AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Arthur
Director: Steve Gordon (Dir)
Release Date:   17 Jul 1981
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles and New York openings: 17 Jul 1981
Duration (in mins):   97
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Cast:   Dudley Moore (Arthur Bach)  
    Liza Minnelli (Linda Marolla)  
    John Gielgud (Hobson)  
    Geraldine Fitzgerald (Martha Bach)  
    Jill Eikenberry (Susan Johnson)  
    Stephen Elliott (Burt Johnson)  
    Ted Ross (Bitterman)  
    Barney Martin (Ralph Marolla)  
    Thomas Barbour (Stanford Bach)  
  Featured cast: Peter Evans (Preston)  
    Anne De Salvo (Gloria)  
    Irving Metzman (Security guard)  
    Jerome Collamore (Johnson butler)  
    Helen Hanft (Perry's wife)  
    John Bentley (Perry)  
    Phil Oxnam (Orderly)  
    Richard Hamilton (Bill)  
  And Lou Jacobi (Plant store owner)  
    Marjorie Barnes (Hooker)  
    Dillon Evans (Plaza Maitre D')  
    Maurice Copeland (Uncle Peter)  
    Justine Johnson (Aunt Pearl)  
    Paul Vincent (Plaza waiter)  
    Mary Alan Hokanson (Secretary)  
    Paul Gleason (Executive)  
    Phyllis Somerville (Saleslady)  
    Joe Doolan (Kid in street)  
    John Doolan (Kid in street)  
    Melissa Ballan (Kid in street)  
    Florence Tarlow (Mrs. Nesbitt)  
    Gordon Press (Prize man)  
    Bob Maroff (Prize man)  
    Marcella Lowry (Harriet)  
    Mark Fleischmann (Waiter)  
    Raymond Serra (Racetrack owner)  
    Dominic Guastaferro (Party guest)  
    George Riddle (Bartender)  
    Lawrence Tierney (Man in coffee shop)  
    Bobo Lewis (Lady in coffee shop)  
    B. Constance Barry (Wedding guest)  
    Kurt Schlesinger (Wedding guest)  

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.  

Production Company: Orion Pictures Company  
Production Text: A Rollins, Joffe, Morra, Brezner Production
Distribution Company: Orion Pictures Company  
  Warner Bros. Pictures (A Warner Communications 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)
Photography: Fred Schuler (Dir of photog)
  Brian Hamill (Still photog)
  Dick Mingalone (Cam op)
  Sandy Brooke (Asst cam)
  Ricki-Ellen Brooke (2d asst cam)
  David Quaid (Addl photog)
  Bill Ward (Gaffer)
  Norman Buck (Key grip)
Art Direction: Stephen Hendrickson (Prod des)
  W. Steven Graham (Asst art dir)
  Paul Eads (Asst art dir)
Film Editor: Susan E. Morse (Ed)
  Jonathan Oppenheim (Asst film ed)
  Meri Weingarten (Asst film ed)
  Pamela S. Arnold (Asst film ed)
Set Decoration: Steven Jordan (Set dec)
  Carol Joffe (Set dec)
  Joseph Badalucco, Jr. (Chief set dresser)
  Jim Mazzola (Prop master)
  Edward Swanson (Const coord)
  Arne Olsen Jr. (Const grip)
  James Sorice (Master scenic artist)
  Cosmo Sorice (Standby scenic artist)
  Eoin Sprott Studio Ltd. (Model railway by)
Costumes: Jane Greenwood (Cost des)
  David Charles (Asst cost des)
  Bill Campbell (Ward supv)
  Patricia Eiben (Ward supv)
  Helen Tarr (Ward supv)
Music: Burt Bacharach (Mus)
  Dan Pinsky (Mus ed)
  Jim Boyer (Mus rec engineer)
  Dick Hazard (Mus orch)
  Artie Kaplan (Mus contractor)
  Randy Brecker (Flugelhorn soloist)
  George Marge (Oboe soloist)
  Toots Thielemans (Harmonica soloist)
  Ron Dante (Vocal soloist)
  Bernie Leighton (Piano soloist)
Sound: Sanford Rackow (Supv sd ed)
  Marjorie Deutsch (Sd ed)
  Louis Bertini (Asst sd ed)
  Melissa A. Higgins (Apprentice sd ed)
  James Sabat (Sd mixer)
  Richard Vorisek Trans Audio, Inc. (Re-rec mixer)
  Vito Ilardi (Boom man)
  Louis Sabat (Sd rec)
Make Up: Fern Buchner (Makeup artist)
  Romaine Green (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: Juliet Taylor (Casting)
  Howard Feuer (Casting)
  Jeremy Ritzer (Casting)
  Ezra Swerdlow (Asst unit prod mgr)
  Kay Chapin (Scr supv)
  Helen Robin (Prod coord)
  Gail Matthews (Asst to Mr. Gordon)
  Wendi Lazar-Pillot (Loc supv)
  Margaret Roiphe (Loc auditor)
  Navarro Bertoni Casting, Inc. (Extras casting)
  Bernstein and Freedman P.C. (Prod accountants)
  Walter Charleston (Transportation capt)
  Ellen Levene (Unit pub)
  Jack Brubach (Asst loc auditor)
  Michael Lindgren (Vehicle consultant)
  Ruth Bonomo (Prod asst)
  Todd Thaler (Prod asst)
  Peggy Crago (Prod asst)
  Louis Phillips (Prod asst)
  Nicholas Bernstein (Prod asst)
  Steven Giovinco (Prod asst)
Stand In: Edgard Mourino (Stuntman)
MPAA Rating: PG
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs: Arthur's Theme "Best That You Can Do," music and lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager, Burt Bacharach, Christopher Cross and Peter Allen, performed by Christopher Cross, produced by Michael Omartian.
Composer: Peter Allen
  Burt Bacharach
  Christopher Cross
  Carole Bayer Sager
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Orion Pictures Company 30/9/1981 dd/mm/yyyy PA115797

PCA NO: 26382
Physical Properties: Sd:
  col:
  Prints: Prints by Technicolor®

 
Genre: Comedy
  Romance
 
Subjects (Major): Drunkenness
  Disinheritance
  Millionaires
  Playboys
  Romance
  Waitresses
 
Subjects (Minor): Butlers
  Chauffeurs
  Death and dying
  Engagements
  Family relationships
  Friendship
  Grandmothers
  Inheritance
  Love
  Marriage--Arranged
  New York City
  Prostitution
  Shoplifting
  Weddings

Note:
       End credits include the following acknowledgements: Model trains furnished by Lionel/Fundimensions; Antique trains by Hazlet Train Shop; Select wardrobe for Dudley Moore furnished by Madonna Man; Select wardrobe for Liza Minnelli furnished by Halston; Arthur’s cars provided by Exoticar, Inc.; and Equine Services – J.C.J. Racing Stables. End credits also include the following written statement: “The producers gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of: The New York State Office for Motion Picture and Television Development, Elizabeth Forsling Harris Executive Director and Leona Johnpoll, Associate Director; Mayors Office for Motion Pictures and Television, Ed Koch, Mayor, Nancy Littlefield, Executive Director; Porsche/Audi Division Volkswagen of America.”
       In an article in the 23 Oct 1979 DV, producer Charles H. Joffe stated that Arthur was originally at Paramount, but when the studio did not want to cast Dudley Moore, the production moved to Orion Pictures.
       According to an item in the 30 July 1981 HR, the film opened on 17 Jul 1981 and grossed $8,161,535 in its first eleven days. An article in the 11 Aug 1981 DV reported that Arthur grossed $16,800,890 in its first twenty-four days and noted the film’s performance in its third week surpassed its second week gross, despite being in one hundred fewer theaters. Orion had expected that the film would appeal to an older audience, but positive word of mouth and Orion’s additional marketing in the second and third week helped widen the audience to include younger filmgoers. The 26 Aug 1981 DV reported the film’s thirty-eight day gross was $26,724,137. The 21 Sep 1981 LAHExam reported the film’s gross was up to $42,646,628 and was seventh on the list of the summer’s box-office successes. An item in the 5 Mar 1982 DV reported the film grossed $85,843,513 in thirty-three weeks.
       According to production notes from AMPAS library, Arthur received many nominations and awards. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Actor – Dudley Moore; Best Supporting Actor – John Gielgud; Best Screenplay – Steve Gordon; and Best Song – “Arthur’s Theme – The Best That You Can Do.” According to an article in the 1 Feb 1982 New York, controversy arose regarding the song’s eligibility for consideration. “When you get caught between the moon and New York City” was a line from another, unpublished song co-written by Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager. An investigation by the Academy determined that the song was eligible since the Allen/Sager song had never been published and Peter Allen was given credit with the theme song’s writers, Sager, Burt Bacharach and Christopher Cross. “The Best That You Can Do” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, and John Gielgud won the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. The film collected four Golden Globe Awards from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association: Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical; Dudley Moore for Best Motion Picture Actor – Comedy or Musical; John Gielgud for Best Motion Picture Actor in a Supporting Role; and Best Original Song from a Motion Picture. Additionally, Liza Minnelli received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actress – Comedy or Musical.
       The film marked Steve Gordon’s directorial debut.
       An item in the 15 Oct 1987 LAHExam reported that Bud Yorkin would direct a sequel starring Moore, Minnelli and Gielgud. Arthur 2: On The Rocks was released in 1988 (see entry). Russell Brand and Helen Mirren starred in a remake of Arthur in 2011 (see entry).
 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   23 Oct 1979.   
Daily Variety   11 Aug 1981.   
Daily Variety   26 Aug 1981.   
Daily Variety   5 Mar 1982.   
Hollywood Reporter   13 Jul 1981   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Jul 1981.   
LAHExam   21 Sep 1981.   
LAHExam   15 Oct 1987.   
Los Angeles Times   17 Jul 1981   p. 1.
New York   1 Feb 1982.   
New York Times   17 Jul 1981   p. 10.
Variety   15 Jul 1981   p. 24.

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