Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Charlie Ruggles, Oh My, My, My

I have always loved Charlie Ruggles (1886 - 1970) and his wonderful, lilting voice. My early recollection of it may have been hearing his voice as a narrator on "The Bullwinkle Show" around 1961. Once you have heard his voice, you will never forget it.

Ruggles' acting career goes way back to the silent era. His first film is believed to be The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914) written by L. Frank Baum (1856 - 1919) who also wrote the rest of the Oz books, including the story for The Wizard of Oz (1939). In Patchwork, Hal Roach (1892 - 1992) played the Cowardly Lion in one of his nine movies as an actor. Hal then went on to produce nearly 1,200 great movies with the best stars you can imagine, including his very own Rascals, Harold Lloyd and of course, Laurel and Hardy.

Charlie's first talkie was Gentlemen of the Press (1929) starring Walter Huston (1883 - 1950). In the 1930s he made three films with W. C. Fields; If I had a Million (1932) also starring Gary Cooper and Charles Laughton, Alice in Wonderland (1933), and Six of a Kind (1934) which featured George Burns and Gracie Allen. Six of a Kind is well worth seeing for Fields' pool shooting routine.

You may remember Ruggles of Red Gap (1935). It is a great film, but even though Charles Ruggles was in it, Ruggles was played by another Charles, this one was Laughton. I bet that was confusing at the time. Ruggles (Charlie, that is) made about 14 films with Mary Boland (1880 - 1965), who played his wife here.

One of Ruggles' biggest films was, perhaps, Bringing Up Baby (1938) starring Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Ruggles played Major Applegate.

With a career spanning nearly 60 years and about 150 titles, I won't mention every film here. Charlie went heavily into television in 1949,  including his own series called "The Ruggles." He also made three films in 1961, All in a Night's Work with Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine, The Pleasure of His Company with Fred Astaire and Debbie Reynolds, and The Parent Trap starring Hayley Mills.

Ruggles made five films late in his career with Walt Disney Studios. The Parent Trap (1961), Son of Flubber (1963), The Ugly Dachshund (1966), and Follow Me Boys (1966 and his final movie) were feature length, and he also made an animated short as the voice of Ben Franklin in Ben and Me (1953) with Sterling Holloway as Amos the Mouse. I guess Mickey was busy on other projects.

I am sure you know this wonderful Bit Actor, who never made any really big films, but was loved by everyone. Let me know your fond memories of Charlie by using the Comment button.