Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ruggles of Red Gap

Ruggles of Red Gap

If you are looking for a comedy about manners, poking fun at class pretensions among the newly-rich and the ennui of the upper crust, then Ruggles of Red Gap is the movie for you.


Ruggles of Red Gap

The story opens in Paris, around 1908, where Marmaduke Ruggles, beautifully played by Charles Laughton, is the ultra-obedient manservant to the Earl of Burnstead, played by Roland Young. During one of the Earl's nightly forays, he has been playing poker with the nouveau riche American cattle baron, Egbert Floud, played by Charles Ruggles. Egbert wins Ruggles in the poker game and Lord Burnstead tells his butler that he will be leaving with the Flouds heading back to Red Gap, Washington.

Ruggles of Red Gap

Ruggles is terrified at the prospect of being bundled off to the Wild West, especially after meeting Egbert and Effie, played by Mary Boland. Effie wants to take advantage of Ruggles' upper class background to influence Egbert's hick lifestyle and to instruct her husband in proper manners and appropriate dress, but Egbert, more interested in partying, sees Ruggles mostly as a partner in crime.  He takes Ruggles to the local 'beer bust' before they leave Paris, and insists that he sit and drink with him.  Ruggles resists at first, stating that it isn't proper, but finally gives in and proceeds to get very drunk.

Ruggles of Red Gap

Once in the frontier boom town of Red Gap, Egbert introduces Ruggles as "Colonel" and the misunderstanding obliges social-climbing Effie to pass Ruggles off as an aristocratic British army officer. When word gets out in the local paper that "Colonel Ruggles is staying with his close friends", the butler becomes a town celebrity. The town ladies are quite taken by the sophisticated servant in disguise as he enamors them with fictitious stories of battles gone by. 

Ruggles of Red Gap

When he befriends Mrs. Judson, a widow, played by ZaSu Pitts, he impresses her with his culinary skills and she encourages him to open his own business. His secret inner desire for life begins to emerge with her encouragement and that of his friends.

Ruggles of Red Gap

The longer he spends in America, the more he grows to like the concept of democracy and self-determination. He proves his new-found patriotism in one of the best scenes of the film, his recitation of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in the Silver Dollar Saloon.

Ruggles of Red Gap

The dream of freedom leads him to open his own restaurant, where one of his first customers is the Duke who has come to reclaim his former servant. But Ruggles' transition from servant to independent man holds strong and he proves himself a worthy American and the equal of any man.

The movie has predictable zaniness and madcappery and Charles Laughton is delightful in his multi-layered characterization of a stone-faced gentleman's gentleman with a secret inner life. His quiet recitation of the Gettysburg Address is a truly magic moment in the history of American cinema.

Previously filmed in 1918 and 1923, Ruggles of Red Gap achieved movie classic status when it was remade by Leo McCarey with this version in 1935, which was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. It was filmed for a fourth time in 1950 as the Bob Hope-Lucille Ball musical Fancy Pants.

Ruggles of Red Gap






6 comments:

  1. Ohh cheeky film-I defiantly have to see it. Great review!! xox

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  2. interesting i never heard of this film
    kate the old fashioned way

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  3. I can't believe I've never seen this! Definitely going on my list! ;)

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  4. I love the comedies of the 1930s, and have long enjoyed Fancypants, so will definitely be looking this one up. And anything with Zasu Pitts in it has to be good. Thank for sharing.

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