09 February, 2009
Charles Sherman “Charlie” Ruggles was a comic American actor. In a career spanning six decades, Ruggles appeared in close to 100 feature films.
Charlie Ruggles was born in Los Angeles, California in 1886. Despite training to be a doctor, Ruggles soon found himself on the stage, appearing in a stock production of Nathan Hale in 1905. At Los Angeles's Majestic Theatre, he played the romantic lead Private Jo Files in L. Frank Baum and Louis F. Gottschalk's musical, The Tik-Tok Man of Oz in 1913. He moved to Broadway to appear in Help Wanted in 1914. His first screen role came in the silent Peer Gynt the following year. Throughout the 1910s and 1920s Ruggles continued to appear in silent movies, though his passion remained the stage, appearing in long-running productions such as The Passing Show of 1918, The Demi-Virgin and Battling Butler. His most famous stage hit was one of his last before a twenty year hiatus, Queen High, produced in 1930.
From 1929, Ruggles appeared in talking pictures. His first was Gentleman of the Press in which he played a comic, alcoholic newspaper reporter. Throughout the 1930s he was teamed with comic actress Mary Boland in a string of domestic farces, notably Six of a Kind, Ruggles of Red Gap, and People Will Talk; Boland was the domineering wife and Ruggles the mild-mannered husband. Ruggles is best remembered today as the big-game hunter in Bringing Up Baby. In other films he often played the "comic relief" character in otherwise straight films. In all, he appeared in about 100 movies.
In 1949, Ruggles halted in his film career to return to the stage and to move into television. He was the headline character in the TV series The Ruggles, a family comedy in which he played a character also called Charlie Ruggles, and The World of Mr. Sweeney. He returned to the big screen in 1961, playing Charles McKendrick in The Parent Trap and Mackenzie Savage in The Pleasure of His Company. He had a recurring guest role on The Beverly Hillbillies in the mid-1960s as Lowell Redlings Farquhar, father-in-law of Milburn Drysdale (Raymond Bailey).
Ruggles also lent his voice to the "Aesop and Son" TV cartoons produced by Jay Ward and Bill Scott. Ruggles played Aesop; Daws Butler played "Junior."
Ruggles died of cancer at his Hollywood home in 1970 at the age of 84.