For Reel


Six of a Kind (1934)
February 18, 2016, 5:39 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Leo McCarey
3.5 Stars
Six of a KindThe success of Grand Hotel prompted a trend towards “all-star” pictures, with Dinner at Eight being the most famous example. One of Paramount’s answers to MGM’s string of successes was this programmer comedy which brought together the comedic teams of Charles Ruggles and Mary Boland, W.C. Fields and Alison Skipworth, and George Burns and Gracie Allen. If pairing six comedians together without much of a script could have been recipe for disaster, this Leo McCarey picture allows almost everyone a chance to show their talents. A cross-country road trip sketches the minimum outline of the plot, but the film is comprised of a series of vignettes wrought to the strength of the performers. In one sequence, the dim-witted Allen nearly kills Boland at the Grand Canyon by having her back up for a picture, and in the highlight of the film, Fields performs his pool routine in full. While the subject matter is presented rather innocently, the picture concerns the running joke that Juggles and Boland are desperate to have sex on their honeymoon, but Burns and Allen are constantly in their way. The dynamic means that Allen has two straight men to play off of (Burns and Ruggles), and each of the actors brings a slightly different method of dealing with her madness. One’s appreciation of Six of a Kind will relate directly towards their appreciation of the talents involved, but fans of performers will be delighted.



Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)
March 11, 2014, 4:30 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Leo McCarey
5 Stars
Ruggles of Red GapCharles Laughton often cited the titular Ruggles of Ruggles of Red Gap as his favorite character that he ever played on screen. It’s a role that allowed him to embrace his comedic side more fully (which he would eventually use to great effect in films like The Canterville Ghost and Hobson’s Choice), but moreover the film gave him the ideal vehicle to present a romantic ode to both democracy and to his adopted country. The film traces the journey of an English manservant (Laughton) who is gambled away to a frontier millionaire (Charles Ruggles) and his wife (Mary Boland) in the small western town of Red Gap. Ruggles is initially uncomfortable with the drastic change of setting, however he comes to love the new opportunities he’s been granted and finally begins to see himself as an equal to his fellow man. The earnestly patriotic sentiment is consistent with the America that Capra would mythologize in the late 30s/early 40s, but the crucial detail that differentiates this narrative is the lack of a singular everyman. Ruggles is an outsider to both Red Gap and the audience initially–his intensely formal mannerisms early in the picture set him at a distance from the average movie-goer. The journey, then, is not for one noble man to create a social or political change, but rather for this outsider to assimilate with the rough-and-tumble westerners, who are presented as morally superior to the snobbish, self-important European upper class. It’s as optimistic a vision of American democracy and the country’s people that has ever been put to screen, and the miracle is that (save for Laughton’s impassioned recitation of the Gettysburg address) it never feels overly-preachy–it’s patriotism slyly works its way into the picture undetected until almost the very end.