AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Director: Steve Gordon (Dir)
Release Date:   17 Jul 1981
Duration (in mins):  97
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Cast: Dudley Moore  (Arthur Bach)
  Liza Minnelli  (Linda Marolla)
  John Gielgud  (Hobson)

Summary: In New York City, Arthur Bach is happily drunk when Bitterman, his chauffeur, stops so that Arthur can hire a prostitute named Gloria. He takes Gloria to the Plaza Hotel for dinner and runs into disapproving relatives. The next morning, Arthur’s train set wakes them up and Hobson, his loyal butler, sends Gloria on her way so that Arthur can prepare for a meeting with his father. As Arthur lounges in his bubble bath, he asks Hobson to bring a pitcher of martinis because he cannot face his father if he is sober. Later, Stanford Bach insists that his son marry Susan Johnson, the daughter of a business acquaintance. Arthur does not love Susan and refuses. His father and grandmother, however, have decided that if Arthur does not marry Susan, they will cut him off financially and he will lose his $750 million inheritance. Arthur reluctantly agrees. His father hands Arthur his grandmother’s ring to give to Susan, the invitations are ready to go out and the wedding will be in one month. Arthur relieves his frustration by spending a lot of money in the Men’s Department at Bergdorf-Goodman’s and notices a woman shoplift a tie. A security guard also notices the theft and trails the woman. Intrigued, Arthur and Hobson follow them outside. When the security guard confronts the woman, she brazenly creates a scene. Amused, Arthur steps in and pretends they were shopping together, and he forgot to pay for the tie. The woman plays along and Arthur kisses her before telling the security guard to put the tie on his bill. Linda Marolla introduces herself and admits she stole the tie for her father’s birthday. Arthur asks her out for dinner the following evening and has Bitterman drive her home to Queens. As the Rolls Royce pulls up outside her building, Linda asks Bitterman if he can wait until one of the neighbors has a chance to see her arrive in style and Bitterman complies. Linda’s unemployed father, Ralph, likes the tie, but is more excited to learn she has a date with a millionaire. Arthur and Linda enjoy dinner and games at an arcade, and he learns that she works as a waitress in a diner while studying acting. The next day, Arthur meets with his grandmother, Martha, and tells her he cannot marry Susan because he has met Linda. Martha says she loves him, but, if Arthur does not marry Susan, she will cut him off without a cent. She advises him to marry Susan and have an affair with Linda. That night, Linda is cooking dinner for him when Arthur calls to cancel and admits he is getting engaged that evening. Linda is upset, but it is her father who bursts into tears. Before driving to Susan’s home, Arthur checks on Hobson, who is uncharacteristically resting, but Hobson claims he just has a cold. Arthur confides that he thinks Linda is special and when Hobson makes a joke about her, Arthur gets mad and storms out. He quickly returns and apologizes for raising his voice. Hobson thinks Arthur might actually be growing up, and also apologizes for his comment about Linda. Arthur drinks and drives to the Johnson’s home, and is drunk when Burt Johnson confronts him. Burt wants Arthur to stop drinking and come work for him. He also warns Arthur to make Susan happy or Burt might kill him. Arthur drinks his way through dinner, and tries to dissuade Susan from accepting his proposal, but she will not give up. Arthur gives her the ring and cuts their date short. Arthur drunkenly shows up at Linda’s apartment in the middle of the night. He gives her a check for $100,000 but Linda refuses the money and asks him to leave. The next day, Arthur complains to Hobson about the situation. Hobson admonishes him to marry Susan, but also says that fate might help everything work out. Hobson arrives at Linda’s apartment with a dress for her, and suggests that she go to Arthur’s engagement party if she is serious about him. He tells her that he can recognize a man in love. She realizes that Hobson is a good friend and kisses him on the cheek. She also recognizes that Hobson is not feeling well and worries. Arthur is surprised to see Linda at the engagement party. They walk to the stables and Arthur admits he is going to marry Susan, but Linda is still glad that she came to the party. Susan interrupts them and Linda pretends that she came to beg Arthur for money to help pay for her husband’s gambling debts and her sick child’s operation. Susan believes her but says she did not come to spy on them, rather she received an urgent call notifying Arthur that Hobson is in the hospital. Hobson is dying and Arthur is determined to care for the man who is like a father to him. Arthur postpones the wedding and stays at Hobson’s side. He brings Hobson’s furniture to the hospital room, gives him presents and has food delivered from all the finest restaurants. Arthur also stays sober for the last month of Hobson’s life. Before he dies, Hobson tells Arthur that he can do anything he wants with his life and asks if Arthur has seen Linda recently. After Hobson’s death, Arthur gets drunk in a dive bar. The wedding is in less than five hours when Bitterman arrives to get him. Outside the church, Burt warns Stanford that if Arthur doesn’t show up, Burt will kill him. Meanwhile, Arthur, quite drunk, arrives at the diner where Linda works as a waitress. He knows he will lose his money, but proposes to her anyway and she accepts. They head to the church to tell Susan. Arthur heads through the packed church to the ante room where Susan and her wedding party are getting ready. When he calls off their wedding, she yells for her father. Burt attacks Arthur and, when Linda comes to his aid, Burt insults her, pushes her aside and hits Arthur again. As Burt grabs a knife to kill them, Martha storms in, slaps Burt and orders him not to "screw" with her. Arthur drunkenly informs the guests that the wedding is off and he will not see them again because he is going to be poor. Then he passes out. Later, Linda tends to his cuts as they talk in the almost empty church. Martha watches quietly as they declare their love for each other, but when Arthur talks about getting a job, she interrupts and declares that there has never been a “working class” Bach and there never will be. She insists that Arthur takes his $750 million, but Arthur refuses. Money has not made him happy. As Linda and Arthur start to leave, Martha insists he take the money. He ignores her and she gets in her limousine, saying she will never offer him the money again. Arthur joins Martha in her limousine for a moment, and then rejoins Linda to announce that he turned down Martha’s invitation for dinner, but did accept the money. Happily, Arthur and Linda get in the Rolls Royce and Bitterman drives them to Central Park.  

Distribution Company: Orion Pictures Company
Warner Bros. Pictures
Production Company: Orion Pictures Company
Director: Steve Gordon (Dir)
  Michael Peyser (Prod mgr)
  Robert Greenhut (1st asst dir)
  Thomas Reilly (2d asst dir)
  Jerry Olinick (DGA trainee)
Producer: Robert Greenhut (Prod)
  Charles H. Joffe (Exec prod)
Writer: Steve Gordon (Wrt)

Subject Major: Drunkenness
Subject Minor: Butlers
  Death and dying
  Family relationships
  New York City

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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