Published December 4, 2008

If one takes into account the “laugh quotient” while considering the funniest movie of all time, certainly one of the top contenders would have to be 1981’s Arthur. Bravo places it at number 10 on their list of the 100 Funniest Movies, AFI has it at a criminally-low 53. This Dudley Moore vehicle has more genuine laughs-per-minute than most modern comedies put together.
Written and directed by Steve Gordon (who died tragically of a heart attack the following year), Arthur tells the story of a rich and besotted playboy millionaire, Arthur Bach (Dudley Moore), whose arranged marriage to a wealthy heiress is complicated when he falls in love for real with a shoplifting waitress (Liza Minnelli). John Gielgud co-stars as Hobson, Arthur’s valet, and won a well-deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems this film has not gotten near the respect it is due. While it has been released on DVD twice — the first being a full-screen hack job with no bonus features, the second a coupling with 1988’s sub-par sequel, Arthur 2: On The Rocks, also pan and scan — this film is screaming for a video upgrade. With Steve Gordon, Dudley Moore and John Gielgud already gone, it is too late to get any new interviews — but perhaps some ├╝ber-documentarian like Laurent Bouzereau can whip up some kind of tasteful retrospective. Now that we’re in the age of Blu-Ray, it is high time for this film to receive the widescreen deluxe treatment it deserves.

Many younger viewers have never even heard of this film, which is sad. No kids, alcoholism is not funny … but this movie is. In fact, it’s hysterical. Despite Arthur’s constant drinking, I’m not sure he constitutes an official alcoholic — at least not in “movie reality” — he’s just rich and bored. Nobody plays a genial, good-natured drunk like Dudley Moore; this despite the fact that he rarely drank. Ironically, when the first symptoms of Moore’s degenerative brain disorder (which tragically took his life in 2002) first appeared, many thought he was drunk.

The film was nominated for four Oscars, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor and Best Song — it won for the last two.

On a final note, it was recently announced that British comedian Russell Brand is in talks to star in a remake of Arthur. To this I say STOP ALREADY! Enough with the remakes! Especially of beloved films like this. Is nothing sacred? Moore, Gielgud and Gordon are rolling over in their graves at this news.