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Film / Ruggles of Red Gap

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Ruggles of Red Gap is a 1935 comedy film directed by Leo McCarey and starring Charles Laughton. It was adapted from a best-selling 1915 novel of the same name by Harry Leon Wilson.

Ruggles (Laughton) is the prim, proper valet to the Earl of Burnstead (Roland Young). One night in Paris the Earl fares badly at cards, and loses Ruggles to an American tourist, Egbert Floud (played, coincidentally enough, by Charlie Ruggles). The very English Ruggles is uncomfortable in the company of the loud, brash Egbert, and doesn't like his snooty, socially ambitious wife Effie (Mary Boland) much better, but because the plot demands it, Ruggles agrees to accompany them back to their hometown of Red Gap, Washington. Ruggles is initially uncomfortable in America, but he makes new friends and finds romance with Mrs. Judson (ZaSu Pitts), a local widow. However, Effie's sister (Leota Lorraine) and her husband Charles Belknap-Jackson (Lucien Littlefield) take a dislike to Ruggles, seeing him as a threat to their social pre-eminence in Red Gap, and then there's the matter of the Earl, who wants Ruggles back as his valet.

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Tropes:

  • Amusement Park: Egbert and his buddy drag Ruggles to one.
  • The Edwardian Era: Set in 1908. Red Gap itself has a Twilight of the Old West flavor.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: Well, how else to show that Ruggles and Earl Burnstead are in Paris?
  • Embarrassing First Name: It seems like Ruggles is reluctant to give his first name because valets aren't addressed by their first name—until he finally reveals his first name to be "Marmaduke".
  • Fish out of Water: Much humor is to be had from Ruggles' culture shock, first from hanging out with Egbert, and then after accompanying the Flouds to the one-horse mining town of Red Gap.
  • Henpecked Husband: Effie is constantly hassling Egbert, changing his wardrobe, forcing him to trim his mustache, trying to strong-arm him into taking tours of Paris museums, and insisting on taking Ruggles home when Egbert is willing to forget the idea.
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  • An Immigrant's Tale: Doesn't start out this way, as Ruggles is brought to the USA against his will. But he's inspired by the country and the people he meets, and in the climactic scene, recites the Gettysburg Address from memory, leaving the locals spellbound. He leaves service and opens up a restaurant.
  • Insistent Terminology: For some reason, Egbert keeps calling Ruggles "Colonel".
  • The Jeeves: Ruggles the hyper-correct, proper English valet, struggles with both Egbert's desire to regard him as a drinking buddy and Effie's desire to use him as a prop to make the Flouds more socially prominent.
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: When Charles Belknap-Jackson gets too obnoxious at the opening of Ruggles' restaurant, Ruggles kicks him out.
  • Lost Him in a Card Game: How the plot gets started, as the Earl bets Ruggles in a card game and loses.
  • Love at First Sight: When the Earl meets Nell Kenner, the prettiest citizen of Red Gap, he is enchanted, and moved to ask "Do you believe in love at first sight?".
  • Nouveau Riche: Egbert Floud made his money in mining, which doesn't stop him from wearing unsightly checkered suits and playing piggyback with his buddies on the sidewalks of Paris.
  • Spot of Tea: Ruggles tells Mrs. Judson that you have to bring the cup to the teapot, and when she balks, says that he'll listen to her about coffee, "but you must listen to an Englishman about tea."
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Ruggles struggles mightily to keep the lip in place when Egbert does things like insisting on calling him "Colonel" and trying to hold door open for Ruggles instead of the other way around.
  • Wacky Americans Have Wacky Names: "Egbert Floud"?
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