In 1935 frequent movie goers might have reached the conclusion that Charles Laughton was the greatest and most versatile actor in Hollywood. He could be seen in Les Miserables as the obsessive and tragic Javert. He was Oscar nominated for iconic and still imitated turn as Captain William Bligh in Mutiny on the Bounty. Perhaps the most likeable and sweetest role he ever played was Marmaduke Ruggles in Leo McCarey’s version of Ruggles of Red Gap.
Belknap-Jackson pulls some dirty work to get Ruggles out of town and out of the way. Above note the look of joy and relief on Laughton's face when Ruggles discovers that those he believed were truly his friends were not behind his dismissal. Sharing lunch in the saloon with Egbert and Ma leads to a justly lauded scene where Laughton/Ruggles movingly recites President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Ruggles is no longer a third generation servant. Ruggles may not know exactly who he is, but he is a man. A man at the crossroads. The Earl of Burnstead has found life pretty tough on a fellow who has to pick out his own clothes and will soon be arriving to set the universe aright by bringing Ruggles back to the fold. The Earl’s visit will also place Effie and the Belknap-Jacksons back at the top of the social ladder, where they belong.
Tradition and duty is thoroughly ingrained in Ruggles' character. What will become of Ruggles and his dreams? What would you do if you were he? What does Mrs. Judson think of her beloved's secret life? What do you want to happen for Ruggles? What about poor Effie? If you can watch the perfect ending to this charming movie without both smiling and shedding a little tear, you are made of sterner stuff than this writer.