Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend of diving into adjacent queer and queer past titles worth watching or revisiting.
The Inebriated: Arthur
Sir John Gielgud appears on just about every list of the greatest Shakespearean actors of all time, often near the top. How ironic, then, that his biggest Hollywood hit came in a slapstick comedy about drunkenness, opposite a crazy comic book and a gay icon.
Arthur plays Gielgud as Hobson, the arrogant butler of Arthur Bach, the titular character. Despite being an adult male, Arthur behaves more like a drunken 10-year-old, reveling in his inherited billions of dollars and constantly drinking as he stumbles through New York City. As his family pushes him to marry a high-crust woman named Susan (Jill Eikenberry), Arthur crosses paths with the beautiful, if working class, Linda (Liza Minnelli), and sparks fly. Arthur must choose between Susan, which will allow him to keep his inheritance, and a relationship with Linda, which means giving up his fortune.
Although Dudley Moore was nominated for an Oscar for his very funny portrayal of Arthur, Gielgud won the Golden Statuette for his performance as the dry-minded Hobson. And no wonder: he almost steals the film. Minnelli also gets one of her best on-screen roles as Linda, and part of the fun of the movie comes from watching her interact with Moore and try (sometimes, unsuccessfully) to contain her laughter. Gielgud is much more successful in keeping his stone face, which makes it all the funnier. Arthur also features an Oscar-winning contribution from gay songwriter Peter Allen (Liza’s ex-husband… the cough), who collaborated with Christopher Cross, Burt Bacharach and Carole Sayer on the song “The Best You Can Do” . Trust us, you’ve heard it: it’s that song about the moon and New York.
Goofy, sweet and downright hilarious, Arthur’s success proves that the contribution of queer artists (and their icons) can still elevate the game to an otherwise standard comedy. Dudley Moore makes Arthur funny. Liza Minnelli and John Gielgud make it a classic.
Streams on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, and VUDU.