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Terry O. Morse
Eddie Foy Jr.
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While visiting Paris in 1908, upper class Lord Burnstead loses his butler playing poker. Egbert and Effie Floud bring Ruggles back to Red Gap, Washington. Effie wants to take advantage of Ruggles' upper class background to influence Egbert's hick lifestyle. However, Egbert is more interested in partying and he takes Ruggles to the local 'beer bust'. When word gets out that "Colonel Ruggles is staying with his close friends" in the local paper, the butler becomes a town celebrity. After befriending Mrs. Judson, a widow who he impresses with his culinary skills, Ruggles decides to strike out on his own and open a restaurant. His transition from servant to independent man will depend on its success. Written by
Gary Jackson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Last night I watched this film for the first time in several years, though it has always been a favorite. Why did it suddenly come to my mind? Because I knew that it would be a great remedy for cynicism and could lift my spirits. It worked: this minor masterpiece is heart-warming without being sappy-sentimental, primarily because so much of the actions and portrayals is hilarious; especially the early scenes in Paris, when the tradition-bound valet Ruggles learns that he has been the stakes in a poker game and that his "master" has lost him to a rugged millionaire from far-west America and his social-climbing wife (both parts played to perfection). What had never impressed me quite so much before is the subtlety of Laughton's portrayal. He could convey more humor with a simple twist of his lips or lowering of his eyelids than a Jerry Lewis or Jim Carrey can with their overdone mugging. Brilliant! And of course he had one of the great recital voices of all time; he was called on to repeat his recitation of the Gettysburg Address over radio many times, especially during World War II. Anyone who wants to take a course in acting would be advised to view Laughton's performances in a wide range of roles over a 20 year period. He even pulled off a potentially weepy "It's a Wonderful Life" type ending, simply by standing before the "He's a Jolly Good Fellow"-singing crowd with a broad smile that radiates joy, then reverting to his innate reserve and heading back into the kitchen of his restaurant. No pretty wife and cute kids to hug: only a former servant who realizes he has come into his own as a man in a new country where (ideally) class structures do not exist and a man is valued for what he is, not who.
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