Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
End Of Arthur's Marriage, The (1965)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Mavis's mum and dad watch young people dancing on television. Dad gives Mavis 400 pounds, his life savings, so that Mavis's husband Arthur can place a deposit on the couple's first home. Mum and Dad distrust Arthur, thinking him a dreamer. Television news reports the deaths of holiday makers in a plane crash. Reading a brochure, Mavis anticipates her new home's fittings. In song, Mum and Dad are described as typical of the middle- and lower-middle classes: fearful, boring, obedient and easy to cheat.

Arthur leaves to sign for the house, accompanied by daughter Emmy. They cut through the gasworks. Unseen interviewees discuss the gasworks' history, including its role in the industry's nationalisation. Playing with Emmy, Arthur loses the money, but Emmy finds it. A young couple on a scooter circle them, playing music.

Arthur and Emmy view their prospective new home with an agent. The Thurloes arrive early for their viewing. Mr Thurloe begs Arthur to buy the house to save him from being trapped with his wife and loathsome son, Mark. Mark propositions Emmy, and is slapped. Arthur lacks the necessary bank letter, so Mrs Thurloe beats him to signing for the house. The agent, seemingly addressing a football crowd, praises the Thurloes for becoming homeowners, entering into civilisation's most solemn contract. The crowd cheers.

Arthur and Emmy sit in a park. Fearing that Emmy will never have lots of money spent on her, Arthur takes her to the West End to treat her. Shops in the West End resemble temples, and sales resemble ancient rituals. Arthur and Emmy arrive at Fortnum and Mason's. Outside, TV interviewer Kenneth Allsop asks shoppers whether they prefer spending or working. Shooting scenes with Arthur and Emmy, Kenneth Loach argues with the interview crew about using this location. Interviewed by Allsop, Emmy says she wants a gold watch. Mavis's parents inform the police about Arthur's absence with Emmy and the money. Arthur and Emmy look at products in Fortnum's. Apparent prostitutes Connie and Janet discuss how a client, a solicitor, role-plays as Mr Universe. Other women discuss a divorce settlement. A mother slaps her child. A salesman, in conversation and in song, sells Arthur and Emmy an expensive gold watch and agrees to add a strap made of elephant hair.

At a cafe, Arthur and Emmy witness a young couple - She and He - arguing. A cafe worker thinks about his homeland, a land of antelopes, coconuts and naked tribespeople, colonial people who will "fight and die for you". He and She make up. Arthur and Emmy visit various shops, and Emmy wears various different outfits. They pass a wedding. A policeman approaches them, but only wants to light his cigarette.

Visiting the Zoo, Arthur and Emmy are taken to its cynical owner. As the 5 millionth customer, Emmy wins a free visit escorted by keeper Bent. Arthur and Emmy ride on an elephant.

Adam and Eve are in Paradise with lots of wild animals, who are advised to leave humans alone. Prompted by the snake, Eve eats an apple. Ownership starts to dominate, and everything goes wrong: Adam and Eve become homeowners and animals are kept in cages or eaten.

Emmy doubts whether elephants have hair. Emmy does not want to leave the elephant. Bent says that the zoo recently received a shipment of army surplus elephants and that this elephant will be destroyed. Arthur buys the elephant.

As Arthur, Emmy and the elephant walk, they are followed by young people, to Arthur's delight. Everyone bar the elephant rides down the canal on a barge, dancing. Night falls. A woman sings about spending rather than saving and skiving rather than working. Excited and happy, Arthur dances with her, and, like her, partially undresses. Arthur throws the remaining money into the water. Emmy tells him to stop making a fool of himself, and the party ends. The young people criticise Arthur's behaviour and his irresponsibility in bringing Emmy here.

Arthur and Emmy return to Mavis's parents' house. Arthur reveals that all the money is gone. Arthur is prevented from entering, and is given his belongings in a suitcase. He leaves the suitcase in the garden and walks away.