Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)

90 mins | Western | 8 March 1935

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HISTORY

Harry Leon Wilson's novel was serialized in SEP and was adapted for the stage by Harrison Rhodes (New York, 25 Dec 1915). A production still for the film shows actress Georgia Caine in one scene, but her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. On 3 Aug 1934, DV announced that Charlie Ruggles had been replaced by Sidney Toler because Ruggles was working on The Pursuit of Happiness . By 24 Aug, however, Ruggles was back in the cast so that Paramount could capitalize on the "team build-up" of Ruggles and Mary Boland. Their first film in which they played husband and wife was The Night of June 13 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.3137). In an early script, dated 3 Nov 1934--three days before production began--Baby LeRoy is listed for the role of "Baby Judson," but was later replaced by Ricard Cezon. According to HR news items, shooting on this film was delayed because Charles Laughton was returned to Paramount from M-G-M with a shaved head, after playing the part of Micawber in M-G-M's David Copperfield for two days. M-G-M dismissed Laughton and replaced him with W. C. Fields (for more information, see the entry on David Copperfield in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.0971) Paramount reportedly asked M-G-M to pay the studio for the delay.
       Ruggles of Red Gap was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture of 1935, as were two other Laughton films: Les Miserables and Mutiny on the Bounty ... More Less

Harry Leon Wilson's novel was serialized in SEP and was adapted for the stage by Harrison Rhodes (New York, 25 Dec 1915). A production still for the film shows actress Georgia Caine in one scene, but her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. On 3 Aug 1934, DV announced that Charlie Ruggles had been replaced by Sidney Toler because Ruggles was working on The Pursuit of Happiness . By 24 Aug, however, Ruggles was back in the cast so that Paramount could capitalize on the "team build-up" of Ruggles and Mary Boland. Their first film in which they played husband and wife was The Night of June 13 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.3137). In an early script, dated 3 Nov 1934--three days before production began--Baby LeRoy is listed for the role of "Baby Judson," but was later replaced by Ricard Cezon. According to HR news items, shooting on this film was delayed because Charles Laughton was returned to Paramount from M-G-M with a shaved head, after playing the part of Micawber in M-G-M's David Copperfield for two days. M-G-M dismissed Laughton and replaced him with W. C. Fields (for more information, see the entry on David Copperfield in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.0971) Paramount reportedly asked M-G-M to pay the studio for the delay.
       Ruggles of Red Gap was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture of 1935, as were two other Laughton films: Les Miserables and Mutiny on the Bounty , which won the award (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.2900 and F3.3020). The New York Film Critics Circle, in their first annual award, selected Laughton as Best Actor of 1935 for his performance as Ruggles and his portrayal of Captain Bligh, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. Ruggles of Red Gap was one of FD 's "Ten Best Pictures of 1935" and was listed in the 1935-36 MPA as a Mar 1935 "Box Office Champion." Although Ralph Rainger and Sam Coslow are credited with having written songs for this film, no titles were found. According to the autobiography of Elsa Lanchester, Laughton's wife, Paramount bought the story and appointed McCarey as director at Laughton's request. Before the film began shooting, Lanchester states, Laughton worked with McCarey and the film's writers on the script, and hired an old friend, Arthur MacRae, who later became a playwright in England, to add the "necessary Englishness" of Ruggles.
       Reviews praised Laughton highly for his performance in this film. DV reported that "for the first time in pictures, he has not been cast as a psychopathic subject." Var remarked that "it's not satire; it's not a pathological character study. Just plain comedy, and he's splendid, especially when he uses that dead pan." NYT stated that "Laughton gives us a pudgy, droll and quite irresistible Ruggles who reveals only the briefest taint of the Laughton pathology." Laughton specifically was praised for his serious delivery of Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" to a silenced audience of barflies and cowboys in a saloon. Var called McCarey's insertion of the speech "dangerous" and "audacious." DV reported that the sequence brought "sustained applause from the audience, due to Laughton's delivery." In an article in SEP in 1949, Laughton wrote that Ruggles became his favorite role. He referred to his reading of the "Gettysburg Address" in the film as "one of the most moving things that ever happened to me." According to a modern source, Laughton recited the address to the cast and crew of Mutiny on the Bounty on the last day of shooting on Catalina Island and again on the set of The Hunchback of Notre Dame . According to a modern source, Nazi Germany banned the release of any German-dubbed version of this film because of the Gettysburg Address speech.
       A modern source also reports that Laughton wanted Ruth Gordon to play the role of Mrs. Judson. According to Lanchester's biography, while rehearsing for Ruggles of Red Gap , Laughton was hospitalized for several weeks for a rectal abscess. According to DV , following the box office success of this film, M-G-M optioned all of the Harry Leon Wilson "Ma Pettingill" stories, and Wilson joined the M-G-M writing staff on 15 Apr 1935. Paramount re-issued Ruggles of Red Gap in late Aug 1937. Wilson's story was the source of a 1918 Essanay film directed by Lawrence C. Windom, starring Taylor Holmes; a 1923 Famous Players-Lasky film directed by James Cruze and starring Edward Everett Horton (see above entries); and the 1950 Paramount film, Fancy Pants , starring Bob Hope and Lucille Ball. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
3 Aug 34
p. 1.
Daily Variety
6 Nov 34
p. 3.
Daily Variety
2 Feb 35
p. 3.
Daily Variety
13 Apr 35
p. 1.
Film Daily
19 Feb 35
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Oct 34
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 35
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Mar 35
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Aug 37
p. 4.
Motion Picture Daily
4 Feb 35
p. 9.
Motion Picture Herald
17 Nov 34
p. 45.
Motion Picture Herald
16 Feb 35
p. 47.
New York Times
7 Mar 35
p. 26.
The Saturday Evening Post
28 May 1949.
---
Variety
13 Mar 35
p. 15.
Variety
20 Mar 35
p. 15.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
Contr to adpt
Contr to adpt
Contr on special seq
Contr to trmt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
SOUND
PRODUCTION MISC
Press agent
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Ruggles of Red Gap by Harry Leon Wilson (New York, 1915).
MUSIC
"The Maple Leaf Rag" by Scott Joplin.
SONGS
"Pretty Baby," music by Egbert Van Alstyne and Tony Jackson, lyrics by Gus Kahn
other songs, music by Ralph Rainger, lyrics by Sam Coslow.
COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
8 March 1935
Production Date:
began 6 November 1934
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
19 February 1935
Copyright Number:
LP5344
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
90
Length(in feet):
8,106
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
PCA No:
537
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In Paris in the spring of 1908, the Earl of Burnstead regretfully informs his manservant, Marmaduke Ruggles, that he has lost Ruggles in a poker game to the genial, but roughhewn millionaire Egbert "Sourdough" Floud, who, on the insistence of his dominating, society-conscious wife Effie, intends to take Ruggles to their home in Red Gap, Washington. Before they leave Paris, however, Ruggles, who is assigned to oversee his new master's cultural education, begins to fall under Egbert's egalitarian influence, getting drunk and abandoning many of his professional traditions. In Red Gap, Egbert continues to treat Ruggles as an equal. He playfully introduces Ruggles as a colonel and generates a false newspaper article that obliges Effie and her snobbish brother-in-law, Charles Belknap-Jackson, to pretend that Ruggles is an honored guest instead of a servant. When Belknap-Jackson dismisses Ruggles, he sadly packs his bags and, while waiting for the train, enters the Silver Dollar Saloon. There, Egbert and his wealthy, down-to-earth mother-in-law, "Ma" Pettingill, are outraged to learn that Belknap-Jackson fired Ruggles without their consent. A discussion of egalitarianism ensues, and when no one in the bar can remember President Abraham Lincoln's address at Gettysburg, Ruggles recites the speech in full from memory to the astonishment of the crowd. He then decides to become the first Ruggles in generations to quit being a manservant and go into business for himself. With the help of widow Prunella Judson, a local woman with whom he is smitten, and a business loan from Egbert and Ma, Ruggles begins work on his restaurant. When Effie informs Ruggles of the impending visit of the Earl of Burnstead, who wants him ... +


In Paris in the spring of 1908, the Earl of Burnstead regretfully informs his manservant, Marmaduke Ruggles, that he has lost Ruggles in a poker game to the genial, but roughhewn millionaire Egbert "Sourdough" Floud, who, on the insistence of his dominating, society-conscious wife Effie, intends to take Ruggles to their home in Red Gap, Washington. Before they leave Paris, however, Ruggles, who is assigned to oversee his new master's cultural education, begins to fall under Egbert's egalitarian influence, getting drunk and abandoning many of his professional traditions. In Red Gap, Egbert continues to treat Ruggles as an equal. He playfully introduces Ruggles as a colonel and generates a false newspaper article that obliges Effie and her snobbish brother-in-law, Charles Belknap-Jackson, to pretend that Ruggles is an honored guest instead of a servant. When Belknap-Jackson dismisses Ruggles, he sadly packs his bags and, while waiting for the train, enters the Silver Dollar Saloon. There, Egbert and his wealthy, down-to-earth mother-in-law, "Ma" Pettingill, are outraged to learn that Belknap-Jackson fired Ruggles without their consent. A discussion of egalitarianism ensues, and when no one in the bar can remember President Abraham Lincoln's address at Gettysburg, Ruggles recites the speech in full from memory to the astonishment of the crowd. He then decides to become the first Ruggles in generations to quit being a manservant and go into business for himself. With the help of widow Prunella Judson, a local woman with whom he is smitten, and a business loan from Egbert and Ma, Ruggles begins work on his restaurant. When Effie informs Ruggles of the impending visit of the Earl of Burnstead, who wants him to return to his service, Ruggles' loyalty to the earl and to his profession causes him to hesitate. When the earl arrives and Ruggles is found missing, Prunella fears he may have jumped in the river, but his Americanization has gone too far; he shows up and declares his independence to the earl, who congratulates him. The night Ruggles' Anglo-American Grill opens, Effie, Belnap-Jackson and their society friends are among the guests. When the earl arrives with his bride, Nell Kenner, a dancer and native of Red Gap, Belnap-Jackson insults the earl for marrying beneath his class, and Ruggles throws him out. Returning to the kitchen, Ruggles fears the incident has caused his ruin, but the earl gives a speech in Ruggles' honor. The crowd then breaks into a chorus of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow," and Ruggles is overjoyed to realize they are singing, not for the earl, but for him. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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