Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a re-watch.
The Inebriated: Arthur
Sir John Gielgud appears on just about every list of the Greatest Shakespearean Actors of All Time, often near the tip-top. How ironic, then, that his biggest success in Hollywood would come in a slapstick comedy about drunkenness, opposite a loony comic and a gay icon.
Arthur casts Gielgud as Hobson, the snooty butler of Arthur Bach, the titular character. Though a grown man, Arthur acts more like a drunken 10-year-old, reveling in his inherited billions of dollars and constantly boozing as he stumbles around New York City. As his family pressures him to marry an upper-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, who will allow him to keep his inheritance, and a relationship with Linda, which will mean forfeiting his wealth.
Though Dudley Moore scored an Oscar nomination for his very funny portrayal of Arthur, Gielgud took home the golden statuette for his performance as the oh-so-dry witted Hobson. And no wonder: he just about steals the movie. Minnelli also gets one of her best screen roles as Linda, and part of the movie’s fun comes from watching her interact with Moore and try (at times, unsuccessfully) to contain her laughter. Gielgud is far more successful in keeping his stone-face, which makes him all the funnier. Arthur also features an Oscar-winning contribution from gay songwriter Peter Allen (Liza’s ex-husband…cough), who collaborated with Christopher Cross, Burt Bacharach and Carole Sayer for the song “The Best You Can Do.” Trust us, you’ve heard it: it’s that song about the moon & New York City.
Goofy, sweet, and downright hilarious, the success of Arthur proves that the contribution of queer artists (and their icons) can always raise the game on an otherwise standard comedy. Dudley Moore makes Arthur funny. Liza Minnelli and John Gielgud make it classic.
Streams on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes & VUDU.