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Arthur is a 1981 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.

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.


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.

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.

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.


  • Dudley Moore as Arthur Bach
  • Liza Minnelli as Linda Marolla
  • John Gielgud as Hobson
  • Geraldine Fitzgerald as Martha Bach
  • Jill Eikenberry as Susan Johnson
  • Stephen Elliott as Burt Johnson
  • Thomas Barbour as Stanford Bach
  • Ted Ross as Bitterman
  • Barney Martin as Ralph Marolla
  • Paul Gleason as Executive
  • Phyllis Somerville as Saleslady
  • Lou Jacobi as Plant store owner
  • Justine Johnston as Aunt Pearl
  • Irving Metzman as Store security guard
  • Anne De Salvo as Gloria
  • Lawrence Tierney as Man in Diner Demanding Roll
  • Mark Margolis (uncredited) as Wedding guest
  • Gordon Press as Change Maker


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. While some critiques objected to the obvious difference in accent between Arthur and his biological father, others were quick to catch the deeper implication: decades earlier, who had gladly invested the hundreds of hours teaching baby Arthur to talk? Hobson the butler, of course.[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 from 33 critics 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]

Related films


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

  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role – John Gielgud
  • Best Original SongBurt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager, Christopher Cross and Peter Allen for "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" which was performed by Cross
  • Best Actor in a Leading Role – Dudley Moore
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen – Steve Gordon

Golden Globe

  • Best Film - Musical or Comedy
  • Best Actor - Musical or Comedy – Dudley Moore
  • Best Supporting Actor – John Gielgud
  • Best Original SongBurt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager, Christopher Cross and Peter Allen for "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)"
  • Best Actress – Musical or Comedy- Liza Minnelli


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:

  • 2000: AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs – #53[20]
  • 2002: AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – Nominated[21]
  • 2004: AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs:
    • "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" – #79[22]
  • 2005: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:

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]

In popular culture

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]


  1. "Arthur, Box Office Information".. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on March 9, 2012.
  2. "1981 Domestic Grosses".. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on March 9, 2012.
  3. Lenburg, Jeff (2001). Dudley Moore: An Informal Biography. iUniverse. ISBN 9780595182688. 
  4. Pollack, Dale (November 27, 1981). "'Arthur' success even surprised Joffe". Retrieved on December 23, 2015. 
  5. Evans, Bradford (March 3, 2011). "The Lost Roles of John Belushi".. Splitsider. Retrieved on September 26, 2016.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "10 Rich Facts About Arthur". Mental Floss. Retrieved on March 12, 2017.
  7. Thomson, David (27 February 1994). "FILM / Up where she belongs: A decade ago Debra Winger had the film world at her feet. A year ago her career seemed to be on its last legs. Now she is back, with an Oscar nomination. David Thomson is a fan". Retrieved on 18 August 2018. "She turned down the soft female leads in hits such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Arthur." 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "CHRISTOPHER CROSS". Songfacts. Retrieved on January 5, 2016.
  9. Canby, Vincent (July 17, 1981). "ARTHUR – Review – NYTimes.com –", The New York Times. Retrieved on January 23, 2014. 
  10. "ARTHUR", Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved on January 23, 2014. 
  11. "Cinema: Hobson's Choice", Time (August 3, 1981). Retrieved on January 23, 2014. 
  12. "Arthur", Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on January 23, 2014. 
  13. "HOLLYWOOD IS JOYOUS OVER ITS RECORD GROSSING SUMMER", The New York Times (9 September 1981). Retrieved on 10 October 2017. 
  14. "1981 Domestic Grosses".. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on March 9, 2012.
  15. "Arthur 2: On the Rocks (1988)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on January 8, 2016.
  16. Arthur 2: On the Rocks at Rotten Tomatoes
  17. EASTON, NINA (1988). "Weekend Box Office results, July 1988".. LA Times. Retrieved on 26 April 2013.
  18. "Russell Brand as Arthur?".. Totalfilm.com (December 4, 2008). Retrieved on January 23, 2014.
  19. "Arthur (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on January 8, 2016.
  20. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs".. American Film Institute. Retrieved on August 6, 2016.
  21. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees". (PDF). Retrieved on August 6, 2016.
  22. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs".. American Film Institute. Retrieved on August 6, 2016.
  23. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes".. Retrieved on July 16, 2016.
  24. The Critic, retrieved 2019-04-17<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. See the New You (2008-12-17), Arthur3.wmv, retrieved 2019-04-17<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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