Search This Blog

Monday, January 07, 2013

Arthur (The Best That He Could Do)

Hello, everybody!  And, welcome to the very first Monday Matinee of 2013!

For today’s feature, I thought that we would take a look at a movie that is linked to two very important years (well, on a personal level that is).

The years that I am talking about are 1981 (the year that this blogger was born), and 2011 (the year that this blog was born).  Funny how that worked out, huh?

And, here’s the kicker.  This movie was originally released in 1981 and remade thirty years later in 2011!  How’s that for awesome?

Unfortunately, this is where the awesomeness ends.  I have seen both the 1981 and the 2011 versions of the film, and the 2011 is just a shoddy pale imitation of the original.  Not saying that Russell Brand didn’t try his hardest to make a success of it.  I may be alone in admitting this, but there are a few funny moments in the 2011 remake.

It’s just that the 1981 version has more heart and more warmth.

That’s why I’m saddened to have learned of the passing of a couple of the key players of this particular film...and both of them died in very tragic circumstances.

Today’s featured film was directed by a man named Steve Gordon.  Gordon was a figure in the entertainment industry for years prior to 1981, mostly in television.  His name has been linked to “The New Dick Van Dyke Show”, “Chico & The Man”, and “Barney Miller”, and he was the creator of the short-lived 1976 television series “The Practice”. 

And in 1981, he made his directorial debut with today’s film, which he also wrote as well.  It was destined to be the beginning of a great new direction for Gordon, and it seemed as though he was well on his way to a promising career in film directing.  Sadly, in November 1982, Gordon passed away in New York City after suffering a massive heart attack.  He was just 44 years old.

Twenty years after Gordon’s death, the film’s lead actor passed away in March 2002.

Dudley Moore was an actor who had a huge resume of work prior to this film.  Although his height of just over five feet was hardly considered average for a Hollywood leading man, he had enough personality and joie de vivre to make it an asset instead of a problem.  It certainly didn’t keep him from enjoying the company of ladies.  He was married four times during his lifetime, and he was affectionately given the nicknames of “Cuddly Dudley” or “The Sex Thimble” by the press.

Dudley started off his career in the 1965 film short “Flatland”, but over the years his film resume included such memorable films as “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland”, “Foul Play”, “10”, “Six Weeks”, and “Crazy People”.  But in the late 1990s, he began to display symptoms of the rare terminal degenerative brain disorder “progressive supranuclear palsy, and fought the disease for three years before his 2002 death.

Now, it can be argued that today’s film may not be his most famous work...but it was a movie that helped make Dudley’s star shine a little brighter.  And, since it happens to be my own personal favourite film of Dudley Moore’s, I really wanted to do a feature on this movie.

And, that movie is the 1981 film “Arthur”.

“Arthur” was released on July 17, 1981, and with its total gross of $95 million, it became the fourth highest grossing film of 1981.  The film was also nominated for four Academy Awards, winning exactly half.  John Gielgud was the winner of the Best Supporting Actor trophy, and the song below ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

ARTIST:  Christopher Cross
SONG:  Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)
ALBUM:  Arthur – The Album
DATE RELEASED:  August 14, 1981

The above song was a collaborative effort between Cross, Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager, and Peter Allen.

The film is all about a wealthy, immature playboy named Arthur Bach who spends his days drinking alcohol and demanding to be chauffeured all around New York City.  The last thing on his mind is to become a mature adult with responsibilities. 

But then reality comes along and smacks Arthur across the face so hard his head was left spinning.

You see, Arthur grew up in a very wealthy family, and as a result has been left with a rather spoiled upbringing.  He has never had to worry about not having any money because everything has been provided for him whenever he wanted it.

In fact, part of the reason why Arthur has developed a bit of a spoiled lifestyle is because of the promise of the $750 million fortune that he is set to inherit from his father (Thomas Barbour) once he passes on.

Unfortunately for Arthur, his father’s money will only be his on one condition.  He will only earn the trust fund if he goes through with marrying a woman named Susan Johnson (Jill Eikenberry), a snooty lady whose upper crust upbringing will more than certainly cause Arthur to change his ways and become the upstanding man that his father always dreamed of having.

Now, Arthur is not exactly keen on the idea of entering an arranged marriage with Susan.  He doesn’t love her at all.  In fact, Arthur hasn’t ever really loved anybody in his life...and the only other person who understood him was his valet, Hobson (John Gielgud).

Arthur is not thrilled with marrying Susan, but since it’s the only way that he will be able to maintain his lavish lifestyle, he has no choice but to agree to it.

But then he meets a woman from Queens, who is basically the polar opposite of Susan.  Her name is Linda (Liza Minnelli), and she’s a working-class waitress who dabbles in shoplifting.  Certainly not the kind of woman that would be the ideal woman for Arthur, as far as Arthur’s family is concerned.

And yet, Arthur becomes very enchanted by her, and enjoys her company very much.  Here’s just a taste of the relationship between Linda and Arthur.

You see what I mean?  It’s a very sweet relationship.

Believe it or not, when Arthur spends time with Linda, he ends up going cold turkey on the alcoholic beverages, and begins acting like a responsible human being...something that doesn’t go unnoticed by Hobson.

But as Arthur develops feelings for Linda, he is weighed down by his commitment to Susan.  He tries to discuss the situation with his grandmother, Martha (Geraldine Fitzgerald), and explains his feelings for Linda to her...but Martha shows Arthur the grim reality of what would happen if he makes the wrong choice.  If he decides to not marry Susan, he runs the risk of being disowned by his father, thus making his inheritance null and void.  Still, this doesn’t prevent Hobson from playing matchmaker at Arthur and Susan’s engagement party, informing Linda that she should attend as a guest.  After all, Hobson did always know how to recognize a young man in love.

Sadly, it is shortly after the engagement party that Hobson develops an illness, and is confined to his bed.  Arthur dotes on Hobson, being that he has been more of a dad to him than his own biological father, and does his best to take care of him.  But unfortunately, Arthur’s care is not enough to make Hobson get better, and he passes away.  A heartbroken Arthur immediately goes on a drinking binge, mourning his loss.

Without Hobson around, Arthur is essentially left on his own to make the hardest decision that he will ever have to make in his entire life.  Does he choose Susan, the woman who he has no love for in order to ensure that he lives comfortably on a financial scale?  Or does he gamble it all away to be with Linda, the woman who has ignited his passion for not only love, but life itself?

Or, is there even a way that Arthur can have his cake and eat it too?

Well, if you expect me to tell you the answer, you must be joking.  But, Arthur is available at video stores and Netflix, and I’m sure that there are places where you can download it online.  Just make sure that you watch the 1981 version, and not the 2011 version.  The original one is the superior one.

Now, there’s one reason why I really wanted to spotlight this movie, and it’s a personal one.  It’s true that my family is not worth $750 million.  In fact, I doubt that my family even have $750 on their person at any given moment, to be perfectly honest with you.  And, no, I don’t go riding around Central Park at any given moment...mainly because Central Park is a good nine hours away from where I live currently.

But, I do identify with Arthur in one major way.

We’ve never really known what it is like to fall in love.

I mean, I’ve had crushes before, and I’ve definitely fallen for people.  But to call that love...I honestly can say that I’ve never felt that way about anyone.  And, I can relate to Arthur because the reason why we’ve never really loved anyone before is because we weren’t really very happy with ourselves initially.

In Arthur’s case, he had everything handed to him on a silver platter with silver cutlery.  He never really understood the value of a hard day’s work, and he was never expected to do anything.  He certainly never earned the respect of his own family, and I think that may have contributed to the fact that he thought so little of himself.  Believe me, I can definitely relate to Arthur with that one.

But Arthur was really lucky in that he had his beloved Hobson around to keep him on the straight and narrow.  I suppose you could say that I had that with a couple of friends of mine.  They too kept me on the straight and narrow, and kept me on a path of happiness.

So, when Arthur ended up losing Hobson, I felt his pain, as I ended up losing my two friends within a year of each other.  Needless to say, 2012 was a very difficult year for me, and I am so thrilled to bring in 2013.

But you know, there’s always hope.  Arthur ended up finding it in a person who was his complete opposite...and it ended up becoming something beautiful.  And, I have to believe that the same fate will happen for me...even if there are days when I tell myself that it will never happen.

I guess in my case, I just have to take the lyrics to heart in the theme song for “Arthur”.  Do the best that I can do.

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.