The film starts in Paris in 1908 where an American rancher who is newly self made millionaire wins the butler, played by Charles Laughton, of a Lord in a poker game. His wife wants to bring Ruggles back with them to Washington State since it will give them an air of class. But when they get back home and before it can be announced that Ruggles is their new manservant he is mistaken as an English Colonel. This is only made worse by Ruggles being out of place as an English butler in a small western rural community. He starts to get an appreciation of the American concept of freedom and decides to open his own restaurant.
The most memorial scene of the movie is where Charles Laughton recites the Gettysburg Address to a saloon of people. In fact Charles Laughton has stated that his reading during the movie was one of the moving things to happen to him. Watch the clip below and you will understand, it is an incredible scene that you won't forget.
As well besides being a great comedy and directed by Leo McCarey who also directed Duck Soup, many films of the 1930's are not remembered for comedy. But movies are a reflection of their time and during the depression people wanted to enjoy themselves, to escape, to laugh. That's why you would have Busby Berkeley musical numbers, or Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance sequences, and some of the funniest comedies ever made. During bad economic times many great comedies are produced.
And one last thought about Charles Laughton, who is so different in this film than other roles where he is most remembered. His Oscar winning portrayal of King Henry VIII is his most known. Or Captain Bligh from Mutiny on the Bounty. This one he is much different and shows his acting range. It's one of my personal favorites and I hope you enjoy it too.