Ball of Fire
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
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).
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.
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