Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)

Album: Arthur Soundtrack (1981)
Charted: 7 1


  • This song originated with a lyric Peter Allen wrote for a song he was working on with Carole Bayer Sager: "When you get caught between the moon and New York City." Allen and Bayer Sager were recording artists, and also very prolific songwriters - together they composed the 1979 Melissa Manchester hit "Don't Cry Out Loud" and the 1980 Rita Coolidge song "I'd Rather Leave While I'm In Love."

    In 1981 Bayer Sager started working with another top songwriter, Burt Bacharach, who produced and composed songs for her solo album Sometimes Late at Night. When Bacharach got the gig scoring music for the movie Arthur, starring Dudley Moore, he worked on the music for the theme song with Christopher Cross, and asked Bayer Sager (now his romantic partner) to compose the lyrics. She recalled the line Allen came up with years earlier, and secured his permission to use it. For Allen, this was a very lucrative line, as it earned him a songwriting credit along with Bacharach, Bayer Sager and Cross.

    Bacharach and Bayer Sager got married in 1982, five days after this song won an Oscar. They teamed up to write two more #1 hits: "That's What Friends Are For" by Dionne Warwick & Friends, and "On My Own" by Patti LaBelle & Michael McDonald. In 1985, they adopted a son named Cristopher. The couple divorced in 1991.
  • How do you get "caught between the moon and New York City"? According to Peter Allen, he came up with the line when his plane got stuck in a holding pattern waiting to land at JFK airport in New York. In 2012, Songfacts heard from the flight attendant Susan Lina, who said, "Peter Allen was on my flight and when he was deplaning he said to me, 'You have inspired me to write a song, and you will know it when you hear it.' I believe this was the song, because we were in a holding pattern for JFK. I have been a flight attendant now for 34 years. This was back in the early '80s when I was only 21 or 22 years old. I did not know who he was until he was deplaning the aircraft. He was right, I did know the moment I heard the verse, when you get caught between the moon and New York City, because it was at night and we were in a holding pattern to land at JFK. I remember it so clearly."
  • This won the 1982 Oscar for Best Song From A Film. It was a very successful theme song, capturing the charming side of Dudley Moore's character as he faces a drastic change to his lifestyle. In the film, Moore must consider giving up his fortune for his new love, played by Liza Minnelli. The original script had him losing his money to be with the girl, but audiences in test screenings wanted an even happier ending, so the script was rewritten with Arthur keeping his fortune and the girl. Of course, this blew away the premise that Arthur must choose between money and love, but that's where this song came in handy. Speaking about the film in the New York Times, Larry Brezner, who was one of the producers, said the idea was to "give Arthur the money, bring up the music loud and get the audience the hell out of the theater happy, before they have time to think about it."
  • Christopher Cross, whose real name is Christopher Geppert, won five Grammy awards in 1981: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for "Sailing," Album Of The Year for Christopher Cross, and Best New Artist.
  • Christopher Cross was a major star in 1981, earning considerable cachet for his five Grammy wins at that year's ceremony. Getting him to record the theme to Arthur was a big coup for the movie's producers. At first, he was slated to compose the score for the film and also to write the theme song, but that idea was nixed. "Steven Gordon, who wrote and directed the film - he's since passed away - he felt I was kind of new to the scoring thing," Cross told Songfacts. "He was a first-time director, and he didn't want another first-time element involved in the movie, so they gave it to Burt Bacharach. I was not disappointed, because I was amazed they asked me, anyway."
  • This is one of the few songs Christopher Cross wrote with other writers - he prefers to write solo and that's how he composed his hit songs. Working on this song was a wonderful experience, however, as he composed it with Bacharach and Bayer Sager at their place in Beverly Hills. "It's was one of those nights - about five in the morning we finished the song," Cross told us. "And of course, Burt's genius. And certainly stylistically 'Arthur' is much more in a Burt Bacharach vein than a Christopher Cross vein. I think Burt, out of all four of us that wrote it, was certainly the most responsible for the track. Peter and Carole came up with the words, Burt and I put the music together."
  • How's this for serendipity: Liza Minnelli, who starred in Arthur, was married to this song's co-writer Peter Allen from 1967-1974.
  • In 1988, a sequel to Arthur was released called Arthur 2: On the Rocks. Like the first one, it also starred Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli, and Burt Bacharach did the music. The sequel was far less successful, earning about $15 million at the American box office.
  • Dudley Moore, who starred in Arthur, was also an accomplished pianist. He and Cross became good friends and performed the song together a few times with Moore on piano and Cross singing.
  • This is an example of "Yacht Rock," which is easy listening music favored by rich people in the '80s. And for a movie about a rich guy, that genre is the sweet spot. Christopher Cross was the leader in this niche, mostly because of his song "Sailing."
  • The Los Angeles group Fitz and The Tantrums recorded a new version of this song that was used in the 2011 remake of the movie Arthur starring Russell Brand. It's a much more contemporary version of the song, and good enough to spare the critical scorn that was heaped upon Brand and most others associated with the remake.

Comments: 4

  • Emmalyn from Cagayan De Oro City, Philippinesi always heard these song in the radio but i always take it for granted, but when sumtyms a man from the past well always remind me through these song...i miss him so much,
  • Cynthia from Scranton, PaThis is a beautiful song. I'm gonna name a son Arthur one day.
  • Sara from Silver Spring, MdThe song is in the musical The Boy From Oz about the life story of Peter Allen the songwriter known for his marriage to Liza Minnelli. Liza was
    in the film but never sang it. The line in the chorus "When you get caught"... was Allen's only line from a song he and Bayer Sager wroter years earlier but never finished.
  • Enrique from Lima, PeruThis song was produced by Michael Omartian, the same guy who produced his multi-awarded album SAILING.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Bible Lyrics

Bible LyricsMusic Quiz

Rockers, rappers and pop stars have been known to quote the Bible in their songs. See if you match the artist to the biblical lyric.

British Invasion

British InvasionFact or Fiction

Go beyond The Beatles to see what you know about the British Invasion.

Emmylou Harris

Emmylou HarrisSongwriter Interviews

She thinks of herself as a "song interpreter," but back in the '80s another country star convinced Emmylou to take a crack at songwriting.

They Might Be Giants

They Might Be GiantsSongwriter Interviews

Who writes a song about a name they found in a phone book? That's just one of the everyday things these guys find to sing about. Anything in their field of vision or general scope of knowledge is fair game. If you cross paths with them, so are you.

Lori McKenna

Lori McKennaSongwriter Interviews

Lori's songs have been recorded by Faith Hill and Sara Evans. She's performed on the CMAs and on Oprah. She also has five kids.

The Evolution of "Ophelia"

The Evolution of "Ophelia"Song Writing

How four songs portray Shakespeare's character Ophelia.