Ball of Fire (1941)

Passed  |   |  Comedy, Romance  |  2 December 1941 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 7,638 users  
Reviews: 80 user | 38 critic

A group of ivory-tower lexicographers realize they need to hear how real people talk, and end up helping a beautiful singer avoid police and escape from the Mob.



(screen play), (screen play), 2 more credits »
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Nominated for 4 Oscars. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Oskar Homolka ...
Prof. Gurkakoff (as Oscar Homolka)
Prof. Magenbruch
Prof. Robinson
Leonid Kinskey ...
Prof. Quintana
Prof. Oddly
Aubrey Mather ...
Prof. Peagram
Garbage Man
Joe Lilac
Duke Pastrami
Ralph Peters ...
Asthma Anderson
Kathleen Howard ...
Miss Bragg
Mary Field ...
Miss Totten


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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The New Year's red-hot comedy! See more »


Comedy | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

2 December 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Professor and the Burlesque Queen  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Considered by some modern critics as the last "Golden Age" screwball comedy. See more »


In the car fleeing the nightclub: Sugarpuss O'Shea holds up Professor Potts's calling card to read it. Then the camera angle goes to a close-up of the card, with her fingers holding it around the four corners of the card, but the position of the fingers in the close-up shot do not at all match the way she is holding the card in the previous "long" shot. See more »


Sugarpuss O'Shea: [examining the professors' books] Oh, "Greek philosophy!" I got a set like this with a radio inside.
See more »


References Boys Town (1938) See more »


Sweet Genevieve
(1869) (uncredited)
Music by Henry Tucker
Lyrics by George Cooper
Performed a cappella by the professors
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Very, very funny
1 March 1999 | by (Mountain View, Ca.) – See all my reviews

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.

56 of 61 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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