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Film / Arthur (1981)

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No one should ever have to bathe alone... or sober.

"When you get caught between the moon and New York City
I know it's crazy, but it's true
If you get caught between the moon and New York City
The best that you can do,
The best that you can do is fall in love."
— The chorus of "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" by Christopher Cross

Arthur (1981) is the story of Idle Rich Arthur Bach (Dudley Moore), who comes from a wealthy family, and as such, he has never really had to grow up. He spends most of his time drinking and just generally enjoying himself. His father disapproves of his behavior, but is willing to continue to bankroll his son's activities as long as he goes through with the arranged marriage that he has set up for Arthur. The problem is, not only is Arthur not in love with his fiancee, he's just found love with a working-class girl (Liza Minnelli) from Queens. Hilarity Ensues as he tries to live his life his own way without getting cut off from the money.

A box-office sensation, this Romantic Comedy was the biggest solo success of Dudley Moore's career, and Sir John Gielgud, one of the most respected stage actors of the 20th century, won an Academy Award for his role as Hobson, Arthur's valet. Burt Bacharach scored the film, and "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" won the Best Original Song award and made it to Number One on the Billboard Hot 100. The film was followed by an unsuccessful sequel (Arthur 2: On the Rocks) in 1988, which picks up the story four years later.

And while it has nothing to do with an entirely non-canonical animated series, it is the nearest thing we're ever likely to get to a P. G. Wodehouse adaptation in the top-ten grossers of the year department.

Remade in 2011 with Russell Brand in the title role and a Denser and Wackier tone.

The original film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion:
    • When Arthur remains by Hobson's bedside in the hospital, he offers to read some scenes from Hamlet to keep Hobson entertained. John Gielgud (Hobson) was one of the most highly regarded Shakespearean stage actors of the 1930s through the 1950s; Gielgud's interpretation of Hamlet was especially acclaimed.
    • Also the scene with Arthur at the piano during the engagement party reception. Dudley Moore was an accomplished jazz pianist.
  • The Alcoholic: As a functioning "funny drunk" who really doesn't want to give up the bottle, this trope is mostly Played for Laughs with the title character. In the British TV special An Audience with Dudley Moore, Moore stated that he didn't see Arthur as an alcoholic, but rather as someone who loves to drink for fun and who actually can stop if he wants to. This retrospective points out that this interpretation is supported by the film, as Arthur is often using booze specifically for Drowning My Sorrows or Liquid Courage and he forgoes drinking for an entire month just to take care of Hobson. But within just a few years of its release alcoholism and alcohol abuse in general became regarded as major public health issues in the U.S. and elsewhere, so Arthur 2: On the Rocks had to address this by having the character sober up as part of his Character Development. The unsuccessful stage musical adaptation of the early 1990s heavily reduced his drinking.
  • Annoying Laugh: Plenty of characters likely quickly grow tired of Arthur's cackling laugh. Too bad for them he's The Hyena, especially when he's trying to make them laugh with him. Works on a meta level too; when critic Scott Weinberg revisited the film for the podcast '80s All Over, he admitted that as much as he enjoyed Dudley Moore's performance, that laugh got on his nerves.
  • Arranged Marriage: One that Arthur's initially willing to go with just to keep his fortune — then he meets Linda.
  • Award-Bait Song:
    • "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" plays several aspects of this trope straight (feel-good with soothing and mellow start, builds and builds starting with the second chorus, has a showboating saxophone — rather than guitar — solo for the bridge), but not others. It's very specific to the events of the movie, bookends it by being played under both sets of credits, and is cowritten/performed by Christopher Cross, who had just won five Grammy Awards a few months prior. The song and movie to this day are joined at the hip. Unlike a lot of '80s movie theme songs, it's had numerous cover versions by such performers as Andy Gibb, Barry Manilow, Dionne Warwick, Shirley Bassey, Ronan Keating, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and the cast of Glee. Cowriter Peter Allen, who famously only contributed the "When you get caught..." lyric, made it a staple of his concert act. It's also popular in Japan, where it's usually covered by female artists. Fitz and the Tantrums covered it for the 2011 remake. And by way of the Allen Jukebox Musical The Boy from Oz even Hugh Jackman has belted it out!
    • The Arthur — The Album-only song "It's Only Love", a Stephen Bishop number that's a With Lyrics version of the score cue of the same title (which reappears in the sequel's score as the official "love theme"), fits this trope even more than "Arthur's Theme" does — it has a soothing and mellow start, a touching tone, isn't especially plot-specific, and has an electric guitar solo for the bridge, though it has a subdued finish.
    • The sequel has "Love Is My Decision", performed and co-written by Chris de Burgh (who was coming off of "The Lady in Red" at the time). This one is a straight-up Silly Love Song, there's sparkly synth, and the wrap-up is BIG — but at the same time it's more film-specific because the first-person lyrics are clearly from the perspective of Arthur himself. The first verse even includes multiple call backs to the original "Arthur's Theme" in its lyrics.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Hobson is constantly sarcastic and dismissive towards Arthur, going so far as to curse him behind his back. But it's nothing compared to his ire for others who speak ill of his employer. And Arthur stays by Hobson's bed without touching a drop of alcohol until Hobson's death.
    Executive: He gets all that money. Pays his family back by... by being a stinking drunk. It's enough to make you sick.
  • Badass Boast: "Don't SCREW with me, Burt!" Preceded by a slap.
  • Bandage Wince: After Arthur has endured a beating and near-murder at Burt's hands, and has come to from passing out, Linda attends to him with an After Action Patch Up. Being a Manchild, he doesn't take her efforts to clean his wounds well, but they can't help but laugh about it.
  • Bathtub Scene: A famous non-Fanservice example comes early on as Arthur takes a lavish bubble bath, playing up his Idle Rich Manchild nature and further establishing his relationship with Hobson. Photos from this scene turned up quite a bit in the print advertising campaign, including several posters. Not only does a similar scene appear in the sequel, but its specially shot teaser trailer was a unique clip in which Arthur addresses the audience from the tub!
  • Betty and Veronica: The Arranged Marriage variation on the trope is in play here: Susan is a rich, nice (at least superficially) but boring Betty, while Linda is a working-class, feisty, brunette Veronica.
  • Black Comedy Burst: Twice.
    • When Arthur is asking the prostitute Gloria about her life, she tells him that her mother died when she was six and her father raped her when she was twelve. Arthur replies to this with "So you had six relatively good years?" Realizing he's crossed a line, he promptly apologizes and then sardonically refers to his strained relationship with his father with "Listen, my father screwed me too..."
    • Burt's clearly established as a Knight Templar Parent who's actually killed a man well before the climax, but even so, his actually attempting to murder both Arthur and Linda, who are terrified, with a cheese knife is a startling moment for a Romantic Comedy.
  • Black Sheep: Arthur is this to the otherwise respectable Bach family because he doesn't take life seriously, can really annoy others with his hijinks, is self-destructive in his pursuit of pleasure, and provides a lot of Tabloid Melodrama for the New York City press. The Arranged Marriage is intended to force him to become responsible and respectable at last. On the other hand, in this family being the black sheep also means having a sense of humor and not being ruthless.
  • Boarding School: Arthur notes to Linda during one conversation that he was kicked out of multiple boarding schools for troublemaking. She theorizes that he just wanted to go home.
  • Bookends: The movie starts and ends with Arthur being driven around New York City and/to Central Park in particular in his Rolls-Royce. At the beginning, it's at night and he's with a hooker he's picked up for a one-night stand; at the end, it's daytime and it's with Linda, who is now his fiance. Along with this, "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" plays under both the opening and closing credits, and because the final shot is specifically focused on the Vanity License Plate of the Rolls as it starts, it allows the movie to both open and Close on Title!
  • Breakfast in Bed: When his butler, Hobson, falls terminally ill, Arthur makes a point of staying by his bedside and having extravagant breakfasts smuggled into his hospital room every morning. The food isn't what Hobson should be eating, but Arthur says he doesn't want his valet's last meal to be Jell-O.
  • Brits Love Tea: Subverted when Hobson visits Linda at her and her father's apartment. He asks Ralph for a cup of tea and two aspirin — but it's to get the dad out of the way so he can have a private conversation with her. When Ralph returns with the tea and pills, Hobson even says "I despise tea!" by way of shooing him again. (As for the aspirin, that's for Linda. Hobson's just told her to come to Arthur's engagement party and even left an appropriate outfit behind for her.)
  • The Cameo: Lawrence Tierney appears briefly as the man sitting next to a hung-over Arthur and demanding breakfast rolls at the diner.
  • The Cavalry: In the climax, Stanford and Martha Bach serve as this, the latter rescuing Arthur and Linda from being murdered by Burt. For bonus points the latter character goes on to promise Arthur that he won't lose his inheritance if he marries Linda.
  • Character Development: Arthur comes to realize he needs to start taking life more seriously and be less self-centered if he wants to find true happiness. Due to the specifics of the Surprisingly Happy Ending, he doesn't have to mature that much, but the sequel picks up where this film leaves off a few years later when he has to Earn Your Happy Ending.
  • Chekhov's Gag: The story Burt tells an increasingly nervous Arthur about his killing a burglar with a knife when he was eleven sets up Burt grabbing a knife in the climax so he can kill Arthur and Linda.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: How Burt Johnson became a Self-Made Man, more specifically a millionaire by the time he was 18. He puts his skills to "good" use in the sequel in service of destroying Arthur and Linda's happiness. It's also implied in the first film that the Bach family has tendencies towards this, as Arthur (who as the Black Sheep is disconnected from work much less corruption) points out to his father that "[Burt's] a criminal!" but Stanford replies that they all are in one way or another. This is furthered by Martha's later comments that the family is ruthless by nature.
  • Coattail-Riding Relative: Played for Laughs. Linda's unemployed father Ralph is thrilled to learn a millionaire is interested in her and takes the news of Arthur breaking off the relationship to go through with the Arranged Marriage to Susan much harder than Linda does. He's similarly upset upon overhearing that Linda will not accept the $100,000 dollars Arthur subsequently offers her.
  • Crash-Into Hello: Subverted — Arthur thinks he's done this before realizing he's crashed into a hedge.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Hobson, so very much. Since he's Arthur's valet, it's also a case of Servile Snarker.
    • For example
    Hobson: "It's been a distinct pleasure meeting you;'s been a most memorable afternoon. Usually one must go to a bowling alley to meet a woman of your stature."
    • and more...
    Arthur: I'm going to take a bath.
    Hobson: I'll alert the media.
    Arthur: Do you want to run my bath for me?
    Hobson: It's what I live for.
    • Arthur and Linda also get in their shots.
    Susan: A real woman could stop you from drinking.
    Arthur: It'd have to be a real big woman.
  • Dining in the Buff: Arthur drinks a martini in the bath.
  • Dirty Old Woman: Martha, Arthur's grandmother, asking him "Is it wonderful, being promiscuous?" when he visits hernote  and explains his romantic travails to her, and she goes on to suggest he marry Susan and carry on an affair with Linda. In the sequel, in response to being told by her doctor that she needed exercise, she hires a terribly fit twenty-something male instructor...whom she watches go through a workout routine. She tells Arthur that she started with just twenty minutes a day of this but now can go a full hour, and she hasn't felt so good in years.
  • Double Feature: In the U.K., this film was so popular that it was teamed up with Moore's previous hit 10 (1979) as a double bill late in the run (both being Orion releases).
  • The Driver: Bitterman, Arthur's personal chauffeur, who despite his name is very friendly and cares for Arthur almost as much as Hobson does.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: During his dinner date/proposal to Susan, as she tells him he must give up the bottle, Arthur explains that she should accept him as he is and notes "Everyone who drinks is not a 'poet'. Maybe some of us drink because we're not poets." Later after Hobson dies, and as he faces his wedding to Susan in just a few hours, he goes to a bar to do this, having abstained from alcohol entirely while he was taking care of his dearest friend.
  • Expository Theme Tune: "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" sums up the movie's plot and theme in its first verse and chorus, and the second verse is solely devoted to describing Arthur's personality.
  • Financial Abuse: Stanford and Martha intend to cut Arthur off from his inheritance if he doesn't marry a woman he doesn't love. While Arthur has never earned money in his life and is the family shame, that's still a cruel thing for a father to do to his son or a grandmother to their grandson (granted Martha ultimately relents). In the sequel, Burt goes much further with this trope by not only cutting Arthur and Linda off from the Bach family fortune to get Revenge upon them, but ensuring that Arthur can't earn a living no matter how hard he tries, leaving marriage to Susan his only option just to survive.
  • Flowery Insults: Many of Hobson's sarcastic remarks are this, going over their targets' heads because of his eloquence and rich vocabulary:
    Gloria: Hi.
    Hobson: Yes, you obviously have a wonderful economy with words, Gloria. I look forward to your next syllable with great eagerness.
  • Follow Your Heart: The chorus of "Arthur's Theme", quoted at the top of this page, counts as this.
  • Foreign Remake: This movie was the basis for no less than three Indian films: Sharaabi (1984), Nee Thanda Kanike (1985, specifically a remake of Sharaabi), and Tumsa Nahin Dekha: A Love Story (2004). The first and last films are Bollywood productions.
  • For Your Own Good: Arthur's family and Susan all believe that pushing him into an Arranged Marriage with her despite his objections will be good for him because it will finally force him to grow up, and because they know he can't survive in the real world as he is. Hobson, however, comes to realize that Arthur pursuing his interest in Linda holds more potential to change him in a positive way. In the sequel, Martha tells Arthur that not only can't she help him when he is cut off from the family fortune, his being reduced from Riches to Rags at last might be the best thing for him, as she always believed the Arranged Marriage was the best option. But when he approaches her again, asking for help in standing up to Burt, she's impressed enough by his determination to give him enough information about the villain's shady past for him to pick up a plan from there.
  • Fun Personified: Arthur is determined to live life to the fullest and take others along for the ride, but has the misfortune of having a terminally humorless father who wants him to marry a woman who's just as straitlaced. Part of the reason he and Linda fall in love is that she appreciates his light-hearted qualities. Ironically, this is what paves the way for his Character Development into someone who takes life seriously to some degree when everyone else around him believes the Arranged Marriage is what will do it.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Hobson always manages to say insulting things in the most polite and refined way possible.
  • Gold Digger: Not Linda, but her father, who upon learning of Arthur's wealth does everything he can to be in Arthur's good graces.
    Ralph: And what does this bum do for a living?
    Linda: Dad... he's a millionaire.
    Ralph: (IMMEDIATELY) You have my permission to marry him.
  • Grande Dame: Arthur's grandmother Martha, who is on the more intelligent and more ruthless end of the trope.
  • Hates Being Alone: Arthur admits to this early on. Because his family and social circle don't share his lighthearted sensibilities, this trope factors into both his close friendship with Hobson and his freewheeling sex life. Falling in love with Linda and not being able to pursue her due to the Arranged Marriage planned for him only makes his inner ache all the greater, and then he learns Hobson is dying....
  • Healthcare Motivation: Used as a cover story. Arthur and Linda claim to Susan, when she catches them together at the engagement party, that rather than being lovers he is simply helping Linda financially because she has a terribly sick husband named Harold, who was a friend of his in prep school but lost all his money, and "their" child needs an operation on top of that. Susan falls for it. Upon Linda revealing to Susan at the wedding that she's Arthur's true love, the jilted bride asks "What about Harold?" Linda, realizing just how well Susan bought the lie, only manages to say "Oh, you poor thing..." before matters escalate thanks to Burt.
  • The Hyena: Arthur's cackling laugh is heard before he's seen as the movie begins. He laughs as punctuation to his jokes, he laughs after he tumbles out of his car at the Plaza, he laughs in his sleep...
  • Iconic Outfit: Arthur's tuxedo and top hat, waistcoat optional. The Glee performance of "Arthur's Theme" in the episode "What the World Needs Now" bears this out, with all of the guys dressed in this manner.
  • Idle Rich: Arthur is very much this, which is why the threat of losing his inheritance is enough for him to initially agree to the Arranged Marriage with Susan. Susan herself is this thanks to her adoring father only wanting the best for her, only she's more responsible about it; the sequel gives her a high-end job as curator of the family's art gallery.
  • If I Had a Nickel...: When Gloria asks Arthur "How rich are you?", he replies "I wish I had a dime for every dime I have."
  • Inadequate Inheritor: Stanford regards Arthur (his only child and thus heir) to be this, and is determined to make him at least become respectable and responsible. The method of doing this is forcing Arthur into an arranged marriage by threatening to render him Riches to Rags if he objects. When Arthur becomes a runaway groom, however, his grandmother decides that rather than see a member of the clan become working class she'll let him keep his fortune and have children with the woman he loves, figuring they will be worthy heirs to the family legacy.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Comes just before The Reveal that Hobson, Arthur's valet, is dying.
  • Ironic Name: Bitterman the chauffeur, who's very friendly and personable. He even briefly pretends to be Linda's driver to impress her neighbor.
  • I Want Grandkids: Implied at the end by Martha. She announces that there will never be any working-class Bachs and notes that Arthur's children could become senators, even presidents, before revealing that she'll let him keep his fortune and marry Linda. In the original screenplay, Arthur and Linda bring up the issue of their children's fates and how that would reflect on the rest of the family to convince Martha to not cut him off.
  • The Jeeves: Hobson — very literally, and very directly, according to Word of God.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Burt Johnson, being an extremely ruthless man by nature, does not want to see his daughter unhappy and warns Arthur that he's this upon their first meeting. When Arthur decides to be a runaway groom in the first movie's climax, Burt responds by beating Arthur up and then trying to murder him and Linda with a cheese knife; he is only stopped by Martha. In the sequel, the passing of four years hasn't quelled his fury any and he seizes control of the Bach family business, cuts Arthur and Linda off from their rightful fortune, and sabotages all of Arthur's attempts to find work — all to force him into a position where giving up Linda and marrying Susan at last is the only hope Arthur has to survive. When Arthur finally stands up to him, Burt again threatens to kill him — but Susan, realizing how much Arthur truly loves Linda, makes a Heel-Face Turn and even threatens to reveal to her mother that Daddy's been having an affair. In the face of his daughter's rebellion, Burt stands down and Arthur's fortunes are quickly restored.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The core of the first film's ending — Arthur and Linda get together — tends to be officially spoiled because the premise of the sequel hinges on the villain doing everything he can to undo it, not to mention that this sort of Romantic Comedy tends to end happily in the first place. It's more pronounced in the DVD era because the two movies have been packaged together more than once (indeed, the only Blu-Ray edition contains both films). However, the specifics of the ending and the first film's major plot twist (Hobson is terminally ill and dies at the end of Act Two) are routinely concealed, which also preserves the identity of the Walking Spoiler character in the second film.
  • Laughing at Your Own Jokes: This is one of Arthur's defining quirks, hand-in-hand with being The Hyena.
  • Liquid Courage: During his bath, Arthur tells Hobson that he doesn't intend to go to his imminent meeting with his humorless father Stanford sober. (The second film has a Call-Back to this under similar circumstances.) He also drinks (while driving!) when he goes to the Johnsons' mansion to meet Susan's father for the first time. This behavior is one of several suggestions that Arthur's alcoholism, while largely an outgrowth of his life-is-a-party outlook, is also rooted in personal unhappiness; see also Drowning My Sorrows.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Though he's not actually a kid — he's in his forties — Arthur fits the trope otherwise to the point that it's brought up in his theme song and the soundtrack album-only song "Poor Rich Boy".
  • Loophole Abuse: Martha's solution to Arthur's dilemma? Marry Susan and have an affair with Linda!
  • Lovable Rogue: When Arthur first meets Linda, she's in the process of being caught shoplifting; Arthur saves her by helping convince the security guard that they're a couple and he'll be paying for the tie, which turns out to be a birthday gift for her father. Later, when the lovers are caught together by Susan at the engagement party, they claim that Linda is married to a terribly sick man, and Arthur is helping them out financially.
  • Manchild: Arthur, because he never had to grow up, is this. While he uses his money to enjoy very adult pleasures, he also has a giant model train set in his bedroom, a Personal Arcade, and otherwise. Hobson often speaks to/disciplines him as one would a child. In the waiting room outside Stanford Bach's office, Hobson gives him a magazine to look at ("There are many pictures"), reminds him to sit up straight, and promises that they'll get ice cream once the meeting is done. Even the theme song brings it up: "Arthur, he does as he pleases/All of his life, his master's toys/And deep in his heart/He's just, he's just a boy".
  • Manly Men Can Hunt: Burt Johnson is as macho as they come, as borne out by his first meeting with Arthur being in the former's trophy room. By comparison, amiable Arthur is not only intimidated by the setting but also winds up distracted by the stuffed-and-mounted moose head on one wall, noting "You must have hated this moose" (among other things). In the sequel, to reveal to Arthur that he's seized control of his family's fortune, Burt invites him to his private yacht, where he's busy skeet shooting as Arthur arrives.
  • Marry for Love: Arthur states early on that he will gladly give up his fortune to do this...but at the time he's never been in love in his life, and he agrees to the Arranged Marriage as soon as his father reminds him of how much money he'd lose. Even after falling in love with Linda, it's hard for him to follow his heart, in part because everyone around him is reminding him he isn't fit for the poor life. But he ultimately decides he'd rather be poor and in love than rich and lonely.
  • Marry Them All: Grandma Martha's solution? "Marry Susan and cheat with the nobody from Queens!"
  • Meet Cute: She's shoplifting a tie from Bergdorf Goodman for her father's birthday, he regards it as The Perfect Crime, becomes smitten with her, and decides to help her out when security catches her in the act. By the time they part ways he's passionately kissed her (ostensibly it's in the service of fooling the security guard, but...) and — once she's confirmed he's not married — she's given him her phone number.
  • Micro Monarchy: Discussed and Played for Laughs: At the Plaza Hotel restaurant, Arthur claims to some family members who are also dining there that his date is Princess Gloria, who comes from a country so small that "they just had the whole place carpeted."
  • Motifs: Arthur is portrayed as the little boy for whom every day is Christmas, and there are many Christmas references as possible for a movie not set at that time of year. From there, the sequel is set during the Christmas season. (In the U.K. the first film was actually released at Christmastime, a few months after the U.S. run began.)
  • Never Mess with Granny: Martha! "Don't SCREW with me, Burt!"
  • Nice to the Waiter: For someone who's never worked a day in his life, Arthur is kind and generous to his servants and pretty much anyone who does work (doormen, waiters, florists, hospital attendants, prostitutes...), having much more amiable relations with them than with his humorless peers and family members. This is most obvious in his best friend being his valet Hobson, who has long been his Parental Substitute.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: This happens, mostly offscreen, to poor Arthur in the climax when Burt finds out he's dumped Susan. And Burt tries to finish him and Linda off with a knife. To add insult to injury, Arthur has to go straight from this to telling the waiting audience in the chapel that the wedding's off.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: The English actor Dudley Moore plays Arthur, a New Yorker. Then again, Arthur's role model and father figure is his Quintessential British Gentleman Jeeves! (The role was intended for an American actor, but Moore felt he couldn't pull off an American accent.) It's also possible that Arthur's mother was English, too.
  • Not Hyperbole: Burt's menacing threats to Arthur over what will happen if he so much as dares to make Susan unhappy fall under this, culminating in Burt attempting to murder him and Linda.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Arthur assumes that because Susan has a generally bland personality, she won't be too bothered when he jilts her at the altar. Susan proceeds to prove Arthur wrong in spectacular fashion.
  • Offscreen Crash:
    • When Linda tells Arthur to leave her apartment, he obliges, but not without walking into her closet first.
    • The first indication that Arthur is undergoing a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown in the climax is that this echoes throughout the cathedral.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Hobson suggests that Linda is a Gold Digger and that carrying on an affair with her would save Arthur a fortune in prostitutes, Arthur angrily tells him never to speak of her that way again and leaves Hobson's bedroom in a huff...then returns to apologize, noting that he's never told him off before. Hobson accepts the apology, but also realizes that Arthur's unusual behavior is an indication that he really is in love with Linda. He may even have made the insulting comments specifically to see what effect they would have on Arthur.
  • Parental Substitute: Arthur's mother is never seen (an offhand mention in the sequel suggests she passed away some time ago), and he has a bad relationship with his father. Enter Hobson, who effectively raised Arthur. Even though he's frequently annoyed and frustrated by Arthur's antics, Hobson is the only person in his inner circle who genuinely loves him for who he is, and ultimately has a hand in Arthur and Linda getting together despite everything. Arthur even straight up refers to him as his father after he passes away.
  • The Perfect Crime: Arthur regards Linda stealing the tie as this, or at least close to it, because (most) women don't wear ties. Hobson snarks that it would be this trope if she murdered the tie instead.
  • Personal Arcade: Arthur has a pinball machine in his bathroom and an arcade machine in his bedroom. (His big date with Linda includes a visit to an arcade, too.)
  • Please Wake Up: Subverted. Arthur tells Hobson to wake up and stop pretending to die when he arrives to find him melodramatically dealing with a cold. After Hobson dies, Arthur, drunk, tells another wino, how Hobson went to sleep — and never woke up.
  • Precision F-Strike: Hobson, and it's more notable because he's played by Sir John Gielgud.
    Hobson: Perhaps you would like me to come in there and wash your dick for you, you little shit?
    • Arthur gets one in as well.
      Arthur: Susan... you're such an asshole!
  • Rapid-Fire Comedy: Dudley Moore noted that unlike many screenplays he'd read, Arthur had ten laughs per page as opposed to one laugh every ten pages. This is largely because Arthur is constantly making jokes whenever he has a potentially receptive audience for them. And since he's often drunk, if he isn't cracking wise he's bumbling about (as in the extended sequence where he tries to visit Linda's apartment but ends up at the building next door). Combine him with Hobson's Servile Snarker tendencies and/or Linda's Deadpan Snarker nature, and it's a double or even triple act for the ages.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Hobson berates Arthur for whining that he's never been loved and has been a failure in his life, calling him a "spoiled little bastard" — and tops it off by angrily telling him he loves him. He then tells him that he really should marry Susan, because he'll never find love as a poor drunk ("Poor drunks have very few teeth", for one thing) and Hobson loves him too much to want to see him suffer in that way.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Linda Marolla steals a necktie at Bergdorf-Goodman's. The store detective witnesses the theft and follows her out into the street, where he confronts her. After making a snarky comment, she goes on the defensive, pretending she is some kind of official, pulling out a pad and pencil and demanding the detective's name and address. When this fails to intimidate the detective, she yells for someone to find her a cop, at which point Arthur — who has witnessed all of this and is enamored with her audacity (and by extension her) — steps in and saves her bacon.
  • The Reveal: Midway through the second act, it is revealed that Hobson is terminally ill, a detail that underscores a major character's actions and ultimately sets up the events of Act Three via his death.
  • Rewritten Pop Version: A variation. Peter Allen, who contributed the line "When you get caught between the moon and New York City" to the lyrics of "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)", was a performer as well as songwriter, and years after his death warranted his own Jukebox Musical, The Boy from Oz. By dropping the second verse (which is specifically about Arthur) and tweaking the lyrics of the first, the song was turned into a falling-in-love duet for Allen and...Liza Minnelli, who was his wife for a few years in The '60s / The '70s and went on to play Linda in this film. This version of the song is titled "Best That You Can Do".
  • Riches to Rags: The prospect of this hangs over Arthur in the first film, and goes on to become the premise of the sequel.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Arthur has a vague-at-best understanding of working-class life, as seen at the end as he discusses the prospect of married life with Linda and enthusiastically ponders such activities as riding the subway, getting a job, and eating "cheap, disgusting food". This becomes a major theme in the sequel as he goes from Riches to Rags, though part of his struggle comes from the antagonist deliberately sabotaging his efforts to find work or a place to live.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Gender-flipped variant: Arthur is already rich but to stay that way he has to marry Susan, who is also wealthy. Too bad Linda is the woman he truly loves. At the end he chooses Linda knowing he'll lose his fortune, but Martha relents on cutting him off so no one in her family will be working class.
  • Romantic Comedy: An example told from the male half's point of view.
  • Runaway Bride: Male version, with Arthur leaving Susan come the big day.
  • Sad Clown: Even when things are at their worst for Arthur, he'll still crack jokes. In the sequel, when he's reduced to offering to wipe down car windows for money and encounters Bitterman chauffeuring Martha, he tells him "They said I'd never make it Bitterman, they said the city would eat me alive. But now look at me, I got my own pail and my own Squeegee sponge, I showed them ALL!"
  • Sarcasm Failure
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Gender-flipped: Linda is savvy while Arthur is energetic; she can keep him relatively grounded, he can give her a life full of fun. At the top of the sequel they have been Happily Married for four years.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: A stage musical adaptation, Arthur — The Musical, arrived at the turn of The '90s and was intended for Broadway, but only saw two regional productions before disappearing save for the duet "The Memory of Tonight", which appears on the Unsung Musicals, Vol. 2 compilation as a studio recording. (Odd fun fact: two of the writers of this show were the couple who went on to create Friends.) Reviews and reports suggest that it was extremely faithful to the film's script, albeit with some Adaptation Expansion involving Linda's fledgling acting career (culminating in the first scene of Act Two seeing her in rehearsals for an Off-Off-Broadway musical about Attila the Hun), and Arthur's drinking significantly scaled back.
  • Screwball Comedy: One of the more successful attempts at "neo-screwball".
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Arthur truly wants to Marry for Love rather than money from the beginning, but he's never truly been in love and when Stanford reminds him of how much money he'll be giving up if he doesn't marry Susan, he gives in to his demands. He meets Linda shortly after that though, and eventually chooses her over Susan. Grandma Martha then lets up and says that no grandson of hers would be poor, and they get to remain in the money after all — but he was willing to choose love over money. He even convinces Linda and Bitterman that he'll still give up the money before revealing the truth ("I'm not crazy!").
    • Earlier, as an especially drunk Arthur visits Linda shortly after he has gone through with his proposal to Susan, he offers her $100,000 to support her and her father. Appalled by the state he's in, she refuses to accept what she clearly sees as a pity payment at best, pointing out that having a lot of money clearly hasn't done him much good. (Aaaaaand cue the wail of despair from her eavesdropping father!)
  • Seamless Spontaneous Lie: In the wake of witnessing her Refuge in Audacity (see above), Arthur helps Linda "explain" why she took the tie without paying for it with one of these. Later on, Linda (again with Arthur's help) comes up with two more of these in turn to explain her presence at the engagement party, first to one of the guests, and later to Susan. Justified in that Linda is an aspiring actress.
  • Self-Made Man: Burt Johnson is this and proud of it, having gone from Rags to Riches through determination and ruthlessness. In his introductory scene he tells Arthur how he once confronted a robber, ultimately killing him with a knife. Burt was eleven at the time.
  • Servile Snarker: Arthur's valet, Hobson.
    Arthur: Hobson, would you like to run my bath for me?
    Hobson: It's what I live for, sir.
    • Bitterman gets in his shots too.
      Hooker: (on Arthur) Is there something wrong with him?
      Bitterman: Yes.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Arthur wears elegant suits most of the time, though he relaxes the standard to nice sweaters for more casual occasions (this comes after his saying that he doesn't wear sweaters...but at the time he's going on a shopping spree to spite his father over forcing his hand in the arranged marriage and buys a bunch of them as part of it). His Meet Cute with Linda takes place while he and Hobson are picking out clothes at the Fifth Avenue department store Bergdorf Goodman. The trope is more than justified given his wealth and status.
  • Singing in the Shower: Variation — Arthur cheerfully sings in the bathtub. In the first movie, it's "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"; in the second, it's a pastiche of "My Girl" that's cheekily about how much he loves himself.
  • Snobs Versus Slobs: Arthur was born into the world of the snobs but has never fit in, and while he has a sense of class and decorum his behavior is akin to that of a slob (constantly drinking for pleasure, taking a hooker to the Plaza Hotel, etc.), much to his family's embarrassment. He's also Nice to the Waiter, finding underlings and "common" people far more helpful to consult when it comes to his burgeoning interest in Linda — an earthy working-class woman with a truly slovenly father. Arthur's peers, family, and valet look down upon Linda, but Hobson softens once he realizes Arthur is truly in love with someone for the first time in his life and willing to defend her honor, and as much as he wants Arthur to be comfortable via his inheritance, knows his true happiness lies in following his heart despite the risks.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Martha. She buys one of the most famous paintings in the world and mentions that the dealer "jerked her around" on the price. (Said painting is Vermeer's "Woman with a Pearl Necklace"; Martha misidentifies it as "Woman Admiring Pearls".)
  • Spiritual Successor: It draws a lot of inspiration from P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories. Characters' names are changed so that the filmmakers can do their own thing with them. It also owes a debt to 1930s romantic comedies.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Between the two films, Arthur and Linda are put through quite a bit even by the standards of a "love or money" story, but come through.
  • Stealth Insult: Linda is given an invite to Arthur's party. Upon Susan being pointed out to her, the guest comments how pretty she looks.
    Linda: (through clenched teeth) Of course. Why would Arthur marry a dog?
  • Streetwalker: Arthur picks one of these up for a one-night stand in the opening sequence. Gloria's world-weary, admits to a dark past (to the point where Arthur joking about it and not getting the intended reaction is a rare time he realizes he's crossed a line), and clearly sees this evening as a (very profitable) job, but does seem to enjoy his company and sense of humor while it lasts.
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending: The denouement of the first film looks to end on a slightly bittersweet note, as Arthur is all set to live the poor life with Linda and become a responsible working adult...but Martha won't have the "working" part and says he can have his inheritance no matter what.
  • Tabloid Melodrama: Arthur's antics have been this for the N.Y.C. press for quite some time. The hooker whom he doesn't choose but is paid anyway tells his driver Bitterman that "I've seen his face in the papers — that's Arthur Bach, isn't he?" The following day, Arthur's dalliance with Gloria at the Plaza Hotel warrants newspaper coverage as well, much to his father's disgust. A florist also recognizes Arthur from the papers, and Martha complains that every tryst her grandson has gets press attention. This is brought up again in the sequel, this time by adoption agent Mrs. Canby (who is concerned about his drinking).
  • Tough Room: Arthur deals with this constantly when it comes to his jokes. He even drops the trope name during his visit with Burt at the latter's mansion, having failed to make him or the butler smile. "This is a tough room — I don't need to tell you that." "You", in this case, refers to a stuffed-and-mounted moose head on the wall he can't stop commenting on.note 
  • Uncle Pennybags: Arthur can be playfully generous with his money — after he chooses to pick up Gloria in the opening scene, he tells Bitterman to pay the other hooker $100 because "she came in second."
  • Uptown Girl: Arthur and Linda's relationship is a gender-flipped version that's complicated by outside forces. Interestingly, while in many takes on this trope the poor half either is intimidated by the wealth of the rich one or thinks it makes them an unworthy partner, Linda comes to see Arthur's wealth as something that's holding him back as a person; as they agree, it hasn't brought him true happiness.
  • Vanilla Edition: One of the very first DVD releases Warner Bros. put out, it wasn't even in its proper aspect ratio. The only widescreen edition available is the Blu-Ray, which packages it and its sequel together and was only brought out as a tie-in to the remake. Sadly justified as several of the principals had passed away or were too ill to participate in extras even in the late 1990s.
  • Vanity License Plate: Arthur's cars have them — ARTHUR for his Rolls-Royce and ARTHUR2 for his convertible. (His racecar has ARTHUR3 on its side.) The final shot of the film starts as a close-up on the Rolls-Royce's rear plate, pulling back as it pulls away from the church, also serving as a variation on Close on Title in the process. A similar shot ends up opening the sequel for bonus points.
  • Video Full of Film Clips: "Arthur's Theme" has one — one of the earliest examples of this trope and the first involving an Oscar-winning song.
  • Waiting for a Break: Linda is an aspiring actress working as a diner waitress to pay the bills. Her acting skills get her out of trouble on three occasions — first when she (with Arthur's help) convinces the security guard they're actually a couple, second when she convinces a guest at the engagement party that she was invited, and third when she and Arthur convince Susan that they are only alone in the stables to discuss a Healthcare Motivation sob story.
  • Walk This Way: The butler at the Johnsons' mansion uses the exact words to direct Arthur into Burt's trophy room. Arthur being Arthur, he obliges by mimicking his walk behind his back.
  • Wedding Smashers: Just as Arthur and Susan's wedding ceremony is about to go on, Arthur tells her it's off, she calls for Burt, he beats Arthur up and almost murders him and Linda, and are only saved by Martha. The waiting audience in the chapel is stunned to see the bruised-and-bloody Arthur stumble up the aisle, announce that the wedding's off and he's poor now, and pass out.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Susan Johnson honestly believes she can change Arthur into a respectable, responsible person once they're married — it's I Can Change My Beloved way in advance, given that he does not reciprocate her affections.
  • With Lyrics: Arthur — The Album has two songs that are this to cues from the Burt Bacharach underscore: Ambrosia's "Poor Rich Boy" ("Money") and Stephen Bishop's "It's Only Love".
  • Yandere: Susan.

The sequel adds examples of:

  • Armor-Piercing Question: At the end of his rope, Arthur goes with Hobson's ghost(?) to the Johnsons' place to ask Susan's hand in marriage at last. When the doorman asks "Are you a friend of hers?" his companion points out that the question is this trope. Arthur realizes that he'd rather die lonely than live with Susan.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Arthur has stubble once he reaches his Darkest Hour.
  • Broke Episode: The entire plot revolves around Arthur being forced to be a working class earner.
  • Crazy Homeless People: At the homeless shelter, Arthur's late-night conversation with Spirit Advisor Hobson is interrupted by one of these, who is busy playing cards with his late uncle and wants quiet. Arthur's companion points out that Arthur's technically little different from him at the moment, suggesting this could be Arthur's ultimate fate if he doesn't pull himself through his Darkest Hour.
  • Darkest Hour: Arthur's arrives when Linda leaves him and returns to her father, and refuses to see him — not because she no longer loves him, but because she wants him to marry Susan and live a happy, comfortable life again. But he knows he could never be happy with Susan, and since he's now also homeless he's soon drunkenly wandering about the city and telling people about all he's lost. That's when Hobson appears to help turn him around.
  • A Degree in Useless: When Arthur and Linda are arguing about his getting a job, Linda points out that he went to Harvard and must have some marketable skill. He then reveals to her that his major was ballet.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Arthur's character arc: Burt manages to seize control of Arthur's family's business and leaves him and Linda penniless. Then, while Linda is able to find work as a waitress again, Burt ensures first that the couple cannot stay with her father, and second that Arthur will never be able to hold down a legitimate job. The only hope he has of reclaiming his fortune is finally marrying Susan, but he cannot bear to do this. When Linda leaves him because I Want My Beloved to Be Happy, Arthur ends up homeless and the sway of his alcoholism now threatens to destroy him. But having hit rock bottom, he subsequently pulls himself together, ultimately impressing Susan Johnson enough to induce a Heel–Face Turn that saves the day.
  • Empty Bedroom Grieving: Early on it's revealed that Arthur has the bedroom kept as it was in honor of Hobson. At the end, when Fairchild finally manages to display a sense of humor and plays a prank on Arthur, Arthur tells him to pack his things and vacate his he can move into Hobson's room, symbolizing Arthur finding Fairchild a worthy successor to his dearest friend at last.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: Arthur ends up in two of these — first as a hardware store clerk, and after he's forced out of that (though he isn't doing well in the one half-day he's there) a homeless car window washer.
  • Flanderization: Arthur's childish pursuits are given more screen time; his bathroom full of remote control toys, a toy basketball hoop, and a model train sets an excellent example of this compared to the corresponding scenes in the first film. Before, while he certainly had toys lying about and a small Personal Arcade, he preferred to spend his days playing tennis and racing cars and his nights having one-night stands. To be fair he's now a married man who adores his wife, and she keeps him from driving when he's intoxicated, which is still most of the time. But no justification is given as to why he has seemingly become obsessed with getting everyone in his sight to laugh — during the opening credits he leans out of his car backseat's window to pester a rich older gentleman in the car alongside his. While the cars are moving. He also keeps playing pranks on his new, terminally humorless butler Fairchild, such as giving him trick soap. In the denouement, he even temporarily convinces him he's fired! Critic Drew McWeeny, in a bonus episode of the 80s All Over podcast, argues that Arthur 2 Arthur is one of the most punchable movie characters of the decade (and compares him to Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop 2 in this regard — both characters were likeable initially but succumbed to poor sequel characterization).
  • Foolish Husband, Responsible Wife: Arthur and Linda. Once they're cut off from their rightful fortune, they move into her father's apartment and she promptly gets a job as a waitress again. Arthur, however, doesn't even think of getting a job until (thanks to Burt) they have to move into an apartment of their own and Linda questions him about this. Of course, he knows as well as anyone that he is absolutely unqualified for any working-class job to begin with.
  • Grand Romantic Gesture: In the Happily Ever After denouement, Arthur performs one of these to herald his arrival at Linda's apartment by arranging to have the stoop surrounded with balloons, stuffed animals, and flowers.
  • Happily Ever After: The story ends on this note with Babies Ever After as a bonus — not only are Arthur and Linda able to adopt a baby at last, Linda is pregnant.
  • Happy Ending Override: Downplayed; Arthur and Linda have spent four happy years together as the story begins — he's even cutting back on his drinking — but Burt's spent that time plotting to seize control of the Bach family fortune and cut them off from it. Luckily Earn Your Happy Ending is in play this time.
  • Heel–Face Turn: In the sequel, it's Susan Johnson who steps into the breach to secure Arthur's victory.
  • Hope Spot: Subversion in the climax. The statute of limitations has passed on the crooked business deal Burt made that Arthur collects incriminating evidence about. But Arthur going to those lengths and then pleading with Burt to restore his and Linda's fortune when that doesn't work is enough to induce Susan's Heel-Face Turn.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: After Susan taunts her with "The Reason You Suck" Speech, Linda leaves Arthur to live with her father again, telling him via a letter that he should forget her and marry Susan so he can have a comfortable life again — and the family they wanted on top of that. Unfortunately, he loves Linda so much that he becomes homeless instead.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Arthur and Linda are Happily Married and were trying to have children during the gap between films, but at the top of the film Linda has just been to a doctor's appointment and told she cannot bear them. They decide to adopt and make faster process than they're told to expect. Even with Burt's treachery imperiling their situation, Spirit Advisor Hobson tells Arthur that his impending son is Worth Living For. Just after Arthur comes back to Linda with his fortune restored, Mrs. Canby arrives with their adopted girl. Arthur is happy but admits that someone predicted he'd have a son...and then Linda reveals she's pregnant.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: A crucial stretch shades into Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane fantasy with the appearance of the dead Hobson to Arthur — and only Arthur. He is either an actual Spirit Advisor or a hallucination resulting from Arthur's drinking, but either way he encourages his ward to pull himself together.
  • Pretty in Mink: Linda has a mink coat and Susan has a black fox wrap.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Linda and Susan's confrontation in the not-so-new apartment is effectively a dueling pair of these. Susan wins by pointing out she's not only the one with the money, but fertile, making her the superior choice for Arthur's continued happiness. Linda makes her I Want My Beloved to Be Happy decision after this.
    • Hobson delivers one to Arthur in the homeless shelter, pointing out that he's been dodging real responsibilities all his life but "parties don't last forever". However, this is followed by the character revealing what Arthur has Worth Living For as an incentive to pull himself together.
  • Sequel Gap: Seven years (four in-universe).
  • Stalker with a Crush: Susan's really intent on finally marrying Arthur, even though they haven't seen each other since the day they were to be wed and he never loved her to begin with. She still has the engagement ring...which she wears on a chain around her neck...and when she and her father learn where Arthur and Linda are now staying, goes down to the apartment to taunt Linda with the news that Daddy got him fired from the hardware store job and a The Reason You Suck speech. She'd probably be even worse about this if not for the fact that she's been in therapy during the sequel gap (telling Arthur that she's down to three visits a week).
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Susan. In the first film, she's a Well-Intentioned Extremist at her worst and really doesn't have a hostile bone in her body. The sequel plays up Woman Scorned, even having her mock Linda for being barren when she's "as fertile as the Napa Valley." At the end, she does come to realize the depths of Arthur's love for Linda and makes a Heel-Face Turn that allows a happy ending.
  • Twisted Christmas: Arthur and Linda lose their fortune just as the Christmas season's underway. Things go from bad to worse for them to the point that within days Arthur's homeless. Luckily, that's when the Spirit Advisor arrives and things begin turning around.
  • Walking Spoiler: A really unconventional case with Arthur's valet Hobson, who dies at the end of the first film's second act. His appearance here is as a Spirit Advisor who may or may not be a hallucination.
  • Worth Living For: After being delivered a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, Arthur asks Spirit Advisor Hobson what he has to live for now that he's in his Darkest Hour. The answer? "Your son", which reminds Arthur that he and Linda were striving to adopt a child when all the trouble began, and still had a chance even then. The denouement adds a twist to this: Arthur is cooing over said child at last — only to be informed it's a girl. Then Linda reveals she's pregnant.

Alternative Title(s): Arthur