As butler to spoiled drunken manchild Arthur (Dudley Moore. pictured, left) in Arthur, Hobson (John Gielgud, center) displays a frosty hauteur, his every syllable dripping with sarcasm and contempt. (When Arthur announces he’s going to take a bath, Hobson shoots back, “I’ll alert the media.”). But the tough-love act is fooling no one. Even Arthur realizes that Hobson, his surrogate father, has only his best interests at heart. Indeed, the wise Hobson realizes, before anyone else does, that Arthur’s love for poor, larcenous Linda (Liza Minnelli, right) will help him mature faster than duty (that is, marrying the heiress his family wants him to wed) or even sobriety.
It’s fun to watch this stoic Englishman react like a bemused alien surveying an inferior species whenever he interacts with New Yorkers, whether he’s playing fairy godfather to Minnelli’s Cinderella or trying to maintain his dignity when Arthur gives him a cowboy hat or a basketball. Even his exit from the story is dignified, and the movie suffers for his absence. He’s so indispensible that he won Gielgud the only Oscar of his 75-year career.
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