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


"I LOVE HIM because he doesn't know how to kiss -- THE JERK!" 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
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Did You Know?


It was Gary Cooper who recommended Barbara Stanwyck for the role of Katherine "Sugarpuss" O'Shea. See more »


During the walk through central park, the camera shadow is visible on Professor Gurkakoff's torso. See more »


Professor Bertram Potts: I've just finished my article on slang. Twenty-three pages compiled from a dozen reference books, eight hundred examples.
Prof. Robinson: Well?
Professor Bertram Potts: Everything from the idiotic combination of "absotively" to the pajorative use of "zigzag." I traced the evolution of "hunky-dory," tracked down "skidoo" from "skedaddle." Eight-hundred examples and I may as well throw it in the wastebasket. Three weeks work...
Prof. Robinson: You're hysterical.
Professor Bertram Potts: Outmoded... based on reference books twenty years old. Take "smooch," take "dish," take, uh...
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References A Family Affair (1937) See more »


Drum Boogie
(1941) (uncredited)
(Published as "Drumboogie")
Music and Lyrics by Roy Eldridge and Gene Krupa
Performed by Gene Krupa and His Orchestra
Sung by Barbara Stanwyck (dubbed by Martha Tilton)
Reprised by her and audience members
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A Comical Visit to the Past

This is the perfect film to view in between seeing today's myriad message movies and super-techno thrillers. In stunning black-and-white the merry adventures of bachelor and aging academics, struggling to complete a massive encyclopedia funded by an increasingly doubtful (and homely) heiress, unfold. The scholars encounter the beautiful (and wonderful) Barbara Stanwyck, a gang moll who needs to hide out while her crime boss boyfriend seeks to avoid an unpleasant prosecution related to a rival who disappeared wearing concrete shoes (low tech disposal of the suddenly terminated was the simple order of the day in 1941).

Gary Cooper is the youngest of the researchers and, obviously, from the first moment that he and the gorgeous Stanwyck set eyes on each other, the ultimate outcome can't be in doubt. No psychological exploration of the nature of evil or the vagaries of love between opposites darken this sprightly gem from the vaults. The cast must have enjoyed making this film.

Easily obtainable for rent or for purchase, "Ball of Fire" shows pre-Pearl Harbor comedic Hollywood at its zenith.

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