Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935). 90 minutes. Directed by Leo McCarey. Starring Charles Laughton (as Ruggles), Mary Boland (as Effie Floud), Charlie Ruggles (as Egbert Floud), ZaSu Pitts (as Mrs. Judson), Roland Young (as the Earl of Burnstead), Leila Hyams (as Nell Kenner), Lucien Littlefield (as Charles Belknap-Jackson), and Maude Eburne (as Ma Pettingill).

Ruggles of Red Gap is a delightful comedy about a stuffy English valet who is won in a card game by a pair of nouveau-riche Americans and relocates to their small Western town. With the help of American principles of political and social equality, the valet (Ruggles) embarks on a project of freeing himself from servitude and establishing himself as an independent man. In that regard, the movie reminds me of Born Yesterday (1950), which similarly posits that American institutions can be a force for personal (as well as political) liberation. Ruggles of Red Gap lacks the hard edge of Born Yesterday, but it uses … Read the rest

Dames (1934)

"Dames" (1934) featured image

Dames (1934). 91 minutes. Directed by Ray Enright. Musical direction by Busby Berkeley. Starring Dick Powell (as Jimmy Higgins), Ruby Keeler (as Barbara Hemingway), Joan Blondell (as Mabel Anderson), ZaSu Pitts (as Matilda Ounce Hemingway), Guy Kibbee (as Horace Peter Hemingway), and Hugh Herbert (as Ezra Ounce). Music and lyrics by Harry Warren and Al Dubin.

Warner Bros. could have called this movie Gold Diggers of 1934 and its title would have made at least as much sense as the one they settled on.  Much like the Gold Diggers movies, which I have reviewed previously (here and here), Dames focuses on characters who scheme to get their hands on an impressive sum of money and the way their lives intertwine with characters who are plotting to raise funds to put on a spectacular musical — all played by the usual Busby Berkeley suspects.  The first set of schemers is Matilda and Horace Hemingway, who stand to inherit millions … Read the rest

Greed (1925)

Greed (1925) final scene

Greed (1925).  Directed by Erich von Stroheim.  140 minutes (MGM) / 239 minutes (restored version, 1999).  Starring Gibson Gowland (as John McTeague), Zasu Pitts (as Trina Sieppe), and Jean Hersholt (as Marcus Schouler).

Greed is based on the 1899 American novel McTeague by Frank Norris.  It takes place at the turn of the nineteenth century in California and was one of the first Hollywood films to be shot entirely on location.  As the story opens, McTeague, a miner, leaves his California mountain town to train as a dentist.  When he opens a practice in San Francisco, he meets Marcus Schouler and Schouler’s cousin Trina, with whom McTeague falls in love.  Trina wins $5000 in a lottery and marries McTeague, but soon she begins to obsess over her winnings and becomes miserly towards her husband.  Because Schouler feels cheated both out of Trina, whom he loved, and her fortune, he reports on McTeague to the dental board, which determines that he … Read the rest