RUGGLES OF RED GAP (1935)

Dir. Leo McCarey

Charles Laughton paid tribute to his adopted home in the U.S. with this delightful character comedy. In the third film version of Harry Leon Wilson's popular novel, he stars as a British butler transformed when American rancher Charlie Ruggles wins him in a poker game and brings him home to the Wild West. With his first tastes of liquor, independence and love (with local widow ZaSu Pitts), Laughton soon goes from strait-laced servant to free-thinking frontiersman, a character arc cemented by the star's quite moving recitation of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. After a string of successes as near-psychopaths like Nero and Dr. Moreau, Laughton asked Paramount for this much-needed change of pace and got them to assign director Leo McCarey, the comedy veteran who had brought together Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Not only did he score a huge hit and the first New York Film Critics Award for Best Actor, but his performance of the Gettysburg Address, added at his request, returned the speech to a popularity it still holds.

In attendance: Norman Lloyd, Todd McCarthy.

RUGGLES OF RED GAP
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