Arthur (1981 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Steve Gordon
Produced by Robert Greenhut
Written bySteve Gordon
Starring Dudley Moore
Liza Minnelli
John Gielgud
Music by Burt Bacharach
CinematographyFred Schuler
Edited by Susan E. Morse
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • July 17, 1981 (1981-07-17)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$7 million
Box office$95.5 million [1]

Arthur is a 1981 British-American comedy film written and directed by Steve Gordon. It stars Dudley Moore as the eponymous Arthur Bach, a drunken New York City billionaire who is on the brink of an arranged marriage to a wealthy heiress, but ends up falling for a common working-class girl from Queens. It was the sole film directed by Gordon, who died in 1982 of a heart attack at age 44.

A comedy film is a genre of film in which the main emphasis is on humour. These films are designed to make the audience laugh through amusement and most often work by exaggerating characteristics for humorous effect. Films in this style traditionally have a happy ending. One of the oldest genres in film – and derived from the classical comedy in theatre –, some of the very first silent movies were comedies, as slapstick comedy often relies on visual depictions, without requiring sound. When sound films became more prevalent during the 1920s, comedy films took another swing, as laughter could result from burlesque situations but also dialogue.

Steve Gordon was an American screenwriter and film director who is best known for writing and directing the 1981 comedy Arthur, starring Dudley Moore. Gordon died in New York City on November 27, 1982, from a heart attack. He was 44 years old.

Dudley Moore English actor, comedian, composer and musician

Dudley Stuart John Moore, CBE was an English actor, comedian, musician and composer. Moore first came to prominence in the UK as a leading figure in the British satire boom of the 1960s. He was one of the four writer-performers in the comedy revue Beyond the Fringe from 1960 that created a boom in satirical comedy, and with one member of that team, Peter Cook, collaborated on the BBC television series Not Only... But Also. The double act worked on other projects until the mid-1970s, by which time Moore had settled in Los Angeles to concentrate on his film acting.


The film earned over $95 million domestically, making it the fourth-highest-grossing film of 1981. [2] Its title song, "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)", won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Co-written by Christopher Cross, Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager and Peter Allen, it was performed by Christopher Cross. Sir John Gielgud also won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. It was nominated for two other Academy Awards.

The following is an overview of events in 1981 in film, including the highest-grossing films, award ceremonies and festivals, a list of films released and notable deaths.

Arthurs Theme (Best That You Can Do) main theme for the 1981 film Arthur

"Arthur's Theme " is a song performed and co-written by American singer-songwriter Christopher Cross, which was the main theme for the 1981 film Arthur starring Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli. The song won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1982. In the US, it reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and on the Hot Adult Contemporary charts during October 1981, remaining at the top on the Hot 100 for three consecutive weeks. Overseas, it also went to number one on the VG-lista chart in Norway, and was a top ten hit in several other countries. The song became the second and last American number one hit by Christopher Cross. It was included as a bonus track only on the CD & Cassette versions of his second album Another Page, released in 1983.

Academy Awards American awards given annually for excellence in cinematic achievements

The Academy Awards, also officially and popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry. Given annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the awards are an international recognition of excellence in cinematic achievements as assessed by the Academy's voting membership. The various category winners are awarded a copy of a golden statuette, officially called the "Academy Award of Merit", although more commonly referred to by its nickname "Oscar". The statuette depicts a knight rendered in Art Deco style.


Arthur Bach is a spoiled alcoholic from New York City, who likes to be driven in his chauffeured Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith limousine through Central Park. Arthur is heir to a portion of his family's vast fortune, which he is told will be his, only if he marries the upper class Susan Johnson, the daughter of a business acquaintance of his father. He does not love Susan, but his family feels that she will make him finally grow up. During a shopping trip in Manhattan, accompanied by his valet, Hobson, Arthur witnesses a young woman, Linda Morolla, shoplifting a necktie. He intercedes with the store security guard on her behalf, and later asks her for a date. Despite his attraction to her, Arthur remains pressured by his family to marry Susan.

Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith

The Silver Wraith was the first post-war Rolls-Royce. It was made from 1946 to 1958 as only a chassis at Rolls-Royce's former Merlin engine plant, their Crewe factory, alongside the shorter Bentley Mark VI. The Bentley too was available as a chassis for coachbuilders but also for the first time could be bought with a Rolls-Royce built standard steel body.

Central Park Large public park in Manhattan, New York, United States

Central Park is an urban park in Manhattan, New York City, located between the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side. Central Park is the most visited urban park in the United States, with an estimated 37.5–38 million visitors annually, and one of the most filmed locations in the world. In terms of area, Central Park is the fifth largest park in New York City, covering 843 acres (3.41 km2).

The upper class in modern societies is the social class composed of people who hold the highest social status, usually are the wealthiest members of society, and wield the greatest political power. According to this view, the upper class is generally distinguished by immense wealth which is passed on from generation to generation. Prior to the 20th century, the emphasis was on aristocracy, which emphasized generations of inherited noble status, not just recent wealth.

While visiting his grandmother, Martha, Arthur shares his feelings for Linda, but is warned again that he will be disowned if he does not marry Susan. Hobson, who has been more like a father to him than Arthur's real father, realizes that Arthur is beginning to grow up, and secretly encourages Linda to attend Arthur's engagement party. Hobson confides in Linda that he senses Arthur loves her. Linda crashes the party, held at the estate of Arthur's father, and she and Arthur eventually spend time alone together, which is tracked by both families. Hobson is later hospitalized, and Arthur rushes to his side, vowing to care for the person who has long cared for him. After several weeks, Hobson dies, and then Arthur, who has been sober the entire time, goes on a drinking binge. On his wedding day, he visits the diner where Linda works and proposes to her. At the church, he jilts Susan, resulting in her abusive father, Burt Johnson, attempting to stab Arthur with a cheese knife, though he is prevented by Martha.

Binge drinking modern epithet for drinking alcoholic beverages with an intention of becoming intoxicated by heavy consumption of alcohol over a short period of time

Binge drinking, or heavy episodic drinking, is a modern epithet for drinking alcoholic beverages with an intention of becoming intoxicated by heavy consumption of alcohol over a short period of time, but definitions vary considerably.

A wounded and groggy Arthur announces in the church that there will be no wedding then passes out soon after. Later, Linda attends to his wounds, and they discuss living a life of poverty. A horrified Martha tells Arthur that he can have his fortune, because no Bach has ever been working class. Arthur declines, but at the very last minute, he talks privately to Martha. When he returns to Linda's side, he tells her that he declined again – Martha's dinner invitation, he means – but he did accept $750 million. Arthur's pleased chauffeur Bitterman drives the couple through Central Park.

Working class Social class composed of members of the society employed in lower tier jobs

The working class comprises those engaged in waged or salaried labour, especially in manual-labour occupations and industrial work. Working-class occupations include blue-collar jobs, some white-collar jobs, and most pink-collar jobs. Members of the working class rely for their income exclusively upon their earnings from wage labour; thus, according to the more inclusive definitions, the category can include almost all of the working population of industrialized economies, as well as those employed in the urban areas of non-industrialized economies or in the rural workforce.

Chauffeur profession; french term meaning person employed to drive a passenger motor vehicle

A chauffeur is a person employed to drive a passenger motor vehicle, especially a luxury vehicle such as a large sedan or limousine. A woman employed to drive a passenger motor vehicle is a chauffeuse.


Liza Minnelli American actress and singer

Liza May Minnelli is an American actress and singer. Best known for her Academy Award-winning performance in Cabaret (1972), she is known for her energetic stage presence and her powerful mezzo-soprano singing voice. She is the daughter of Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli.

John Gielgud English actor and theatre director

Sir Arthur John Gielgud, OM, CH was an English actor and theatre director whose career spanned eight decades. With Ralph Richardson and Laurence Olivier, he was one of the trinity of actors who dominated the British stage for much of the 20th century. A member of the Terry family theatrical dynasty, he gained his first paid acting work as a junior member of his cousin Phyllis Neilson-Terry's company in 1922. After studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art he worked in repertory theatre and in the West End before establishing himself at the Old Vic as an exponent of Shakespeare in 1929–31.

Geraldine Fitzgerald Irish-American actress

Geraldine Mary Fitzgerald was an Irish actress and a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame.


Gordon originally wrote the title character with an American actor in mind. Prior to the casting of Moore, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Richard Dreyfuss and James Caan were all considered for the role. In addition, Alec Guinness and David Niven were considered for the role of Hobson. [3] [4] According to Splitsider, John Belushi was also considered for Arthur. [5] Initially Gordon wanted Moore to perform the role with an American accent, but this proved contentious as Moore had trouble performing with one and eventually convinced Gordon to let him use his natural English accent. [6] Debra Winger reportedly turned down the role of Linda. [7]

Although the project was initially in the works at Paramount, they eventually dropped the project with Orion Pictures taking over. [6] Promoting the film proved to be a challenge, reportedly six ad campaigns were discarded before a final one was decided upon. [6]


Pop singer Christopher Cross was initially asked to score the film, but writer/director Steven Gordon did not feel comfortable with his lack of experience in composing for film and the job was given to Burt Bacharach. [8] Cross was asked to compose a song for the film which he did, "Arthur's Theme", which he wrote with Bacharach along with Carole Bayer Sager and Peter Allen. [8]


The film received critical acclaim upon its release and is considered by many as one of the best films of 1981. It currently holds an 88% "Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. [9] [10] [11] [12]

The film opened poorly at the box office but improved its performance over its run, becoming the seventh highest grossing film of the summer. [13] It eventually earned over $95 million domestically, making it the fourth-highest-grossing film of 1981. [14]


The film was followed by a sequel in 1988, Arthur 2: On the Rocks . Lead players Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli, and John Gielgud reprised their roles, as well as many supporting players such as Geraldine Fitzgerald, Barney Martin, and Ted Ross. [15] The sequel was a critical and financial failure. [16] [17]


The 2011 version was first reported in 2008 with news that Arthur was to be remade by Warner Bros., with British actor/comedian Russell Brand in the lead role. [18] Brand confirmed this during his March 10, 2009 appearance on The Howard Stern Show . Although it had some good reviews, the remake was an overall critical and financial failure. [19]

Foreign versions

The film had three Indian remakes. One was the 1984 Bollywood Hindi language film Sharaabi starring Amitabh Bachchan in the lead role, the second was the 1985 Kannada language film Nee Thanda Kanike, and the third was another 2004 Bollywood Hindi Tumsa Nahin Dekha .[ citation needed ]

Awards and nominations

Academy Awards


Golden Globe



The film is #10 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies," and #53 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Laughs .

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Arthur : Hobson?

Hobson : Yes.

Arthur : Do you know what I'm going to do?

Hobson : No, I don't.

Arthur : I'm going to take a bath.

Hobson : I'll alert the media. [23]

The animated series The Critic starring Jon Lovitz [24] shows a parody of Arthur called Arthur 3: Revenge of the Liver, where the character of Arthur Bach is shown intoxicated and is informed that he has cirrhosis of the liver. [25]

In the video game You Don't Know Jack for PlayStation, there is a question in the category "Four-Letter Word For What You Don't Know" reading the following

One of the incorrect answers was "Bach, Champagne Courier". [26]

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  24. The Critic , retrieved April 17, 2019
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