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 If I Had a Million, 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 and billionaire Michael J. ‘Mike’ O’Connor in It Happened on Fifth Avenue. In 1949, Ruggles halted 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 guest starred on NBC’s The Martha Raye Show and portrayed a time-traveling librarian in “Man From 1997,” a 1956 science fiction episode of the television anthology series Conflict; the show featured James Garner in a pivotal early supporting role. In 1961, Ruggles was cast in “Hassie’s European Tour”, in which he portrays a wealthy neighbor who offers to finance a European trip for series character Hassie McCoy (Lydia Reed) on ABC’s The Real McCoys, starring Walter Brennan.
Ruggles returned to the big screen in 1961, playing Charles McKendrick in The Parent Trap and Mackenzie Savage in The Pleasure of His Company. In the latter film, he reprised the role for which he had won a Tony Award in 1959. In 1963 he memorably played the grandfather of silent star Corinne Griffith in Papa’s Delicate Condition. Griffith herself had written the book of her early life on which the film is based. Ruggles 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 played Aunt Clara’s (Marion Lorne) old flame, the warlock Hedley Partridge, as well as a Mr. Caldwell, whose company marketed soup, in the television series Bewitched. Ruggles also played congressman John Canfield on an episode of The Andy Griffith Show called “Aunt Bee, The Swinger”, and appeared as a driving instructor on The Munsters. Ruggles also lent his voice to the Aesop and Son features in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Both of his marriages, to Adele Rowland (1914–1921) and Marion LaBarba (1942–1970), ended in divorce. Ruggles died of cancer at his Hollywood home in 1970 at the age of 84.
- February, 08, 1886
- Los Angeles, California
- December, 23, 1970
- Los Angeles, California
Cause of Death
- Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)
- Glendale, California