Friday, June 21, 2013

Arthur (1981)

Arthur: I race cars, play tennis, and fondle women.  BUT!  I have weekends off, and I am my own boss.

Don't you just love happy drunks?  Arthur is one of those.  He's loud, funny, wobbly, drinks a lot, and he is a young heir to a huge fortune -- actually, he's not that young.  He's in his early thirties or thereabouts.  Anyway, there happens to be a catch to continuing being an heir: He must marry Susan, as she's from a wealthy family, too.  The problem with that is Arthur doesn't love Susan.  His family wants to make him a better man, Susan wants to make him a better man, even Arthur's servant, Hobson, wants Arthur to be a better man.  But does Arthur want it as much as them?  Perhaps there's a different woman who could persuade him... a woman he catches stealing a tie in a department store.  Hey... Anything's possible.  Right?

"Arthur" was the only feature film Steve Gordon ever wrote the story and script for and directed as he was better known for his work in television.  He also contributed to the story line in the remake of "Arthur" in 2011, but it was for his work in the original that he would earn an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay and would win the Writer's Guild of America award for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen.

With a budget of an estimated $7 million, "Arthur" made it's premiere on July 17, 1981 and went on to gross over $95.4 million at the box office in the U.S. alone.  Released on April 8, 2011, the remake starring Russell Brand only earned $33 million at the box within two months later, though its estimated cost was $40 million.  At the Razzie Awards (that particular ceremony celebrating the worst in Hollywood for the year), Russell Brand was nominated for worst actor and remake was nominated for worst remake of the year.

I'm generally not one for remakes, especially remakes of films that, in my opinion, need to be left alone.  "Arthur" is one of those films.  To make an attempt to better something that was already genius to begin with is most certainly doomed for failure at least nine times out of ten.  Russell Brand is talented and funny, but he's not Dudley Moore.  And Dudley Moore made this film.  He proved it by being nominated for Oscar for Best Actor as well as a Golden Globe of which he won.  It wasn't just Dudley Moore, however.  John Gielgud (Hobson) was nominated for and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his fine achievement and he also won the Golden Globe for his performance.

Starring Dudley Moore (Arthur), Liza Minnelli (in her Golden Globe nominated performance for her role as Linda), Sir John Gielgud (Hobson), and co-starring Geraldine Fitzgerald (Martha Bach), Jill Eikenberry (Susan Johnson), and Stephen Elliott (Burt Johnson), here's some more fun information you might like to know...

1.  Bud Cort was originally suggested for the role of Arthur. Apparently, Cort was actually cast in the part but withdrew prior to principal photography.

2.  According to his widow, John Belushi was offered the role of Arthur, but ultimately turned it down, fearing typecasting. 

3.  John Travolta turned down the role of Arthur. 

4.  Apparently, writer-director Steve Gordon had originally wanted to cast George Segal in the lead role of Arthur. After the box-office success of "10" however, Dudley Moore replaced Segal. This movie was actually the second time that Moore replaced Segal. Segal was originally cast in the lead role in "10" but Segal apparently walked off the set shortly after filming began. Reportedly, this was rumored because Julie Andrews' role had been built up. Apparently, after "10" had been released, Segal, when once asked if he had seen the movie, allegedly replied with a finger gesture.

5.  John Gielgud turned down the role of Hobson several times, finally accepting it only because the salary he was offered was too good to pass up.

6.  Kay Lenz wanted badly the female lead role, because her previous attempts to be a movie star failed.

7.  Tuesday Weld was originally offered the role of Linda Marolla but turned it down.

8.  Mia Farrow, Farrah Fawcett, Goldie Hawn, Barbara Hershey, Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, Bette Midler, Gilda Radner, Susan Sarandon, Cybill Shepherd and Meryl Streep were all considered for the role of Linda. 

9.  Barney Martin, playing Ralph Marolla, the father of Liza Minelli, actually played Minnelli's husband in the Broadway stage production of "Chicago". 

10.  This film is considered a modern reworking of the P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster tales, Arthur is the equivalent of Bertie Wooster and his servant Hobson the equivalent of Jeeves.

11.  Apparently, when this picture was first touted, Dudley Moore thought (perhaps jokingly) that the movie was about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. 

12.  Dudley Moore was said to have based his performance partly on Peter Cook, whose excessive drinking had soured his and Moore's comedic partnership in the '70s.

13.  There's a framed photo of Harry S Truman on Arthur's father's desk. The other photo, to the left of Harry S. Truman, is that of Winston Churchill, and it appears to be autographed.

14.  At one point during the production, Liza Minnelli is supposed to board a bus in front of Bergdorf's on Fifth Avenue. When a real bus came along, she boarded it thinking it was the "movie bus". Not until she was halfway down the block did she realize her blunder when she looked back and saw the whole crew cracking up. 

15.  Reportedly, when Dudley Moore was doing the mansion moose head sequence, a lighting technician laughed so much that he fell off his ladder.

16.  An accomplished pianist, Dudley Moore is actually playing the piano and singing during the scene at the engagement party.

17.  The scene where Arthur drives his "racing car" around a track was shot at the now defunct Danbury Fair Racearena in Connecticut. The type of car that Arthur drove was never raced there, it was primarily for Modified stock cars and was one of America's great short tracks. Sadly, despite its great success, the land became too valuable and it gave way to a shopping mall. The Danbury Fair Racearena closed on October 12, 1981, shortly after the movie was filmed.

18.  We can thank Burt Bacharach for the soundtrack to this film which also includes the chart-topping, "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do) sung by Christopher Cross.

19.  This movie is the only ever theatrical feature film directed by Steve Gordon. This movie's sequel "Arthur 2: On The Rocks" is dedicated to the memory of Gordon who died in late 1982 which was only about eighteen months after this picture had debuted.

And now you know.

Rated PG, "Arthur" still holds true in being able to make people laugh regardless as to how old they are.  With 12 wins and another 5 nominations for various awards, it's hailed as being one of the most funniest films in Hollywood history.

Enjoy these film stills from the movie, including a rare picture of Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli, and Sir John Gielgud...

Susan: A real woman could stop you from drinking.
Arthur: It'd have to be a real BIG woman.

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