For Reel

Charley’s Aunt (1930)
August 16, 2012, 7:51 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Al Christie

A record-breaking farce by playwright Brandon Thomas, Charley’s Aunt was adapted to the screen on a handful of occasions, most famously in 1941 with Jack Benny in the starring role. This 1930 version is little seen but enjoyable due to the commitment of the talented Charles Ruggles in the cross-dressing title role. Two undergraduates at Oxford agree to propose to their respective sweethearts on the day that one their aunts is set to visit and serve as their chaperone. When the aunt’s visit is delayed several days, the men convince their friend Babbs, an aspiring actor who routinely steals their wine, to don the costume of an old woman and pose as, “Charley’s aunt from Brazil, where the nuts come from.” What follows holds few surprises – the cross-dresser must fend off the advances of two lustful old men without breaking character. Ruggles, though, is always a pleasure to watch due to his excellent comic timing and high energy, meeting the physical demands with the commitment of a silent comedian. The gender-bending concept also allows for some particularly bold sexuality, as when Babbs passive-aggressively gets back at his friends by kissing both of their sweethearts on the lips in succession.