EC America’s Gilded Age 2: On The Rocks
Some movies beg to be one and done.
No sequel. No Part II. No Redux. 1981’s smash hit Arthur is a classic example of what happens when well is not left alone. There was never going to be a way to replicate the hilarity born of sublime scripting and delivery to say nothing of the perfectly unconventional combination of casting and direction. Upon reflection, the only question is what sort of prig it takes to award the movie anything but five full stars – Amazon has it as 4.5 stars. (We’ll leave that one for another day, but you know who you are and you clearly need to get out more.)
Who, after all, could fault Dudley Moore’s best moments portraying Arthur Bach, cinema’s most darling drunk? A smattering of the film’s snippets:
When Susan, his fiancé by way of an arranged-marriage, suggested that, “A real woman could stop you from drinking,” Arthur rebutted that, “It’d have to be a real BIG woman.”
Or his description of his day job: “I race cars, play tennis and fondle women. BUT! I have weekends off and I am my own boss.”
Then, of course, there’s the farcical exchange between Arthur and his proper aunt and uncle when he’s caught out with a spandex-clad prostitute. Endeavoring to render his “date” passable, he claims she’s a princess from a speck of a country: “It’s terribly small, a tiny little country. Rhode Island could beat the crap out of it in a war. THAT’s how small it is.”
One beat later when it (re)dawns on him that his arm candy is actually said prostitute? Well, that’s the best of the best: “You’re a hooker? Jesus, I forgot! I just thought I was doing GREAT with you!”
In 1981, the audience was naturally attracted to Moore’s spoiled, over-the-top coddled character and to the sheer novelty of just imagining being him — breakfasted-in-bed, butlered, chauffeured and indulged in every conceivable way. A good many of those caught between the moon and New York City these days might not see the movie as so much comedy, but rather a droll performance, or better yet, dare one venture, autobiographical. Welcome to the sequel to America’s Gilded Age. Fair warning, like Arthur 2: On the Rocks, it’s gauche, tacky and vulgar all at once. And for far too many angry Americans, this follow-on to one of history’s most raucous chapters is as unwelcome as was that of Arthur to its purist fans.
The dirty little secret the uber-wealthy consider to be indelicate cocktail conversation is that this second era of insulting inequality is rather old news. Inequality has been on the rise since 1987 when Alan Greenspan took the helm of the Federal Reserve. It was then the Maestro began his crusade to indemnify investors’ portfolios against any nasty side effects risk taking might invite.