Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)

In director Leo McCarey's western comedy (with a sole Best Picture nomination), it told about a clash of cultures and classes, and also functioned as a fish-out-of-water tale and comedy of errors; its tale was about a British manservant-valet who was mistakenly identified as an important society figure in a turn-of-the-century frontier town:

  • the film opened in Paris in 1908, where upper class British Lord George Van Bassingwell, the Earl of Burnstead (Roland Young) was being attended to by his very proper, stuffy, yet extremely efficient man-servant/butler Marmaduke "Bill" Ruggles (Charles Laughton)
  • in a separate scene, two nouveau riche westerners who were visiting Paris (from Red Gap, Washington) were introduced: the unmannered, boorish, unrefined, hick, and millionaire lumber and rancher-cattle baron Egbert Floud (aka "Sourdough") (Charlie Ruggles) and his dominating, society-conscious wife Effie Floud (Mary Boland)
  • Egbert argued with his socially-ambitious, nagging, and pretentious wife Effie, who intended to have a British valet refine their country-bumpkin lives and make them cultured: ("I'm going to turn you into a gentleman if it kills Red Gap, it will give us, er...tone, joie de vivre"); Egbert was resistent: "I ain't gonna have no English valet....I got about as much use for one of them as a pig has for side pockets"
  • it was revealed that the Earl had unexpectedly lost his British valet in the previous night's game of high-stakes poker with the Flouds and he was now bound for America: ("You're going out to America"): Ruggles stoically accepted the sudden news, although was worried about entering the "untamed" USA: "America, my lord, a country of slavery"; the Earl hesitantly explained to his faithful, proud and prim servant that he had lost him due to his failure at bluffing at cards with Egbert: ("They won you...We were playing this game of drawing poker, you see, and it seems there's a thing called 'bluffing'. Though I say it, myself, I'm particularly good at it... I didn't realize that they were bluffing, too. I, uh, I had three of the eights against a flush of clubs. So you really only lost by one eight...I do hope you don't think I didn't lose you gamely as a gentleman should")
  • once Ruggles left the Earl and was in the company of his new owners - Effie greeted him: "I do hope and trust you're going to like it with us, both here and in Red Gap...our home town, you know, in the state of Washington. It's a little, uh... bourgeoisie, I'm afraid, but I think you'll find a few of us who still really care about what's happening in the, haute monde"; she joined Ruggles and Egbert to purchase new clothes ("a whole new outfit") for her husband in a posh, upscale men's coiffeurs shop; after being dressed in formal 'morning clothes,' Egbert reacted uncomfortably: "I look like that bantam rooster I had before it was run over"
  • to bring culture to her husband while she shopped, Effie sent Ruggles and Egbert off to see the art galleries (such as the Louvre Museum), but the crass, loud and obnoxious American-born Egbert waywardly directed the two of them instead to a local outdoor cafe where he insisted that Ruggles sit down and join him - in the spirit of egalitarianism: ("You're as good as I am, and I'm as good as you are, ain't I?"); Ruggles was at first very reluctant: ("It is rather a shock to find oneself breaking the tradition of generations"); he also objected when Egbert kept calling him 'Colonel' instead of Mr. Ruggles: ("If we were overheard, sir, people might take us to be equals"), but Egbert wouldn't hear it: "Well, listen. Where I come from, everybody is equal, see?"
  • Egbert encouraged Ruggles to become his drinking buddy: "Come on, Colonel, wrap your paw around that there glass"; later after becoming soused or "pickled," Ruggles unexpectedly burped out: "Yahoo!" - to Egbert's surprise: "Well, by crikey, I didn't know he had it in him!"; the valet also let out a series of caterwauled "Yippees"!; afterwards, they visited an amusement park and went riding on a merry-go-round - it was unlike the prim valet to behave so wildly for someone who had traditionally lived his entire life by class system rules; upon their return to Effie, Ruggles was completely inebriated - he collapsed into Effie's arms before falling to the floor and laughing hysterically

Egbert and Ruggles Sitting Down for a Beer Together

Ruggles: "Yahoo!"

Ruggles on Merry-Go-Round
  • the next morning, Effie reprimanded Ruggles for his crass behavior: "You don't look like a periodical souse...But I shall forgive and forget. That's my nature"; in a short montage, Ruggles fearfully imagined life in America at Red Gap - with double-exposed images of Indians attacking a stagecoach
  • with the Flouds, Ruggles sailed back to America, and then via train arrived in the tiny West Coast frontier boom-town of Red Gap, Washington ("the fastest-growin' town in the West"); there they were met by Effie's snobby, aristocratic and priggish brother-in-law Charles Belknap-Jackson (Lucien Littlefield) and his wife (Leota Lorraine) (Effie's sister), and Egbert's saucy, down-to-earth, cigarette-smoking mother-in-law "Ma" Pettingill (Maude Eburne); Effie explained how she had acquired the English manservant to "lend a continental flavor to the Floud mansion" - all of the Floud family members lived in a huge mansion
Meeting Relatives in Red Gap

Ruggles with Effie's Priggish Brother in Law Charles Belknap-Jackson

Ruggles with Egbert's Mother-in-Law 'Ma' Pettingill
  • Egbert, who continued to treat Ruggles as an equal, introduced Ruggles as "Colonel" to everyone in this land of opportunity - a title that was soon misinterpreted by a newspaper reporter as Ruggles' designation as a retired British Army colonel with a high social and military status
  • while Ruggles was out on the town one evening with Egbert, they came upon an outdoor garden party at the home of beautiful barkeeper and dance-hall girl Nell Kenner (Leila Hyams), singing "By the Light of the Silvery Moon"; Ruggles met up with widowed Mrs. Prunella Judson (Zasu Pitts)), a humble townsmember who asked for an evaluation of her meat sauce; when she became irked by his suggestions on what spices would improve her renowned sauce, he tried to calm her down: "Let's not have an international row about it!" - he was quickly smitten by her, and asked her to dance
  • a misunderstand arose when Ruggles was reprimanded at the dance by Belknap-Jackson for disobedience (for not following orders given by Effie, although Egbert had commanded him to socialize and "mix") - and he returned a swift kick to Belknap's backside; the next day, Belknap-Jackson recommended that Ruggles be fired even though Ruggles apologized: "I coarsely gave way to the brute in me"; Effie chimed in: "In Paris, you led my poor husband astray. And now you've started assaulting the family. Ruggles, you will have to go"; however, "Ma" noted that Ruggles had been lauded in the society pages of the morning's newspaper - everyone in town regarded him as an honored guest rather than as a lowly servant: "Colonel Marmaduke Ruggles, late of the British Army, and an intimate friend of the Earl of Burnstead, is at present an honored house guest of Mr and Mrs Egbert Floud!"; Ruggles' firing was immediately postponed
  • later, Ruggles again spoke to skilled culinary artist Mrs. Judson at her home - where he offered expert British advice on making a proper cup of tea: ("Oh, no! Always bring the pot to the kettle. Never bring the kettle to the pot...But you must listen to an Englishman about tea. If it were coffee, I should be your pupil. But we're making tea, and when making tea, always bring the pot to the kettle and never bring the kettle to the pot"); and then, with "intense satisfaction," he mixed up ingredients for baked scones to accompany the tea
  • while the Flouds were on their way out of town to their ranch, the stubbornly-spiteful Charles Belknap-Jackson took the opportunity to 'discharge' Ruggles in their absence without permission; about to leave town (on a 3 hours delayed train bound for San Francisco), Ruggles entered into the town's Western barroom, the Silver Dollar Saloon where he found Egbert and "Ma" having a drink; Egbert reversed Belknap's directive, but Ruggles complained that he no longer wished to be a servant - he was convinced that he could fulfill his own dream to be free and become a self-made man: "I can't go on posing as what I'm not, and I don't wish to remain in service any longer, Sir. I want to make something of myself. I would like to stand on my own two feet. This is a land, sir, of great opportunity where all are created equal"; Egbert concurred about the idea of equality: "Like Lincoln said that day at Gettysburg. He hit the nail right on the nose when he said..." - but then Egbert faltered and couldn't remember the words; no one in the bar knew the speech either, but Ruggles proved that he had memorized it by softly beginning to recite the words to Egbert: ("Four score and seven years ago...")
  • to answer everyone's confusion and lack of knowledge, and after being asked by "Ma" to recite the entire address, Ruggles showed the crowd how he was inspired by "what Lincoln said at Gettysburg" - he seriously and masterfully recited from memory the entire "Gettysburg Address" to the audience - first softly and then reaching a higher volume as more dumb-founded, undignified but subdued cowhands, bar-drinkers and patrons moved closer and listened in (with multiple cutaway shots) - it was the film's climactic high point
Ruggles Reciting Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" in Silver Dollar Saloon
  • with encouragement from Mrs. Judson and others, it was suggested that Ruggles - to stand on his own two feet - open a new restaurant in town; Prunella volunteered to aid in the kitchen, and a business loan from Egbert and a building location owned by "Ma" would help him get started; the name Anglo-American Grille was finally decided upon; Ruggles would be freed and liberated from his job duties to become an entrepreneur and attain the American democratic dream of self-determination
  • Ruggles claimed to Mrs. Judson that he was the first Ruggles in generations to end subservience and become his own boss: ("My father was a gentleman's gentleman, and his father before him. And from that heritage of service miraculously there comes a man. A person of importance, however small. A man whose decisions and whose future are in his own hands")
  • Effie and Egbert engaged in a dispute after he briefly cited Lincoln's Gettysburg Address as the rationale for his equality with women: ("Men are created equal to women! That's why you have no right to order me around the way you do. Abe Lincoln said so"); she retorted back: "He also said, 'You can fool some of the people some of the time and All of the people some of the time.' But you can't fool me, Egbert Floud, ANY of the time, you striped bass!")
  • due to an impending visit by Lord Burnstead, Ruggles feared that the Earl would be reclaiming him and taking him back to England to resume his hereditary life of servitude - he was ready to give up his restaurant dream: ("It's heredity and loyalty, and I suppose you could call it habit if you wanted to"), although Mrs. Judson vehemently objected; Ruggles disappeared when the Earl arrived, and Mrs. Judson feared that he may have suicidally jumped into the river
  • during his time in town, the Earl met beautiful singer Nell at Effie's dinner party held in his honor - Nell graciously helped him to tie his tie, and then when she agreed that she didn't believe in love at first sight, he added: "That's why I'd like to stay a little while, if I may"; in an improvised music sequence, the Earl flirtatiously played drums to accompany Nell while she sang "Pretty Baby" to him
  • during the party, Ruggles reappeared and declared his 'independence' from the Earl because of his new status as a free man: ("Here in Red Gap I am considered important...When people think you are someone, you begin to think you are. That's what I've been fighting about with myself all day, my lord. Am I someone or am I not?...Oh, I am someone, my lord"); and he firmly announced that he wouldn't return to London, because he was entering a trade (opening a restaurant)
  • on opening night of the Grille, guests included Egbert, Effie, Belknap-Jackson and many other society friends from town; the late-arriving Earl took the occasion to announce his new engaged bride, Nell Kenner ("She's going to be my countess"), but was then insulted behind his back by Belknap-Jackson for marrying beneath his class: ("Making a countess of a cheap dancer!"); Ruggles heard the insult, defended his former master, grabbed the nasty Belknap-Jackson by the neck and threw him out: ("I'm not forgetting that I am proprietor of this place and as proprietor of this place I am politely asking you to leave, sir"); afterwards in the kitchen, Ruggles feared he had gone too far and ruined his business: ("So, I'm a failure")
  • however, in the final scene, Ruggles' fears were unfounded - the Earl delivered a speech in Ruggles' defense; Ruggles was summoned from the kitchen and brought into the dining room, where the entire crowd sang "He's a Jolly Good Fellow"; Egbert suddenly realized that the song was for him!: "Why, you old plate of soup, they're singing it for you!"; Ruggles was thankful and jubilant: "My friends, God Bless You All!"

Announcement of Nell's Engagement to the Earl

Ruggles Ejecting Belknap-Jackson For His Insult to the Earl

A Song Dedicated to Ruggles: "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow"

Egbert and Effie Floud in Paris

The Earl with his Valet Ruggles

Ruggles Receiving the News of His Master's Loss of Him to the Flouds - He Was Destined For America

The Earl with Egbert - Picking Up His New Valet

Ruggles with Effie

Drunken Ruggles Falling onto Effie After a Night on the Town with Egbert

Ruggles' Fears of America - Indians on the Attack

Nell Kenner - The Frontier Town's Dance-Hall Singer (Leila Hyams)

Mrs. Prunella Judson
(Zasu Pitts)

Ruggles - At The Center of Society's Attention in Red Gap

Ruggles' Advice to Mrs. Judson About Making Tea

Ruggles' Desire to Be Free From Servanthood: "I would like to stand on my own two feet"

Plans For a New Restaurant in Town

Ruggles Declaration to Mrs. Judson: "A man whose decisions and whose future are in his own hands"

Egbert vs. Effie

Nell Tying the Earl's Tie

The Earl on Drums with Nell - "Pretty Baby"

Ruggles' Declaration of Independence From the Earl


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