Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)

“This is a land of great opportunity, where all are created equal!”

Marmaduke Ruggles (Charles Laughton), valet to the Earl of Burnstead (Roland Young), is gambled off to an American couple (Charles Ruggles and Mary Boland) in Paris, who bring him back to their hometown of Red Gap, Washington. Once there, Ruggles is mistaken for a British colonel, and able to create a new life for himself.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Character Arc
  • Charles Laughton Films
  • Class Relations
  • Comedy
  • Leo McCarey Films
  • Mistaken or Hidden Identities
  • Roland Young Films
  • Zasu Pitts Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this “Leo McCarey comedy” — about “a British valet who has always done his job loyally and impeccably, at the cost of his spirit, self-esteem, and personality” — is “still pleasing”. It’s touching to see how accepted Ruggles is by most of the Americans he encounters, including his down-to-earth, mustachioed employer Egbert (played by Charles Ruggles, oddly enough); Egbert’s saucy mother, “Ma’ Pettingill (Maude Eburne); and countless others. While “the film isn’t consistently funny, there are many special moments”, including Laughtong getting drunk in Paris and burping out “Yippee!”:

… Laughton solemnly reciting the Gettysburg Address in a saloon while the townspeople of Red Gap look on in amazement:

… and the Earl of Burnstead (Roland Young) accompanying a beautiful singer (Leila Hyams) on the drums.

As Peary notes, “You’ve got to appreciate the every-man-is-equal theme [of this film] — it may be a trite message, but few films have delivered it.”

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Charles Laughton as Marmaduke Ruggles
  • Charles Ruggles as Laughton’s new employer, Egbert
  • Mary Boland as Egbert’s nagging, social-climbing wife
  • Many touching moments

Must See?
Yes; this is an unsung comedy of the 1930s.


  • Genuine Classic
  • Noteworthy Performance(s)


One thought on “Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)

  1. A must – mostly for its place in cinema history, but esp. for Charles Laughton’s memorable performance. Laughton tended to be cast as the heavy but this is one of those instances in which he is clearly having a gay (as it were) old time. (And knowing what we know now about him, his performance has added subtextual value.)

    While not a hilarious comedy, it’s pleasantly diverting – and one of the better films of Leo McCarey, a director whose work at times seemed to lean dangerously toward cloying. (Though it’s good to remember he also helmed ‘Duck Soup’!)

    Fave scene: Young explaining to Laughton that he lost him in a poker game. Laughton’s vocal tone, face and eyes are priceless.

    Amusing dialogue sprinkled throughout:

    Laughton: Oh, I am someone, m’lord.
    Young: Oh, let me be the first to congratulate you. How did you ever find it out?
    Laughton: You recall an Abraham Lincoln, m’lord?
    Young: Oh, yes, the fellow with a cherry tree.
    Laughton: …No, m’lord.

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