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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>
Leila Hyams retired from the film business the following year at the age of 31. She still remained active in Hollywood circles thanks to her marriage to leading agent, Phil Berg. See more »
When Effie tells Ruggles to take her husband to the art museums she shows him a book that he uses to record his impressions of the art he's viewed, when the camera angle changes the book has changed from her hands to her husbands hands without any pause in her lines. See more »
Some pretty good reviews have been turned in so far. I recommend "All's Right With the World" (telegonus from brighton, ma; 16 August 2002). Also, jayjerry regards it as "My All-Time Favorite" (jayjerry from Burbank, CA; 2 February 2007).
In "Making Your Way In A New World" (bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York; 6 October 2006) we get good background on Charles Laughton's personal interest in the story. In "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" (lugonian from Kissimmee, Florida; 18 December 2010) we are provided the film history of the story.
In "What did Lincoln say at Gettysburg, anyway?" (theowinthrop from United States; 20 May 2006) we get criticism of the pacing of some scenes, along with the gags that don't entirely work.
"Ruggles at Red Gap" starts out as a (not laugh-out loud) comedy about manners. As the story moves from Paris to the Western US, it acquires great depth by way of Laughton's extraordinary reciting of Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" to a saloon filled with cowboys who can't recall a word of it.
As freedom and liberation emerge as new themes, love also arrives. Laughton's Ruggles (convincing as a heterosexual) finds a widow (Zasu Pitts as Mrs. Judson) with whom a restaurant adventure is undertaken. Among the first patrons of this restaurant is his former Parisien employer (Roland Young as the Earl of Burnstead) who has found a very charming Washington socialite (Leila Hyams as Nell Kenner).
Acquiring richness until the satisfying finale, "Ruggles at Red Gap" should be regarded as among the best films about Americana. Three scenes are standouts: Laughton's exceptional Gettysburgh recitation, Roland Young's musical flirting scene with Leila Hyams and the restaurant sequence climaxed by a rousing finish.
Laughton's transformation from a dour and proper man servant to a more popular figure comes with the help of two instigators; i.e., wealthy ranchers Egbert (Charles Ruggels; yes that's confusing) and Effie Floud (Mary Boland). Egbert is a particularly corrupting influence on Ruggles by introducing him to drink and repeatedly insisting that they both share the same class.
Each cast member is superb. Leo McCarey is very interesting visually. Note how in this cinematic period how few closeups there are; how often there seems to be a bit much space above characters heads and how far away a group stands from the viewer's perspective, as if seen from a stage.
In real life in Washington State (around 1908) there probably would be more than one enemy for Ruggles to contend with; for being out of place, foppish, proper, literary and theatrical. As with many of the other films from the 1930s, common people are depicted idealistically.
Somehow McCarey made this beautiful, rich and rewarding commentary about liberty, finding love and gaining acceptance before he appeared as a friendly witness to the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) witch hunt. This is not explained by "Ruggles."
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