Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Ruggles of Red Gap

Paramount Pictures
Director: Leo McCarey
Length: 90 min.
Format: 35mm
Date Viewed: 21 February

It's always difficult to fathom why certain films go on to become classics and others are left in the dust. Why, for instance, are the mediocre films Bringing Up Baby and The Philadelphia Story considered comedy classics while the outstanding Ruggles of Red Gap is now largely forgotten? Directed by Leo McCarey, this film is consistently hilarious, moving and sweetly romantic.

Ruggles of Red Gap serves as a passionate criticism of the unnecessarily rigid British class system and makes a very good case against it (but naturally forgets that America, too, has a class system, though granted it's much less restrictive than that of the UK). The cast is uniformly great, and all show impeccable comedic timing. The romance between Ruggles (Charles Laughton, perfect in the role) and Prunella Judson (Zasu Pitts) provides maybe the cutest screen couples ever seen, and Ruggles' recitation of the Gettysburg Address is as inspirational and powerful now as it must have been 71 years ago.

This film is exceptionally rare (the only known film print in existence is playing in Seattle this week), but is very highly recommended. This is most certainly one of the best American comedies.


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