This must be Charles Laughton’s most unusual role. As the eponymous Marmaduke Ruggles, he is a gentleman’s gentleman in the employ of the Earl of Burnstead, (played by Roland Young) until his lordship loses Ruggles in a poker game with American cowboy millionaire Egbert Floud played by Charlie Ruggles (there’s that name again). Egbert’s wife Effie (played by Mary Boland) is attempting to give Egbert and by extension, Red Gap, “tone.” And her ace in the hole is Ruggles by whose knowledge of etiquette and propriety she hopes to reform Egbert and instill snobbish manners in the Old West town. And with Effie’s annoying brother-in-law Charles Belknap-Jackson (played by Lucien Littlefield) as the villain and ZaSu Pitts as Ruggles’ love interest the movie is an absurd farce.
The plot of the movie, such as it is, revolves around Ruggles becoming an American. The movie gets endless mileage out of the contrast between Ruggles’ proper English manners and the rough and ready ways of the residents of Red Gap. But the movie is really a panegyric to normal good-hearted people regardless of their stripe or fortune.
I realize this sounds like a whole lot of nothing. But the movie has great good humor and human warmth. And any movie that has Lucien Littlefield getting kicked in the pants can’t be all bad.
I’m guessing that opinions on this movie will vary greatly. All I can say is that it’s one of my favorite comedies. Others will have to take their chances.