No 349 - Arthur
Director - Steve Gordon
Dudley Moore's Arthur is a bit of a weird one. He comes of as a bit unhinged. Especially at the start of the film. He is a bit of a laughing drunken loon. Reminiscent of a drunken uncle - cackling wildly at his own rubbish jokes. He is however manic and naive. A bit hopeless. He speaks about happiness and having fun but you can see that really, he isn't all that happy. He hasn't found that release yet. He is sort of pathetic - hanging out with prostitutes and getting blind drunk, just because he can afford to.
It all changes when Arthur (who is an arranged marriage in order to keep his inheritance) meets Liza Minelli's Linda. A lower class, shoplifting kook. And whilst I've never seen Liza Minelli as attractive, she is definitely cool. This film really provides a platform for her kooky cool - and you can see why young Arthur becomes obsessed about her.
So, essentially the main plot is a love triangle between the hopeless Arthur, the unobtainable Linda and the poor poor victim Susan. An aristocratic fool who loves Arthur and who is treated terribly throughout the film. These circumstances are not her fault. Whilst this (coupled with the inheritance aspect) is the key story, it is not the bit that I want to discuss - Arthur's development as a character. Arthur's maturity stems from a different, far deeper and far more beautiful relationship.
Let me introduce Arthur's butler Hobson. This is the marvellous John Gielgud in a role which allows him to steal every second of every scene we're blessed to see him in. Hobson has been to the Jeeves school of butlering - in which he manages to disguise withering put-downs and massive snobbery as simply fulfilling his role. He is fantastic and there is a wonderful closeness between the two men. A genuinely beautiful friendship. Hobson clearly views Arthur as a sort of high maintenance child whom he cares deeply for, but who is also a lot of hard work.
However as the film progresses you realise that Hobson is not well, and it is is Hobson's deterioration which provides the film with real heart. All of a sudden, Arthur is more than a witty imbecile. He is caring, he is loving. He showers Hobson with gifts and fine dining and (best of all) decks out his ward in fine Victorian mahogany. It just begins to show what you can use that money for, and how you can use it to make a beautiful difference.
It is all the more evident when Hobson finally loses his Stiff Upper Lip, and breaks into tears. That is the most emotional part of the whole film. And from that point on, Arthur is a changed man.
Of course, this is a love story - so it isn't too much of a destructive spoiler to say that Arthur manages to get the girl and keep the money. After the ordeal of Hobson's illness, after seeing that Arthur has three dimensions and is a beautiful man (not just a drunken fool) - you want the happy ending.
It is a striking film for starting out a bit silly, frankly, and yet ending in a truly heart-warming manner.
Though it must be said that Arthur's theme in this film is not as good as Arthur's theme in the TV show.