Saturday, April 09, 2011

A lost scene from the original ARTHUR

With the remake of ARTHUR out this weekend (a movie I will never see) I thought it's a good time to re-introduce you to Steve Gordon (writer/director of the original and for my money still only version).  I wrote a bio post on him, which you can find here.   Steve Gordon’s ARTHUR is probably my single favorite comic screenplay. Believe it or not the first draft was 147 pages. (Do NOT try this at home, kids.) Steve was kind enough to give it to me.   At 147 pages there obviously were scenes that never saw the flickering light of the projector. But here’s one of those missing scenes. Don’t you wish you could write this well? I do.

When Arthur (Dudley Moore) goes to Linda’s (Liza Minelli) apartment after proposing to Susan:

INT. LINDA’S BEDROOM – NIGHT

It is a small room. Linda sits at the edge of the bed. Arthur paces.

ARTHUR
Nice. Really a nice place.

LINDA
I’m thrilled. A lush likes my furniture. Talk.

Arthur reaches for a yearbook that is on the table.

ARTHUR
Is this your yearbook?

Linda jumps off the bed and rips the yearbook out of Arthur’s hand.

LINDA
God damn it! I have to get up and go to work tomorrow! Now stop fooling around. What do you want? You want to see a funny picture?

ARTHUR
Yeah.

Linda flips through the book. They are close.

LINDA
This is me in the school play – I played Juliet. Martin Feinberg played Romeo. Look at the hair. God! Martin Feinberg became a lawyer.

ARTHUR
What did you become?

LINDA
I’m a waitress. I’m studying to be an actress.

She flips through the book.

ARTHUR
You want to be an actress?

LINDA
No, schmuck… I’m studying to be an actress because I want to be a carpenter. (in the book) Look at this! Me playing vollyball! This guy went to prison.

ARTHUR
Sure… he probably got a lawyer who wanted to play Romeo. Did you go with anyone?

LINDA
Not really. My mother was sick then. I came home from school and spent as much time with her as I… anyway… it wasn’t a good time. This girl here…Mona… used to get laid 20 times a week.

ARTHUR
She looks tired there.

LINDA
Where did you go to school?

ARTHUR
I went to eight prep schools. I was thrown out of all of them. I was real unhappy as a kid.

LINDA
With all your money?

ARTHUR
Yeah. I had a big house. But nobody wanted me in it.

Linda puts her hand on Arthur’s face.

LINDA
You’re a lovely man.

ARTHUR
Lovely?

LINDA
Don’t worry about it. It’s the best thing I’ve ever said to anyone. Why haven’t you called me?

ARTHUR
Uh… that’s why I came here tonight. I think about you all the time. I am so fond of you…

LINDA
If you’re breaking up with me… I think it’s only fair to tell you that we’ve never had a date.

ARTHUR
(smiling) I am breaking up with you. We were so good we didn’t need dates.

LINDA
Why don’t we see each other and then break up?

ARTHUR
Listen… there’s stuff. Let’s not get into it. I can’t see you. Remember that ring?

LINDA
I had a feeling about that ring… you don’t clean that… you guard it.

ARTHUR
I gave it to somebody tonight.

LINDA
My ring? So what are you doing here?

ARTHUR
I had to see you to tell you I can’t see you.

LINDA
Neither of us is crying. Everything’s okay. You are the strangest person in North America.

ARTHUR
Yeah. Well… goodbye. It would probably be a mistake for you to come to that party Wednesday.

He starts toward the door.

LINDA
Yeah.

He turns.

ARTHUR
It’s the best way. There’s a lot involved.

LINDA
Right.

Arthur kisses her on the lips.

ARTHUR
(after the kiss) Goodbye. I guess this is it.

He continues to hold her.

LINDA
You’re holding me and kissing me. In my bedroom. With what you drank… you may be clearing up my sinuses.

Arthur kisses her again.

ARTHUR
Let’s just say goodbye. This is silly.

He kisses her again. This time it grows into a passionate kiss.

LINDA
(after the kiss) How long ago did you get engaged?

ARTHUR
About four hours ago. Jesus… this is wonderful.

LINDA
Make sure you come by your honeymoon night. Let’s stop. I enjoy you… but there are certain rules.

ARTHUR
Right… Goodbye.

He exits.

In the actual movie this scene was rewirtten and is much shorter. He goes to her apartment to give her $100,000 guilt money which she doesn't take. (Great shot of her dad outside the door, practically dissolving into tears.)

By the way, in the first draft Linda is not Italian. She's Jewish. Davidorf is her original last name.

20 comments:

Johnny Walker said...

Wow. That's really something. Wow. Effortless and brilliant and touching. It would be interesting to read the original 147 page draft.

Johnny Walker said...

So sad. There was a 138 page PDF dated October 17, 1980, but it's since disappeared from the internet.

I really want to read this script :(

MikeBo said...

No, I'm not going to see the remake, either. "Arthur" is lodged in my memory as one of the funniest films ever to ratchet through a projector. And, all Dudley Moore needed to do to bring the house down was walk into the room.

BTW, where do you get those silly verification words for your sign in? Today's looks absolutely Polish - "nowske!"

Mac said...

Very interesting to read that. Reminds me what a damn funny film that was. Touching and very funny.

Bruce said...

How much hubris does it take to think you could do a better version of Arthur. Kind of like remaking Citizen Kane. The original is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

"A real woman could stop you from drinking"
"It'd have to be a real big woman"
Love. That. Movie!!
I won't be seeing the remake either.

Anonymous said...

Bruce;
We must have seen different movies. I didn't think Citizen Kane was all that funny.

Matt Patton said...

Anonymous:

Actually, there are some pretty good jokes in the script for Citizen Kane.

Brian Smith said...

"You’re right; I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars *next* year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I’ll have to close this place!...in 60 years!"

One of my favorite movie lines of all time, and now that I think of it, it would work in "Arthur" just as well as it did in "Citizen Kane."

Chris said...

I'm new around here so feel free to tell me if this is a stupid question or if you've answered it before but I've noticed that episodes in multi camera sitcoms aren't usually part in a story arc so it's easier to write a spec for that kind of show. What about the 30-min Showtime/HBO dramas or comedies where they usually have story arcs that go over one season and all the episodes are already written and shot before they air, how would I write a spec for that kind of show?

Sorry for being so long.

Chris.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

(Great shot of her dad outside the door, practically dissolving into tears.)

God bless Barney Martin for that. The actor who plays Naomi's dad in the remake tried in vain to do a bit of what Martin did.

Yes, I saw the remake, and I liked it for what Brand brought to it in truly his own way, but I was milder toward it because of the memories of the one and only, also because Christopher Cross, after a concert at Hallandale Park (a racetrack) in Hallandale, Florida, signed my DVD case in two places.

I noticed where this remake followed the original, not only in the story, but also in some of the dialogue, just little things. Also, at the end, with all the movie cars lined up (because you can't waste the opportunity to show off the Batmobile and the DeLorean again, as well the Dukes of Hazzard car and the Scooby Doo van), there was what I think was the original "Arthur" car, the one with the real Bitterman. Luis Guzman tries, but there is only Ted Ross in that role.

I went to a 4 p.m. showing at the Regal in Simi Valley and holy fuck! $11.50 each?! Two tickets, because my Mom wanted to see it, too, but jesus, no wonder I don't go to the movies that often anymore.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

the one with the real Bitterman. Luis Guzman tries, but there is only Ted Ross in that role.

The one that was driven by the real Bitterman, I should say, since Ross died in 2002.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. At least Christopher Cross will get some royalty payments out of this sorry shadow. Remakes, superheroes, vampires, and sci-fi: yuck; I'll stick with procedurals and sitcoms. Maybe there are some Prime Suspect torrents I can download.

estiv said...

I think you're posted this before (I'm not complaining!) because the line "She looks tired there" has been in my head ever since. Nice how a simple line can work because it is simple, if it's in just the right place.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Ugh. At least Christopher Cross will get some royalty payments out of this sorry shadow.

That's the one thing that made me happiest. That, and he's got a new album coming out in May, 13 years after "Walking in Avalon." I hope he doesn't wait that long again for the next one.

Jeffrey Leonard said...

I watched the original again last week after 30 years. It's still the Mona Lisa. Don't ruin it by going to see the new version...I know I won't.

RCP said...

What a pleasure to read.

Johnny Walker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnny Walker said...

Unable to get my hands on the script, I watched the original Arthur today. How wonderful!

I laughed out loud more times than I can count. Much of the subtle brilliance in that script excerpt is in the final film. Just fantastic.

The only disappointment was the ending. It's strange to say, but it actually felt quite rushed. For a start, Hobson's end was misjudged. I can see what they were going for, and I applaud the attempt at subtlety, but it was a misstep when it finally happened. Also the final scene with the knife just went too far. It didn't feel believable.

The final scene in the church didn't completely work, either.

Strange considering how masterfully everything before it was handled. You have to wonder if parts were changed under duress.

Oh to be able to read the original script! :(

tales from the pole said...

what a special treat. i just love "arthur." i love all things dudley moore and liza minelli but i know the heartbeat of this film was the above-par writing and directing. i've noticed that when writers direct their own scripts --or perhaps i should say when directors do--the film almost always fares better. it's the singular vision thing and completely understanding the material b/c you, well, created it. i'm interested to see how the new film handles the susan character (arthur's intended finacee). part of what made the original so brilliant was making susan a sympathetic, untradtional "villian." her only "crime" was that she wanted to love arthur. and he just didn't love her back. i'm sure nowadays she would have been cartoonishly rich-bitchy, most likey devoid of the genuine lovliness and tragic lack of spine that made her no match for minelli's linda. i loved that the author wrote two such excellent roles for women, love, love LOVE. might have to check out arthur 2 again, though, before i'd check out the remake. i agree, it's blasphemy to remake such a wonderful film which was so germane to the original scribe's brilliance and interlinked with the original actors' portrayal. coming soon--the ten commandments--2011! bigger! badder! less biblical!!! "re-imaginings" are so, so dumb. oh make it stop. somebody please...