Men Behind the Stars — Wesley Ruggles (1938) 🇺🇸

Wesley Ruggles |

January 15, 2022

When Wesley Ruggles, then sixteen, fled the San Francisco abode of his parents under the cover of darkness, and joined up with a roving repertoire troupe staging melodramas for the edification of cross-road “opry house” audiences at 10, 20 and 30 cents per patron, he unconsciously pointed his star along a path that was destined to lead him, years later, to fame and riches via the movies.

Director of “True Confession”

Today, chieftains of the motion picture industry look upon Ruggles as a “super-showman.” He is one of the very few Hollywoodians rating the dual title of producer-director!

He has been turning out hit pictures ever since January 1, 1919, when, upon his return from France (and the war), the old Vitagraph Company handed him a megaphone and assigned him as director of Alice Joyce’s starring vehicles. Among his outstanding successes of recent years are the Academy Award winner, Cimarron, “Are These Our Children?” “No Man of Her Own,” “College Humor,” “I’m No Angel,” “The Gilded Lily,” “Accent on Youth,” “Valiant is the Word for Carrie,” and “I Met Him in Paris.”

Wesley Ruggles was born in Los Angeles, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. Ruggles, non-professionals. When he was of kindergarten age, the family moved to ‘Frisco, where, even during his grammar-school days, his thoughts revolved around the theatre.

When he reached his junior year in High School, the lure to become an actor swelled to such over-powering proportions that he could no longer resist, so, in face of parental opposition, he chucked his text books, stowed extra clothing in a bundle, and slipped from his bedroom window one night after the rest of the household was asleep.

Beginning his career as a stage hand at $4 a week — when the company’s treasurer had sufficient funds on hand to pay salaries — he soon graduated to juvenile roles at $7.50, and a few months later found himself with a more substantial stock company at $25.

After two years of emoting for others, Ruggles launched his own troupe, known as Ruggles’ Minstrels, and set out to conquer the world, but seldom did the week’s “take” at the box-office equal the payroll and other expenses, and he soon found himself hungry as well as “broke.”

In 1914, he came to Hollywood and joined Mack Sennett’s Keystone Kops. During the three years that ensued, he tried in turn almost every job a studio can offer, including property man, film editor, scenarist and assistant director.

When Uncle Sam entered the World War, Ruggles enlisted as a private in the Signal Corps, and was discharged as a first lieutenant. It was then he went to work for Vitagraph, guiding Alice Joyce. Subsequent silent pictures which helped motivate his career were The Plastic Age, “Silk Stockings,” and “Finders Keepers.” It was in this latter that he fostered the screen debut of his “discovery,” Jack Oakie, and started him toward stardom.

Ruggles has been married only once — to Arline Judge, the mother of his son. Charles Ruggles, the comedian, is his brother. His close friends include executives of the studios where he has worked and the “big name” stars he has directed. Of some of the latter he says:

“Carole Lombard is a real pal and a good soldier. She will act as “prop” boy if necessary in order to assist her director in getting a good picture.

Mae West is Mae West — and that speaks volumes.

“George Raft is quiet, soft-spoken and at times perplexing, yet withal, a good trouper who is willing to do what director asks.” Wes Ruggles might be mentioned as one of the undefatigable workers, too. And he had to make a trip to Europe recently to get away from it all. The praises of “True Confession” were sweet music to his ears as he tripped down the gangplank.

CORRECTION. Motion Picture erred in the January issue in crediting Roy Del Ruth (who directed Broadway Melody of 1938) as the director of Rosalie. The director of Rosalie isW.S. Van Dyke, who had complete directorial charge of the picture from start to finish.

In directing “True Confession” with Lombard, John of the Barrymores, MacMurray, Ruggles saw to it that a good time was had by all of them.

Source: Motion Picture, March 1938