Leo McCarey has turned out a fast and furiously funny film which is a perfect example of what smart handling behind the camera can do. Original novel [by Harry Leon Wilson] has been made as a film twice before, once by Essanay (1918) and by Paramount (1923). But this time the yarn is handled from a completely fresh standpoint – with gratifying results.
Story is a bit dated. It plants Elmer (Charlie Ruggles) and his wife (Mary Boland) in Paris. They play poker with the Earl of Burnstead (Roland Young) and win his butler, Ruggles (Charles Laughton). They take him back to Red Gap, state of Washington. There Ruggles is mistaken for a British army captain and becomes a celebrity. That gives him the idea of freedom and standing on his own. He falls in love with Mrs Judson (ZaSu Pitts) and opens a restaurant.
Laughton turns in a performance that will surprise some and widen his appeal by far. He’s played comedy before (Henry VIII), but here he is doing it differently. It’s not satire; it’s not a pathological character study. Just plain comedy.
1935: Nomination: Best Picture