Ball of Fire (1941)

Ball of Fire ball of fire poster
Directed by Howard Hawks
Written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett from an original story by Wilder and Thomas Monroe
The Samuel Goldwyn Company
Repeat viewing/Warner Home Video DVD

Professor Bertram Potts: Make no mistake, I shall regret the absence of your keen mind; unfortunately, it is inseparable from an extremely disturbing body.

I love this film.  Started smiling when I watched the trailer and didn’t stop until it was over.

The inventor of the electric toaster was miffed at his omission from the Encyclopedia Britannica so left a small fortune to a group of professors to compile a new and “improved” version.  One of the stipulations is that the professors be single.  The “leader” of the eight experts is linguist Bertram Potts (Gary Cooper), who realizes he is not up with the times on American slang.  He hits the streets to learn how American English is spoken in 1941 and to put together a “round table” on the subject.  One of his star finds is nightclub entertainer Katherine “Sugarpuss” O’Shea (Barbara Stanwyck).

ball of fire 1

It so happens that her gangster boyfriend Joe Lilac (Dana Andrews) has been picked up for murder and the police are looking for her.  She parlays Pott’s invitation to participate in the round table into a place to take cover for a few days.  All the old professors are gaga for her and Potts falls in love.  But Joe has decided that the best way to deal with his problem is to marry her so she cannot testify against him … With Oskar Homolka, Henry Travers, S.Z. Sakall, and Leonid Kinsky as a few of the professors and Dan Duryea as Duke Pastrami, Joe’s henchman.

ball of fire 2

One of the best kissing scenes ever

Based loosely on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, Wilder and Brackett’s screenplay is a hoot.  Stanwyck and Cooper carry over their great chemistry from Meet John Doe and the cast of sterling character actors is superb.  This is just a whole lot of fun and quite romantic to boot.  Hawks keeps the zingers flying.

Ball of Fire was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Actress; Best Writing, Original Story; Best Sound, Recording and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture (Alfred Newman).

Trailer – cinematography by Gregg Toland


7 thoughts on “Ball of Fire (1941)

  1. I have a massive screen crush on Barbara Stanwyck, so it comes as little surprise I found this charming and fun. The divine Ms. Stanwyck really can’t pull off the “singer” part of burlesque singer, but she can do the rest, and that really is one of the great joys of this movie.

    • Stanwyck is my very favorite actress of the studio era. I especially love her in comedies. Maybe she can’t sing, but she really sold that “Drum Boogie” with her eyes and body.

    • I love Barbara Stanwyck in this! She didn’t work enough as a comedienne. Have you seen The Lady Eve? She’s at her comic peak in that one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *