Friday, February 8, 2019

Born Today February 8: Charles Ruggles


Character actor of the large and small screen Charles (Charlie) Sherman Ruggles was born on this day in Los Angeles.  His initial career path in the life was to become a doctor, but he got himself "entangled" in stage acting and never looked back. An appearance in a 1905 production is marked as his stage debut. He was soon a stock player and even appeared in musicals. He made his Broadway debut in in 1914 and may have made his film debut this same year (his possible appearance in The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914)--a version of The Wizard of Oz--is unconfirmed).  In 1915 he appeared in two films in rapid succession; Peer Gynt is most often credited as his film debut, but Julia Crawford Ivers' The Majesty of the Law came out first. He appeared in one other film in 1915--The Reform Candidate--but found silent film work distasteful and returned to full time stage work.  He was persuaded to appear in one other silent film, The Heart Raider in 1923; but was only because it was directed by his kid brother Wesley Ruggles! With the coming of sound in the late 1920's, Charles plowed into film acting with gusto and made his career in front of the camera.  He appeared in three films in 1929, all of them early sound full talkies; and one, Battle of Paris was a Robert Florey musical to boot (the other two consisted of a Millard Webb melodrama & a domestic drama starring Claudette Colbert). In Roadhouse Nights (1930)--a film that featured Jimmy Durante & The Durante Orchestra--he took top billing with Helen Morgan.  By 1932 he was most often billed simply as "Charlie Ruggles;" and it was under this name that he is credited in Bringing Up Baby as Major Applegate--probably his most well known role (though many will also recall him in It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947) as well).  In 1940, he even made his way into the Universal Monster world when he appeared in an "Invisible" sequel: The Invisible Woman.  In 1949 he made his small screen debut in an episode of The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre; it would mark the immediate beginning of a very, very long career in television, including a show crafted specifically for him, The Ruggles, which ran from 1949 until 1952.  Other notable series that he guested on include: Studio OneFather Knows BestThe Real McCoysThe Red Skelton Hour and The Munsters --to name just a few! He also got into voice work in the 1960's and was famously involved in the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" universe as the voice of Aesop; and he had a recurring role on The Beverly Hillbillies that almost placed him as a permanent cast member.  His last acting job came on the The Danny Thomas Hour in the 1968 episode "One for My Baby".  He became ill with cancer and could no longer work; otherwise he certainly would not have retired! At the end of his career, which spanned well over 50 years, he had one of the longest acting stints in the history of Hollywood. The illness took his life two years later on the 23rd of December. He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale (his younger brother would join him there two years later). 

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