Arthur (1981)

Film and Plot Synopsis

In New York City lives a reckless millionaire named Arthur Bach who frequently winds up in the local tabloids due to his drunkenness. His butler, Hobson, has raised him while his father makes the family millions of dollars. Arthur’s a charming guy, and once he meets Linda Marolla as she shoplifts ties in a store, Arthur falls for her. Unfortunately, his father and grandmother have ordered him to marry another millionaire named Susan Johnson. If he doesn’t, they will disinherit him from $750 million—and Susan’s temperamental father might kill Arthur as well.

‘Arthur’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Arthur (1981)Arthur Bach (Dudley Moore) is not your typical rich socialite in New York City. While his English family comes from lots of money, and has built themselves a prestigious reputation in New York City, Arthur’s a wastrel and a complete embarrassment. He jumps from woman to woman—many of whom are prostitutes—and spends money like it’s going out of style. He’s an alcoholic, and is usually drunk in public for all the tabloid reporters to behold, and quite simply, Arthur just can’t grow up.

Both his father, Stanford (Thomas Barbour), and grandmother, Martha (Geraldine Fitzgerald), demand he marry a woman named Susan Johnson (Jill Eikenberry). She’s the daughter of Burt Johnson (Stephen Elliott), an equally powerful New York businessman. The father’s think of this more as a merger between the families. Once the marriage takes place, there will be many lucrative business dealings. However, Arthur doesn’t remotely love Susan, and feels his family is coercing him into the marriage.

A young woman shoplifts his heart

One morning as Arthur shops in a Manhattan store, he spots a woman named Linda Marolla (Liza Minnelli) shoplift a necktie. She sparks his curiosity and the curiosity of a security guard in the store who promptly follows her outside as she exits the building. Arthur and his butler, Hobson (John Gielgud), follow them as well.

Knowing she’s been caught red-handed, Linda makes a big scene when the guard accuses her of theft. Arthur, smitten with her, says she was buying the tie for him. The guard apologies to his very important customer, and walks back into the store. Arthur gives Linda a kiss in front of a crowd as to not make them suspicious, and then asks for her phone number. He then offers the services of his limo driver, Mr Bitterman (Ted Ross), for a ride home.

Once Arthur takes Linda on a date, the two fall for each other, but who doesn’t love a good, rich drunk? Later, when Arthur meets with his father, he scolds Arthur for his reputation, but Arthur replies that he can’t marry Susan. Old Stanford threatens to cut him out of his $750 million inheritance if he doesn’t. Arthur backs down, and accepts his mother’s engagement ring to give to Susan.

Marry Susan or else

Arthur next goes to meet with his grandmother, Martha Bach—the family matriarch. She tells him the same thing his father told him—she’ll cut him off from the money if he doesn’t marry Susan. However, Martha offers Arthur some old world advice. He can marry Susan, and see Linda on the side. Arthur is many things, but dishonest he’s not. He still agrees to marry Susan because $750 million is A LOT of money to just give up.

Back at his palatial apartment, Arthur talks to Hobson about his conflicting thoughts on the marriage. Hobson, whom he has a closer relationship with than his own father, recommends he respects his family wishes, and marry Susan—even though he notes that Arthur does appear to be in love with Linda.

Arthur’s aways honest with Linda, and before he proposes to Susan, he calls Linda to tell her the truth. She takes it well, but her father, Ralph (Barney Martin), breaks down in tears at the though of his daughter missing out on marrying a very wealthy man.

The father-in-law pep talk

Once Arthur arrives at the Johnson household, he and Burt have a man to man talk. Burt tells him that he won’t tolerate any drinking in his house. To intimidate him a bit, Burt further tells him all about his upbringing—how he killed a burglar when he was 11—how Susan is the most important thing in his life, and he’d kill for her too.

Susan interrupts the two so she and Arthur can head to their swanky little dinner. There he proposes to her. She says that even though she knows all about his philandering and drinking problem, she still wants to marry him. I mean really—$750 million is A LOT of money to just give up!

Once Arthur takes Susan home, he drunkenly drives to Linda’s apartment at a very late hour. He offers her $100,000 for her troubles. She refuses the money, and sends Arthur on his way. Dad misses out on the money yet again!

In the morning, Arthur quibbles with Hobson about his future—he won’t be around for ever to take care of Arthur you know. When Arthur apologizes to Hobson, he realizes that Arthur truly does love Linda, and he pays her a visit. Hobson tells her where the couple’s engagement party is happening in the Southamptons. He then gives her a nice dress to wear so she’ll go. As he leaves, he coughs and appears frail. While he dismisses Linda’s questions about his health, we know he won’t be around forever.

The night Arthur grows up

The night of the party, Linda arrives in Hobson’s dress. When she sees Arthur singing to Susan, she flirts with another guest. Arthur spots her, and interrupts her conversation with the now confused man. He sends him away before giving Linda a tour of the house. Eventually, they wind up in the horse stables where it’s clear they are madly in love. Susan interrupts their special moment to let Arthur know Hobson’s ill, and not doing well in the hospital. Arthur immediately leaves the party.

Once there, Arthur does his best to make things as comfortable as possible for Hobson. He brings him his own bed; has meals delivered from any restaurant he wants; and stays in his room with him. He also postpones his wedding to care for him—all the while, he remains sober and on his best behavior.

Eventually, Hobson passes away, and Arthur falls apart. Hours before his wedding, he gets blackout drunk. He then returns home to get dressed for his big day, but goes to visit Linda at the diner she works at. A blind-drunk Arthur asks Linda to marry him even though he knows it will cost him his inheritance and he will be poor. She says yes, and the two head to his wedding with Susan to break the news.

He doesn’t love her

Once he arrives at the church, he tracks Susan down to tell her he doesn’t love her. Upset, she calls out to her father. He arrives, and beats Arthur up in a rage. As Linda comes in to protect Arthur, Burt picks up a cheese knife; looking to put Swiss holes in the deadbeat.

Martha then walks into the room, and slaps Burt in the face—calming him down a bit. Arthur will live for now. He then walks into the church, battered and beaten, to tell his guests there won’t be a wedding. Furthermore, it will probably be the last time they see him as he will now be poor when his family cuts him off from his inheritance over this decision. He then collapses from the combination of alcohol and a severe beating.

Once the guests leave, Arthur and Linda talk alone inside as Martha listens in from the pews. As Arthur promises to be faithful to Linda, he also tells her he’s going to find a job to support them. Martha, satisfied that Arthur’s finally grown up, interrupts them to say that no heir of her family will ever be working class. She tells Arthur that he can have his full inheritance AND remain with Linda. Arthur refuses, but then accepts—he’s not stupid. Bitterman then drives the two through the Moon and New York City.

Additional Film Information

Rate the Film!

Our Rating

Our Rating

Warner Bros. Pictures released Arthur on July 17, 1981. Steve Gordon directed the alcoholic comedy which starred Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli, and John Gielgud.

User Rating: Be the first one !
Show More
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Back to top button
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x