business arranged marriage to make sure the Bach family name stays in the business news and not in the tabloids, but Arthur's stumbles his way through the engagement, as he's not simply obscenely rich (750million in this movie, which was ten times as obscene back then as it is now) but he isn't skillful enough to do much else, and knows it. Of course, he ends up falling in love with another girl, usually through a meet cute, in this case he sees a waitress/wannabe actress Linda steal a tie from a department store and is intrigued. Liza Minnelli plays Linda as street-wise and seemingly aware of both relationship customs as well as typical romantic-comedy movie customs. In one scene where Arthur informs her that he’s engaged, we expect to see a shot of her crying for her bad luck, but instead, we get a shot of her comforting her father who’s crying his eyes out thinking he lost his shot at her daughter marrying a millionaire. 

The movie now does look a little dated for a comedy, which is probably part of the reason why it was recently remade, that and with so few talents out there like a Russel Brand, who actually can be considered a Dudley Moore type, it's probably the only real chance at a semi-decent remake. Dudley Moore's other most notable picture was "10" with Bo Derek, and directed by Blake Edwards; you'll find a few supporters of that one, but I have a hard time imagining anybody who isn't enchanted with "Arthur". The film's Writer/Director was Steve Gordon, and unfortunately, it was the only film he ever made. He had a very successful career as a sitcom writer, before diving into feature films, and like Moore earned his only Oscar nomination for this film, but two years later, he dropped dead suddenly of a heart attack, at age 44. (There's a moment in the remake where they had Arthur's father in the film have a similar fate as an homage/reference.) Well never know what other creative comedic ideas Gordon had, but it's hard to create a legacy with just one film. Still, without Moore creating this indelible character, who doesn't get sober, but he does get the love he's been so frustratingly searching for, and that he couldn't from either his fortune, or his family.If falling in love in New York City is the best you can do, I guess this proves that anybody can fall in love, even the filthy rich drunk millionaires. Wait, that’s not much of a message it is? Well, nobody goes to a comedy to be lectured to, you go to laugh, and you can almost always count on Dudley Moore for that, but here's a better more profound quote from one of Arthur's drunken stupers:

Arthur: Everyone who drinks is not a poet. Maybe some of us drink because we're not poets. 
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