Sunday, March 25, 2012

TOP 300 MOVIES OF ALL TIME: #221 "Ruggles of Red Gap" (1935)

Leo McCarey was one of the greatest directors who ever lived and thankfully in recent years we have rediscovered his 1935 classic "Ruggles of Red Gap". I watched it for the first time a couple years ago and fell in love with it.

Charles Laughton is a servant to an English Lord played by Roland Young who is a pathetic gambler. In short, he loses Ruggles in a card game. Sounds dumb? It's great. He's lost to Charlie Ruggles, a wealthy westerner from Washington State. Ruggles becomes a celebrity when he is confused for a "Colonel".

This is a story of a man who lived to serve and knew nothing else and expected nothing more. His life is changed so much for the better. And in a wonderfully amusing way. He refuses to be anyone's patsy, or pretend to be a man of importance as Charlie Ruggles's family insists. He finds a purpose beyond anything he expected. He opens a bar/restaurant and becomes the toast of the town.

This is also great Americana as film making goes, but not in a preachy fashion. That is a great trait of McCarey as director. The signature moment as shown below is the recitation of the "Gettysburg Address" by Laughton as Ruggles. All the more wonderful because as a Briton he knows by heart what no American in the bar can remember. It is a splendid demonstration of how a free people can lose its most precious moments in the day to day exercise of liberty and how a simple man from afar can be inspired to commit to memory the words of the "Great Emancipator". Ruggles, a lifelong servant free to be anything he chooses schools those born in such a world of promise. A true delight, one of my favorites and one of the greatest films of all time.

Leo McCarey would go on to direct other classics like The Awful Truth, Make Way For Tomorrow, Love Affair, and Going My Way, all classics, but this my favorite. Additional details can be found at IMDB.

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