Charlie Ruggles

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)

Ruggles of Red Gap PosterWhen Texas ranchers Egbert (Charlie Ruggles) and Effie Floud (Mary Boland) take a trip to Paris, they end up returning with butler Marmaduke Ruggles (Charles Laughton) in tow.  Egbert had won Ruggles from the Earl of Burnstead (Roland Young) in a poker game and the status-seeking Effie hopes having Ruggles will help her uncouth husband become more refined.  Ruggles does his best to get Egbert to adopt a posher lifestyle, but Egbert refuses to treat Ruggles like a servant and in the end, it’s Ruggles who starts adapting to some of Egbert’s ways of life.

When the Flouds return to their hometown of Red Gap, Washington with Ruggles, Ruggles ends up being the talk of the town when everyone gets the idea that he is a man of distinction.  Ruggles also starts to fall in love with local woman Prunella Judson (Zasu Pitts).  After Effie’s brother-in-law fires Ruggles, he considers leaving town, but after having a chat with Egbert and Egbert’s mother-in-law, decides to give up being a butler to open a restaurant in Red Gap.

For the first time in his life, Ruggles is living for himself, not for somebody else.  But then, Effie gets word that his former master, the Earl of Burnstead, is coming to town to ask Ruggles to work for him again.  Effie plans a big party to impress the Earl and is thrilled to be hosting someone so elite, but there’s just one thing missing from the party — Ruggles.  When Ruggles finally arrives, he tells the Earl about his plans and rather than being upset, the Earl is happy for him.  In fact, the Earl is happy to be there for opening night of the restaurant, which is a big success.

Ruggles of Red Gap is one of those movies that was acclaimed in its day, but unfortunately doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves today.  Director Leo McCarey found just the right mix of comedic and heartfelt moments.  Charles Laughton reciting the Gettysburg Address is an absolute must-see moment.  And I absolutely loved the ending of Ruggles reacting to the outpouring of support from the town at the opening of his restaurant.  The entire cast was excellent.  Charlie Ruggles was hilarious and Mary Boland was so perfect as the status-seeking Effie.  The only thing I was disappointed by was the fact that Charlie Ruggles and Roland Young don’t get much screen time together just because I couldn’t get enough of them together in This is the Night.

I very highly recommend Ruggles of Red Gap.  It hits every note just right.

The Smiling Lieutenant (1931)

Niki von Preyn (Maurice Chevalier) is a Lieutenant in the Austrian Royal Guard.  One night, Max (Charlie Ruggles) asks Niki to join him at the beer garden to see Franzi (Claudette Colbert), a violin player, perform.  Even though Max is married, he’s got a thing for Franzi and thinks that having Niki along will make their date seem more legitimate.  But as soon as Niki sets eye on Franzi, he instantly falls in love with her and convinces Max that she is all wrong for him so he can have her all for himself.  Niki and Franzi’s relationship turns very passionate very quickly.

A wrench gets thrown into their relationship when the King of Flausenthurm and his daughter Princess Anna (Miriam Hopkins) come to Vienna.  Niki joins his fellow soldiers for their procession into town and Franzi watches on across the street from Niki.  Niki can’t resist giving Franzi a smile and a wink, but he does it just as the King and Princess Anna pass by.  Anna notices and since she isn’t the prettiest princess ever, assumes Niki is mocking her.  The incident makes all the headlines and when Niki is brought in to be disciplined, he tries to get out of this mess by saying that he was just so in awe of Anna’s beauty that he couldn’t help himself.  Flattery will get you everywhere with these royals and all is forgiven.  In fact, the King even arranges it so that Niki will be close to them for the rest of their visit, much to Anna’s delight.

Niki continues to secretly see Franzi, but Anna has developed very strong feelings for Niki.  In fact, she even goes as far as getting permission to marry him.  When Niki finds out about this, he is shocked and can’t figure out a way to get out of this mess.  With his relationship with Franzi now over, he goes ahead with his marriage to Anna.  But Anna is so uptight, dowdy, and dull that when he finds out that Franzi is in town, he starts seeing her again secretly.  When Anna finds out about this, she is very upset and wants to meet with Franzi.  Although Anna initially wants to kill Franzi, she realizes that Franzi would be a great person to get advice from on how to make Niki happy.  The two of them end up hitting it off and Franzi gives Anna some tips on modernizing her look and their visit ends with them singing a song called “Jazz Up Your Lingerie” together. Franzi’s advice proves to be a big success and Anna and Niki live happily ever after.

The Smiling Lieutenant is another one of those delightful Ernst Lubitsch pre-codes.  Super stylish, sophisticated, witty, and well acted.  The whole movie is so much fun to watch, but it’s worth seeing if only for the wonderful scene where Anna goes to confront Franzi, the sing their song, and Anna has her makeover.  It’s just so outrageous in the best possible way.  This is the kind of thing you could only get away with in the pre-code era.  Claudette Colbert and Miriam Hopkins are such a riot together!  I love Miriam Hopkins in just about anything, but she was never better than when she was in Ernst Lubitsch comedies.

Trouble In Paradise (1932)

If you want to steal from wealthy people, you have to get close to wealthy people.  And what’s the best way to get close to wealthy people?  Pretend to be a fellow wealthy person!  That’s just what Gaston Monescu (Herbert Marshall) does when he goes to Venice.  While pretending to be a Baron, he steals from plenty of prominent guests, including a countess named Lily (Miriam Hopkins).  Only Lily isn’t really a countess, she’s also a thief so she recognizes what Gaston is really there for.  He had her pegged, too, after she swiped his wallet.  The two of them are so impressed with each other’s thieving skills that they fall madly in love with each other on the spot.

Lily and Gaston are quite the crooks and they steal their way across Europe.  While in Paris, they steal a diamond-studded handbag belonging to Mariette Colet (Kay Francis), the owner of a very famous perfume company.  But when Mariette puts out an ad offering a 20,000 Franc reward for the bag’s return, they realize they’d make more by turning it in than by selling it and Gaston goes to turn it in.  But when Gaston gets there and realizes that Mariette is awfully careless with her money, he convinces her to hire him as her secretary, planning to embezzle money from her company.  The plan works and Lily even gets hired on as Gaston’s assistant.  The only thing that doesn’t go according to plan is that Gaston and Mariette fall in love with each other.

Eventually, Mariette starts bringing Gaston along with her to social gatherings, but some of Mariette’s wealthy friends recognize Gaston.  Plus people in the company are starting to suspect that Gaston has been stealing money for them.  Even though her friends warn her about him, Mariette doesn’t want to give up on Gaston.  Meanwhile, Gaston and Lily are planning to skip town, but Gaston is torn between staying with Mariette or leaving with Lily.  The last thing they had planned to steal was 100,000 Francs from her safe, but before they leave, Gaston decides to come clean to Mariette about who he is and what he was really there to do.  Lily interrupts his confession to announce that she is the one who has stolen the 100,000 Francs and that Mariette is welcome to have Gaston for that price and leaves Gaston to decide who he wants to be with.

I positively adore Trouble in Paradise.  It’s sharp, witty, got plenty of lavish sets, and a top-notch cast.  There’s no going wrong with Miriam Hopkins in an Ernst Lubitsch comedy, but when you add in Kay Francis and Herbert Marshall, plus Charlie Ruggles and Edward Everett Horton in some supporting roles, you’ve got cinematic gold.  I just love everything about it.  Trouble in Paradise is total pre-code and pure Ernst Lubitsch.

Love Me Tonight (1932)

Viscount Gilbert de Vareze (Charlie Ruggles) is a huge fan of Parisian tailor Maurice Courtelin (Maurice Chevalier).  Not because he’s a particularly big fan of his work, but because he’s the only tailor in Paris who will let him buy suits on credit.  After Gilbert buys several suits from him on credit and skips out on the bill, Maurice isn’t about to sit back and take this, so he heads out to his family’s estate to collect on the debt.  Gilbert lives with his uncle Count de Savignac (Charles Butterworth), the Count’s daughter Princess Jeanette (Jeanette MacDonald) and niece Countess Valentine (Myrna Loy).  On his way to the estate, Maurice runs into Jeanette on his way to the estate.  It’s love at first sight for him, but Jeanette isn’t as easily won over.

When Maurice arrives at the estate, he refuses to leave until Gilbert pays his bill.  Unable to pay, Gilbert goes ahead and invites Maurice to stay for a few days until he can get the money.  He tells his family that Maurice is really a Baron and  even though Maurice thinks this scheme is ridiculous, he decides to go along with it when he realizes that Jeanette lives there.  Some of the family questions his background, but ultimately, he wins them over.  They even throw a costume ball in his honor.  Valentine in particular has taken a shine to Maurice, but he still loves Jeanette and Jeanette can no longer deny that she loves him, too.

But Maurice’s cover is blown when one day he sees Jeanette’s seamstress working on a new riding habit for her and he thinks he could do better.  First he rudely dismisses the seamstress, but then the family is scandalized when he is caught with a semi-dressed Jeanette.  At last it comes out that he’s a tailor, not a Baron, and Maurice catches the next train out of there.  The only person not outraged by this revelation is Jeanette, who hops on the fastest horse she can find and chases him down.

I really enjoyed Love Me Tonight.  I wouldn’t say it’s one of my favorite movies, but it is very light, charming, and witty.  The cast is wonderful and you’ve really got to see its incredibly lavish sets.  Maurice Chevalier and Jeannette MacDonald may be the stars, and they’re great, but Myrna Loy is a total scene stealer.  Myrna’s character is very man crazed and one of my favorite moments of the movie is when Gilbert asks her if she could go for a doctor and she says, “Yes!  Bring him right in!”  Her delivery of that line is classic.  She says it in total Myrna Loy fashion and it’s perfect for this movie.

This is the Night (1932)

Claire Mathewson (Thelma Todd) is married to Olympic javelin thrower Stephen Mathewson (Cary Grant), but that doesn’t stop her from carrying on an affair with Gerald (Roland Young) while her husband is out of town for the Olympics.  One night, Clarie and Gerald were supposed to go to the theater, but then her dress gets caught in the car door and is ripped completely off, much to the amusement of the crowd in front of the theater.  They cut the night short and head back to her place, but on the way back, Claire tells Gerald that she’s planned a trip to Venice for the two of them.  Meanwhile, Gerald’s friend Bunny (Charlie Ruggles) stops by Claire’s apartment to drop off their train tickets.  What he doesn’t expect is to run into Stephen, who has decided to not go to the Olympics after all.  Of course, Stephen coming back really throws a wrench into Claire’s plans for Venice.  Thinking quickly, Bunny tries saying that the tickets were for Gerald and his wife, Claire was just going to tag along on their trip.  Stephen doesn’t quite buy that story, but he calls their bluff and insists on coming along, too.

The only problem is that now they need to find someone to pretend to be Gerald’s wife.  He tries hiring an actress, but she doesn’t want to upset her boyfriend and the she gets the out-of-work Germaine (Lili Damita) to go in her place.  Germaine goes to meet with Gerald, and of course Bunny can’t resist crashing the interview.  They initially have their doubts about her, but she manages to win them over and the next thing she knows, she’s on the train to Venice.  Claire doesn’t like her right off the bat and can’t stand seeing Gerald with her.  She tries to get Gerald to send her back to Paris, but she refuses to leave and threatens to tell Stephen what’s really going on.  But it turns out that Gerald isn’t the only one Claire has to worry about.  Stephen is a bit infatuated with Germaine.  In fact, Germaine is turning out to be the most popular lady on this trip because Bunny and even Gerald, despite his “strictly business” attitude, also begin to fall for Germaine.

Later, as Germaine is getting ready for a night out with Bunny, Gerald gets jealous and sends him away when he arrives.  Gerald takes the opportunity to really win her over and she falls for him, but is getting frustrated by this whole set-up and wants to leave.  But Bunny isn’t willing to give up so easily and tries climbing a ladder into her bedroom.  She tries to get rid of him, but he’s drunk and when he tries to leave on the ladder, he falls into a canal.  Stephen overhears the commotion, thinks there’s a burglar in Germaine’s room, and goes to investigate.  Gerald and Claire also both rush in and when they see Stephen and Germaine together, they get the wrong idea.  After he gets out of the canal, Bunny comes back to explain what happened and Claire realizes that the idea of her husband being in love with another woman has made her fall back in love with him.  Claire ends things with Gerald, leaving Gerald free to pursue Germaine.

This is the Night was Cary Grant’s film debut and was actually nearly his last.  He really didn’t care for this movie at all and hated it so much that he almost left the industry all together.  But luckily, he was talked out of it and the rest is history.  But even if Cary Grant didn’t like it, I absolutely adore it.  Actually, I’m kind of obsessed with it and I’ve mentioned before that I wish I could live in that movie.  I’ve heard some people call it a “poor man’s Ernst Lubitsch film,” but even a poor man’s Ernst Lubitsch is still pretty darn entertaining.  It’s hilarious and very pre-code.  The cast had great chemistry together, especially Charlie Ruggles and Roland Young.  And I just love how stylized it is.  I’m not even quite sure what to compare it to.  There are times when it kinda reminds me of a silent film with the way the outdoor night scenes are tinted blue and how in the very beginning, it’s just music and synchronized sound effects.  Then there are moments where it almost turns into a musical, but it doesn’t quite go all the way with it.  It’s certainly a unique one, that’s for sure.  I can’t get enough of it.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Friends of Mr. Sweeney (1934)

Back in his college days, Asaph “Ace” Holliday (Charlie Ruggles) and his best friend Wynn Rixey (Eugene Pallette) were known as a couple of the wildest guys in town.  But after spending a few years writing for The Balance, a newspaper run by Franklyn Brumbaugh, he’s turned into a different man.  Brumbaugh’s overly conservative nature has broken Asaph’s spirit.  Even his secretary Beulah (Ann Dvorak) has noticed a change in him.  When Asaph writes an unfavorable editorial about politician Stephen Prime, Brumbaugh orders it to be rewritten in a more positive way since he and Prime are friends.  The old Asaph would have thrown that editorial right in Burmbaugh’s face, but the new Asaph reluctantly agrees.

One day, he gets a telegram from his old friend Rixey and starts reminiscing about the good old days.  Once he starts remembering how he used to be, he finally works up the nerve to ask Beulah to dinner.  She invites him to have dinner at her apartment, but when he arrives, he’s surprised to find her friends Millie and Alex, an outspoken communist, will be joining them.  He ends up getting drunk with them and while hungover the next morning, Asaph agrees to publish a tirade against Prime that Alex has written.  But when Prime finds out about the article Alex has written, he sets out to stop it any way he can.

When Rixey arrives town, Asaph is determined to prove that he’s still the same guy he used to be.  Asaph calls up Beulah, has her bring another girl, and the four of them head out to an exclusive club that they get into by pretending to be “friends of Mr. Sweeney.”  Asaph has no idea who Mr. Sweeney is, but it sounds impressive enough to get them in and give all of them a swell night at the club.  But as the night goes on and Asaph gets more in touch with his old self, he decides he’s going to stand up to Brumbaugh and write that editorial the way he wants to.  Asaph, Beulah, and Rixey head over to the newspaper offices to work on it (Asaph sent Beulah’s friend home when he decided she was too boring). When they arrive, they find Brumbaugh and his mistress being held at gunpoint.  Asaph manages to get the gun away from the burglar and uses it to hold the burglar, Brumbaugh, and his mistress at gunpoint while he writes the article the way he wants to.

I ended up liking Friends of Mr. Sweeney a lot more than I thought I would.  I didn’t have particularly high expectations for it, but it was really funny.  If you’re a fan of Charlie Ruggles, it’s definitely worth checking out.  He really knew how to get the most out of his material here.  Ann Dvorak was petty enjoyable as well.  If you’ve got about an hour to kill, watching this movie isn’t a bad way to spend it.

Movies I Want to Live In: This is the Night (1932)

Sometimes I come across a movie that is so incredibly charming, funny, and all-around stylish that I wish I could walk right into the movie and live in it.  1932’s This is the Night is definitely one of those movies.  Here are eight reasons why:

(more…)