Production Company: Paramount
Top Billed Actors: Charles Laughton, Mary Boland, Charles Ruggles
IMDb Rating: 7.8
*Best Picture Nominee*
Won 0 Oscars
Nominated for 1 more:
Plot: A wife and husband (actor named Ruggles) win a valet (character named Ruggles) in a poker game so they make him come to America to recite Lincoln speeches.
The result is excellent comedy. For a movie from eight decades ago, many situations and jokes had me chuckling from start to finish. It is not as funny as, say, The Thin Man (1934), but Laughton does not disappoint. It is difficult to ascertain that this is his first foray into the genre of comedy. Each scene offers funny conditions that set up jokes in a successful manner. The interactions between Egbert Floud (played by Charles Ruggles), the man who begrudgingly employs the British man-servant, Ruggles (played by Charles Laughton), is often hysterical. Egbert doesn't like the idea of having a butler follow him around so he treats him like a friend while Ruggles is uncomfortable with his equal status while in America. However, we see thorough character development in the valet. By the film's end, he orates Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in a Western saloon to a chilling effect. This scene stuck with Laughton so much, that he recited the speech to the crew and fellow actors at the conclusion of filming his other movies in the '30s.
The film is not without its flaws however, albeit minor ones. There wasn't much music in the picture. The focus was clearly on progressing the story and attempting to make the viewers laugh in the process. This results in a lot of quiet scenes with only dialogue, even between scenes. There is some good diegetic music however, with a lovely actress singing on a piano and guitar. Some of the acting does not match Laughton's brilliance as well. Ruggles (the actor) is hit or miss. He has some very candid scenes that is acted beautifully but he falls down on others such as when he interacts with his American friend in Paris. His in-movie wife, Mary Boland, also overacts to a point of annoyance.
Overall, the film accomplishes what it sets out to do. The audience, from any decade afterwards, will certainly laugh throughout. Laughton continues to impress as he tackles his first comedic role. More music and a slight improvement in acting from certain characters would have propelled the movie even further.
My Score: 7/10