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Arthur is the story of a genuine Rich Idiot With No Day Job. Arthur Bach (Dudley Moore) 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.
This 1981 film was the biggest comedy hit of its year and the biggest solo success of Dudley Moore's career. It was followed by an unsuccessful sequel (Arthur 2: On the Rocks) in 1988. It has nothing to do with cartoon aardvarks, but is the nearest thing we're ever likely to get to a PG Wodehouse adaptation in the top-ten grossers of the year department.
2011 brings us a remake with Russell Brand in the title role.
- Adult Child
- The Alcoholic: Played for Laughs, big time, resulting in Values Dissonance from a modern viewpoint. The Critic spoofed this with the segment Arthur 3: Revenge of the Liver—though Arthur 2: On the Rocks had already addressed this issue. Alcohol still plays a major role in the 2011 film, though its exclusion from the trailer was a bit suspicious...
- Arranged Marriage
- 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.
- Breakaway Pop Hit: "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)", which was the Best Song Oscar winner of '81.
- Deadpan Snarker: Hobson. Oh, so very much.
"It's been a distinct pleasure meeting you;...it's been a most memorable afternoon. Usually one must go to a bowling alley to meet a woman of your stature."
- Grande Dame: Arthur's grandmother, who is on the more intelligent and more ruthless end of the trope.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold
- The Jeeves: Hobson. Very literally, and very directly, according to Word of God.
- Lonely Rich Kid: Though he's not actually a kid, Arthur fits the trope otherwise.
- Loveable Rogue: When Arthur first meets Linda, she's in the process of being caught shoplifting; Arthur saves her by paying for the tie, which was to be a birthday gift for her father.
- Never Mess with Granny: "Don't SCREW with me, Burt!"
- New York City: The setting.
- "Nice ... Hat."
- 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.
- The Other Darrin: Jill Eikenberry, who played Susan in the first film, was replaced by Cynthia Sikes in the second.
- Playing Against Type: Shakespearean actor Sir John Gielgud as Hobson—and it won him the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
- Please Wake Up: Subverted hard. Arthur keeps telling Hobson to wake up and stop pretending to die. After Hobson dies, Arthur, drunk, tells another wino, how Hobson went to sleep - and never woke up.
- Precision F-Strike: Hobson, more notable because he's 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!
- Pretty in Mink: The sequel has several furs, including Linda having a mink coat, and Susan wearing a black fox wrap.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Hobson berates Arthur for whining that he's never been loved, calling him a "spoiled little shit", then telling him that not only is he rich, but he can afford to be an eccentric drunk ("Real drunks have no teeth and live in the gutter.") He tops it off by angrily telling him he loves him.
- Refrain From Assuming: The theme is not called "When You Get Caught Between the Moon and New York City", or even just "The Moon and New York City". It's called "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)".
- Rich in Dollars, Poor In Sense
- Romantic Comedy
- Runaway Groom
- Sarcasm Failure
- Screwball Comedy: One of the more successful attempts at "neo-screwball".
- Screw The Money, I'm In Love!: Arthur eventually chooses Linda 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. In the sequel, Burt's revenge plot hinges on driving Arthur to the point where he won't survive in the world unless he gives up Linda for Susan.
- Servile Snarker: Arthur's butler, Hobson.
Hobson, would you like to run my bath for me?
It's what I live for, sir.
- Soapland Christmas: It actually hits all the points of one.
- 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.
- Spiritual Successor: It draws a lot of inspiration from PG 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
- Tenchi Solution: Grandma Martha's solution? "Marry Susan, and have an affair with the girl from Queens!"
- Uncle Pennybags
- Yandere: Susan.
The 2011 remake also or alternatively provides examples of
- The Alcoholic: Obviously, given the source material. But Arthur justifies his drinking because of his father. His Father was a frugal man, had no excesses, walked everywhere he went... and dropped dead of a heart attack at age 45. The lesson Arthur takes from this tragedy is "Why bother to take care of yourself?"
- Brick Joke: Lots of them, from Arthur's fear of horses to his magnetic bed, though The Batmobile takes the cake.
- Broken Bird: A Male subversion... Arthur seems to enjoy his frivolous lifestyle, but he acts out against his Mother by spending obscene amounts of money on useless things (his apartment is full of suits of armor, a glittery camel, a phone-booth-turned-fish-tank) and by drinking vodka like water.
- Decoy Protagonist: Despite Jennifer Garner being heavily featured alongside Russell Brand in the publicity campaign for the film, she plays Susan Johnson—the woman that Arthur doesn't want to marry.
- Gender Flip: For Hobson, who is now Arthur's nanny and played by Helen Mirren.
- Gold Digger: Susan Johnson, subverted in that she is already quite wealthy... just not as wealthy as Arthur and the upper crust caste system she wants to leap to the forefront of.
- Lonely Rich Kid: Arthur, in spades.
- Nouveau Riche: Burt Johnson, Susan's father. He doesn't seem to mind his humble beginnings, but Susan is deeply ashamed of them, leading to her plot to marry Arthur.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Arthur. His mother and Hobson both lament the obviously intelligent Arthur's frivolous lifestyle, and his mother's belief that he will never grow up sets the plot of the movie in motion.
- Rich Bitch: Arthur's mother Vivianne to an extent, and Susan to the extreme - she's already wealthy, but sets her sights on Arthur because his name brings prestige she wants from high society.
Arthur: (to Susan) I really think you are dark and twisted on the inside, and I tried my best to bugger it out of you but I'm pretty sure it's still there.
- Rich in Dollars, Poor In Sense: Arthur comes off as this, though he has good reason to...
- Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Trailer: Linda's counterpart Naomi appears only for a moment at the beginning, perhaps because her actress (Greta Gerwig) is not as big a name as those playing Hobson (Mirren) and Susan (Jennifer Garner). In fact, she not only gets lesser billing than both of them, she's not even on the poster while Mirren and Garner are.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Nearly all of Arthur's emotional troubles stem from his awful mother (he calls her by her first name, Vivianne) and the fact his perfectly healthy father died suddenly at the age of 45, when Arthur was 6. By the end of the film, he openly considers his nanny Hobson to be his real mother.