12 July 2006 | bkoganbing
A Real Arthur
Arthur has always been a personal film for me for two reasons. A good friend of mine who worked on the film as an extra and to help out with the horses during the stable scene just recently passed away. If you look fast you can see Frank Graham during the restaurant scene in the background while Dudley Moore and Jill Eikenberry are in conversation. Frank was a champion equestrian and will be missed by all who knew him.
Secondly though, I actually knew a real life Arthur Bach. He was not quite as wealthy as Arthur, but spent 47 years of his life basically as a kid. His parents tightly controlled his purse strings, but his rent and utilities were paid for in a basement apartment in Greenwich Village. He spent a good deal of his time getting himself intoxicated on various spirits and making a public spectacle of himself, just like Dudley Moore does.
The wonder with Arthur is why anyone would bother with him wealth of not. But that's the other half of the equation. My friend was a most charming person when you got to know him. In fact it was almost a compulsion to be charming. He couldn't buy a newspaper or magazine without trying to establish some level of relationship with the vendor. He spent his life being a perfect party guest. The term wastrel which was in common use in the 19th century would apply to him.
And that's what Dudley Moore is, a wastrel. Unlike my friend Moore has John Gielgud to clean up after him. That's a full time job as we see demonstrated in Arthur. My friend also never found a Liza Minnelli, a male Liza Minnelli in fact because he was gay. Still Moore's portrayal of Arthur Bach is deadly accurate and so real for me.
Arthur, 20th century wastrel, is being forced to marry another trust fund baby in Jill Eikenberry. Since he won't work for a living, the threat of being cut off is quite real for him. He only has his butler Hobson played by John Gielgud and chauffeur Bitterman played by Ted Post to pour his troubles out to. We should all have such troubles.
John Gielgud in his nearly century of life certainly did better work than in Arthur on film and in fact Gielgud is more prominently known for his stage performances. Yet 1981 was a year of sentiment at Oscar time. The Academy gave Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn Oscars for On Golden Pond and Gielgud the Best Supporting Actor Award essentially for the work of a lifetime. That man was amazing, still at his craft almost to the end.
So to Frank Graham who worked in the film and to Jackie Weiss, a genuine real life Arthur, I dedicate this review.