- "Arthur McFly was outside waxing the car. He waved his rag as the two boys approached. / "Go and talk to him right away," Marty urged. / "About what?" / "About college." / "I'll get to that. I've gotta introduce you first." / "No," Marty said, stopping at the edge of the sidewalk. "I'm not moving until you talk to him about college." / "Sure..." George said hesitantly. / He walked over to his father, looked back over his shoulder at Marty. In order to make him feel more secure, Marty meandered toward the porch of the house so that he was out of George's line of vision. He was actually closer around the side of the house, and could hear the conversation quite clearly. / "Who's your friend?" Arthur McFly asked. / "A new guy from school," George replied. "Listen, Dad, I have an important decision to make and, well, I really need some advice." / Only a C-plus beginning, Marty thought, although the bit about needing advice was probably good psychologically. / "Gee, son, I'm kinda busy here," George's father said. "Couldn't it wait a few days?" "
- —From Back to the Future by George Gipe (quote, pages 158 and 159)
Arthur "Artie" McFly was the father of George McFly, the son of Eliza Hill McFly and William McFly, the grandson of Seamus and Maggie McFly, the great-grandson of William "Bill" Hill, the paternal great grandfather of Marlene and Marty McFly Jr., and the paternal grandfather of Marty McFly. He lived on Sycamore Street with George and his wife Sylvia as of 1955.
Arthur McFly was born in 1901, to William McFly and Eliza Hill McFly. When he was 16, he enlisted in World War I and was sent to France, but never fired a single shot due to them finding out about his fraudulent enlistment and he was shipped back.
When Prohibition went into effect in 1931, he started to work for Kid Tannen, the notorious organized crime boss in Hill Valley. Economic downturns forced Arthur to stay with the Tannen Crime Family, albeit reluctantly. Kid Tannen disliked Arthur, but was forced to keep him on due to no respectable accountant wanting to take him on as a client and the other members of the Tannen gang being so dumb they could not do basic math.
Marty's interference in the past
In 1931, Upon Arriving in Depression-era Hill Valley, Marty walked into the Sisters of Mercy Soup Kitchen where he saw a wimpy Arthur McFly (a dead ringer for 1955 George in looks, voice, and personality) being bullied and harassed by Kid Tannen. After taking Artie’s signature white fedora with a red headband, Tannen ordered him back to the safe house before he can be served a subpoena.
it was established that Arthur was the accountant for Kid Tannen's illegal speakeasy business. Recovering the hat from Kid Tannen, who had been using it as a trophy and Peanut Bowl, Marty had Einstein track Arthur down. They discovered the Safe House but found Arthur wouldn't come down from the apartment without Kid Tannen's say-so. Marty eventually tricked him into coming downstairs using a 1980s tape recorder with Kid's voice, where he was then served the subpoena. Realizing that Kid would kill him for talking to the District Attorney, Artie began to panic but Marty and Emmett convinced him to go through with it. They gave him back his hat and he went to the courthouse to provide information on Kid Tannen.
Soon afterward, Marty and Doc are about to leave for 1986 when Marty suddenly begins to fade from existence, apparently rather painfully. A newspaper from tomorrow explaining that Arthur McFly was found brutally murdered on the courthouse steps, having been beaten and left for dead a few hours ago as revenge for answering the subpoena. Upon seeing his father’s image beginning to fade from a family picture, Marty realizes that the timeline is quickly catching up to his grandfather’s fatal wounds, preventing George's birth. With Doc’s help, Marty goes back in time several hours, avoiding his other self, and manages to save Arthur, rescuing him from Tannen's trio of thugs and urging him to lay low for a while. Arthur then asks Doc and Marty if they are "G-Men" (slang for United States special agents, which is short for Government Men). Deciding to just play along, Marty and Doc declare that they are G-Men and tell Artie to look out for a suspect named "Sylvia", which is the name of Marty's grandmother, Arthur's future wife.
Upon returning to 1986, Marty finds that history has been altered and in this new 1986 Kid Tannen was never sent to jail in 1931. The Tannen crime family now runs Hill Valley and endlessly harasses the McFlys. An old Kid Tannen then reveals that the only reason he didn't kill Arthur McFly was because his girlfriend made him promise not to. After escaping Kid and his goons, Marty and Doc then travel back to August 25, 1931, the night when Kid Tannen was supposed to be arrested. Doc explains that Kid Tannen was originally arrested when Trixie Trotter, his beautiful girlfriend and the singer at his Speakeasy, turned on him and gave Jennifer's grandfather, Officer Danny Parker, some incriminating evidence. But in this new timeline, this does not happen. Marty discovers this is because of two reasons: 1) Danny Parker has been traumatized by his seeing the DeLorean on the first trip to 1931 and 2) Without her smart friend and teacher Arthur McFly, Trixie is not confident enough to turn over the evidence. It turns out that while working for Kid, Arthur became fast friends with Trixie and taught her many things, including basic accounting. It is Felony Tax Evasion that Trixie has evidence of, but in this timeline she is hesitant and unsure of herself about presenting the evidence because Artie is not around for her to double check the numbers with. He had apparently left behind his pipe when he went into hiding, which she associated with intelligent men, and had kept it with her. She agreed to hand it over to Marty.
Using Arthur's pipe and Einstein's nose, Marty was able to track down Arthur at the theatre and convinced him to talk to Trixie. But their meeting was cut short by Kid Tannen, who immediately tried to shoot Artie in the head for answering the subpoena. Trixie begged for Artie’s life and made Kid promise to spare it. After that, she didn't feel right about betraying Kid and decided to destroy the evidence she had against him. Realizing that Trixie's feelings for Artie went much deeper than friendship, Marty decided to trick her into believing that Kid had gone back on his word and killed Arthur anyway in order to get her to give Danny Parker the evidence. Marty’s trick worked and Trixie turned over what she had on Kid to the police. Not long after, Kid Tannen was arrested.
Moments after the arrest, Trixie was overjoyed when she realized that Artie was still alive. They quickly began a romance. Marty was concerned about this because Trixie was not his grandmother, Sylvia was. But Doc noted that Marty wasn't fading into nonexistence and concluded that so long as Arthur did meet Sylvia and have baby George by 1938, it should be fine; He said to let Arthur sow his oats in the meantime. Unbeknownst to both of them at the time, Trixie was actually Sylvia.
In the months following the arrest of Kid Tannen and his gang, Arthur found that for the first time in his life, he was popular. For testifying against the gangsters, he quickly gained respectability throughout the whole of Hill Valley. He became so popular that people were practically beating down his door with job offers. As of October 12, 1931, Arthur worked at the Hill Valley Science Exposition, and due to interference by Marty was forced into firing Trixie from her role of Techne (due to her being a Canadian citizen). Later that night, he took her to Reno to marry her (5 years earlier than they were supposed to wed), thus making her a US Citizen (and allowing her to return to her role as Techne). While they were conversing with a concerned Marty, he asked Arthur about Sylvia Miskin, at which they revealed she was Sylvia. Arthur's father William McFly had been furious at them getting hitched, but had a change of heart upon meeting Trixie.
In 1986G, his son George referred to him in the past tense, implying that he had died by then in that timeline. His wife Sylvia was seemingly still alive in the original timeline in 1986, given that Marty referred to her in the present tense. He apparently had died in the original timeline when Marty was still a child. He maintained his pipe smoking habit for the rest of his life; Marty could barely remember Arthur, but did strongly associate him with the scent of his pipe.
- Back to the Future: The Game
Behind the scenes
He is never mentioned or seen in the trilogy but he makes an appearance in the novelization where Marty convinces George to talk to his dad about attending college. Here we see that Arthur is about as wimpy and spineless as George is since he gives his son many pathetic reasons not to attend such as college being hard and his grades he has received in school. He even tells George that he will never succeed in life with his current grades and such which could be the primary reason why George becomes a pushover in the original 1985. The novelization also hints that he could have been instead born between 1900-1902, when Marty, trying to prove to George that he really knows him, asks him the question: "Isn't it also true that your father enlisted in World War I as a sixteen-year-old, was sent to France before they found out, and shipped back without firing a shot?" (page 91), as the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917, and the war ended on November 11, 1918.
Notes and references
- Back to the Future novelization.
- Back to the Future (video game).
- Back to the Future: The Game - Episode 2: Get Tannen!
- Back to the Future: The Game - Episode 5: OUTATIME
- In "OUTATIME", upon asking him to give Emmett more time to make it to his exhibit, Arthur refuses. The manner in which he does this causes Marty to scowl, as it reminds him about how Arthur refused to take him to the zoo at one time.
- Back to the Future: The Game - Episode 3: Citizen Brown
- Back to the Future: The Game - Episode 4: Double Visions