|Ball of Fire (1941)
Run time: 111 min
Genres: Comedy | Romance
Director: Howard Hawks
Writers: Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder
Stars: Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Oskar Homolka
Sexy, wisecracking nightclub singer Sugarpuss O’Shea is a hot tomato who needs to be kept on ice: mobster boyfriend Joe Lilac is suspected of murder and Sugarpuss’ testimony could put him away. Naive Professor Bertram Potts meets Miss O’Shea while researching an article on slang and in true romantic comedy fashion the two worlds collide. When Miss O’Shea hides out with Potts and his fellow professors, everyone learns something new: the professors how to cha-cha and Potts the meaning of “yum-yum”! Written by A.L.Beneteau <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Release Date: 2 December 1941 (USA)
When you think of Gary Cooper, what kinds of part do you think of? Strong silent men, men of honor, gunfighters of the old west, people like Sergeant York and the Sheriff in "High Noon", right? You certainly don’t think funny, and you’d certainly never think he could play a NERD, but he does in this film. Not only is he a convincing complete geek, but he’s funny, AND sexy!
The story is pretty silly (inspired by "Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs", really): A group of dorky professors are writing an encyclopedia, and English Professor Cooper decides he needs more information on Slang. In his quest for current jive talk he meets Barbara Stanwyck, as a too-lively singer/gang moll. She takes advantage of his invitation to discuss verbiage to use his ivory tower as a hideout, and moves in with the professors. She quickly decides to stay, then to have her way with Coop (who wouldn’t), and then falls…
A very funny, sprightly film, fast-paced and full of wonderful performances. Stanwyck is glowingly wonderful, but I still can’t get over Cooper’s wonderful characterization of a supremely attractive total geek. If that sounds like a contradiction in terms, see the movie and you’ll realize it’s true.
"Ball of Fire" is known as the last great pre-war comedy, and with good reason. It all begins when a group of egghead professors are writing an encyclopedia. Then, grammarian Bertram Potts (Gary Cooper) realizes that he doesn’t know any modern slang. Frequenting the nightclubs, he meets dancer Katherine "Sugarpuss" O’Shea (Barbara Stanwyck), who has a connection to the mob. This leads all the characters on the most unexpected adventure.
I really liked the way that every one of the nerdy professors is tempted to correct every mistake made by the others. But the gags throughout the movie are really something. Hilarious.
Wow, what a cast! Let’s see, there’s Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Haydn, Oscar Homolka, Henry Travers, S.Z. Sakall, Tully Marshall, Dana Andrews, Allen Jenkins and more! Classic film fans know all these names.
What’s more, it’s a fun movie, fun to see and especially fun to hear. Stanwyck is her usual fascinating self, but in this movie it’s the men – the seven old bachelors and the younger Cooper in the "club" – that are the most entertaining.
When you have directors and writers such as Howard Hawks and Billy Wilder behind the film, you know it’s a winner.
Because the story dealt with a bunch of encyclopedia writers trying to find out the latest slang words, the dialog in here is really funny. The expressions of the day are dated and humorous and there are so many you can’t count them all. Some are stupid; some are hilarious…which is what you get with most comedies anyway. Not every line hits the mark, but a lot do in this one.
Tack on some action and some romance and it’s corny-but-cute film , entertaining all the way.
This film (remade in 1948 as a musical with Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo with the title, "A Song Is Born") is a hilarious vehicle for Barbara Stanwyck, who was nominated for Best Actress for her performance here. Anyone who has only seen Ms. Stanwyck in film noir such as "Double Indemnity" or in television’s Big Valley should watch this or "Christmas In Connecticut" to see a fine comedic talent at work. She blows Gary Cooper off the screen! Most Recommended.