Genre: Comedy, Romance
Director/Writer: Steve Gordon
Music: Burt Bacharach
Cinematography: Fred Schuler
Anne De Salvo
The tag line is “The World’s Richest Playboy”, Arthur Bach (Moore), is a dipsomaniacal millionaire in NYC, who squanders money on drinks and female companions at the drop of a hat, only his dissolute bachelor days are numbered because he is arranged to walk down the isle with Susan Johnson (Eikenberry), a girl from a well-minted family but he doesn’t love, otherwise he will be cut off from his gazillion inheritance, and just at that crunch, he meets the girl of his dream, Linda Marolla (Minnelli), a waitress from Queens, and the rest of the story is not difficult to conjecture, it is a choice between love and money, if Arthur has to relinquish one, what will he choose?
ARTHUR is director/writer Steve Gordon’s only feature film, who prematurely died of a heart attack in 1982, it is a box office sensation and also incredibly, a victorious Oscar contender, broad comedies embraced by the academy has become more and more like gold dust as time goes by, Sir John Gielgud, won an Oscar for his prudent, sophisticated impersonation of Hobson, Arthur’s devout butler and indeed, a father figure to him, whose mordant elocution and snobbish/avuncular poise is the perfect antidote of Arthur’s excessive jests when he is plastered, also his bowing out denouement tactfully renders the film its well-earned moment of poignancy. Another Oscar is awarded to its theme song, BEST THAT YOU CAN DO, a timeless ear-worm penned by Burt Bacharach and co. and performed by a clear-voiced belter Christopher Cross.
Dudley Moore, reaps his sole Oscar nomination with this unrivaled comedy tour-de-force (graced with his accomplished piano bravura), it is really at a premium that a comedian can tips the emotional scale of his viewers apropos of a character that initially smacks of crudeness, intemperance and gaucheness. A pint-size dynamo, Mr. Moore injects an honest-t0-goodness likability once we knows Arthur better, he is a none-too-objectionable man-child and devoid of any wiles awash in the adult society, cocooned in his money-gilded bubble since his birth, but eventually he braves himself to face an impending sea change when he falls in love for the very first time, and Arthur’s transmogrification doesn’t, as one might habitually dread, comes off as overly mawkish or unduly therapeutic, there is a bracing message in this tall-tale: Arthur doesn’t have to better himself to get the girl, instead, he is still the old self when the film reaches its coda, his drinking problem is hard to peter away, so is his compulsive joke-cracking under the influence one might surmise, the only thing has changed is that he experiences love and loss, and is not afraid of getting out of his comfort zone (although the ending lets rip a knowing whiff of jubilation, actually you can have your cake and eat it too!), and lucky enough to find someone who can reciprocate his feelings because who he is, not what he is bestowed (here I mean Linda, not Hobson).
On the petticoat front, Ms. Minnelli’s puckish moxie is a good match of Arthur’s benign wackiness, and Irish veteran Geraldine Fitzgerald evidently have a field day as Arthur’s savvy grandmother Martha, everyone must behave on her say-so. By and large, it is a nicely surprising finding that this ostensibly crass comedy actually has wits in the hearts of its hackneyed story and perkily runs rings around most of its contemporaneous light entertainment from an infertile industry.