7.8/10
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Ball of Fire (1941)

Passed | | Comedy, Romance | 9 January 1942 (USA)
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.

Director:

Writers:

(screen play), (screen play) | 2 more credits »
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Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 1 win. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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...
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Prof. Gurkakoff (as Oscar Homolka)
...
...
Prof. Magenbruch
...
Prof. Robinson
...
Prof. Quintana
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Prof. Oddly
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Prof. Peagram
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Garbage Man
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Joe Lilac
...
Duke Pastrami
...
Asthma Anderson
...
Miss Bragg
Mary Field ...
Miss Totten
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Storyline

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 <albl@inforamp.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

"I LOVE HIM because he doesn't know how to kiss -- THE JERK!" See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

9 January 1942 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Professor and the Burlesque Queen  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Several cast members in studio records/casting call lists for this movie were not seen in the final print. These were (with their character names): Lee Phelps (Policeman in Station), Johnnie Morris (Clerk at Justice of the Peace), Dick Rush (Policeman at Motor Inn), Del Lawrence (Irish Gardener) and Jack Perry (Fighting Bum). See more »

Goofs

During the "Drumboogie" sequence, the black jazz trumpet soloist Roy Eldridge disappears from the band between shots. See more »

Quotes

Joe Lilac: Having some trouble, Mr. D.A.?
District Attorney: Oh, don't worry, Joe. And don't underestimate this office or the State of New York. I've got some boys that can find a needle in a haystack.
Joe Lilac: Oh, that's a cinch. All you have to do is get a horse to eat the hey and then x-ray the horse.
See more »

Connections

References Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) See more »

Soundtracks

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

Old Fashion Comedy
16 November 2001 | by (Boston, MA) – See all my reviews

Snow White elated fable with an early 1940s touch. This modern day Snow White is riddled with lingo commonly spoken by people in early 1940s America. Instead of being a pure and innocent woman as in the original version, this Snow White is a nightclub singer with dubious associations to a known gangster. Also, the character played by Gary Cooper is both Prince Charming and head dwarf rolled into one.

Feels more like a Billy Wilder film than a Howard Hawks feature. This is because of certain characteristics throughout the story like its zanniness which is a fixture of Billy Wilder's comedies. Also includes a satiric element so importantly featured in most of Billy Wilder's directorial work. Skillfully written by Billy Wilder, a filmmaker with a knack for creating humorous situations out of everyday life.

Ball of Fire(1941) is the major blue print for Billy Wilder's late 1950s comedy masterpiece, Some Like It Hot(1959). It deals with someone who has to blend with a crowd she doesn't usually hang out with to avoid trouble which was the basic premise for Some Like It Hot(1959). The plot for Ball of Fire(1941) where Sugarpuss O'Shea finds sanctuary in a male filled world is the perfect opposite of Some Like It Hot(1959) where the two male characters blend in a female dominated band. Sugurpuss O'Shea and the two male characters of Some Like It Hot(1959) are involved in nightclub work though in different jobs.

Barbara Stanwyck is awe striking gorgeous for the part of Sugarpuss O'Shea. She belongs in a long line of beautiful and talented actressess who dazzles the big screen with presence in Howard Hawks films. Barbara Stanwyck in this film is a sensuous kitten and tough thinking woman. A warmup for Stanwyck's most sensual performance on film in Double Indemnity(1944).

No Howard Hawks motion picture(with few exceptions) goes through a story without including some kind of romantic chemistry and romantic conflict. Professor Potts and Sugarpuss O'Shea are opposites personality wise yet connect because of Potts naive but joyful look at life. What wins Sugarpuss's heart is Professor Potts clumsy and gentle nature which is quite a contrast to her gangster boyfriend. The romantic chemistry of the two lacks the hard-boiled edge of the Bogart-Bacall films by Howard Hawks which is a refreshing change here.

The classic screwball comedy that was extremely popular during the decades of the 1930s and 1940s. Ball of Fire(1941) is part of Howard Hawks screwball comedy period when he contributed to the sub genre with comical and witty portrayals of everyday life. Matches the rapid fire dialogue of His Girl Friday(1941) with the sultriness of The Big Sleep(1946). Ball of Fire(1941) puts smiles on faces with priceless moments of laughter.

Sugarpuss O'Shea is a typically strong Hawks female character who overwheims the film's hero with her flamboyant manners. The name Sugarpuss suggests something that is alluring and sweet. The inspiration for the person of Sugarpuss O'Shea was Mistress of Bugsy Siegal, Virginia "Sugar" Hill. Sugarpuss O'Shea bar none is the most alluring female character in a Howard Hawks movie.

Well rounded performances are turned out by the majority of the cast. The actors who play Professor Potts associates excell in their eccentric performances. Nice for a change to see Gary Cooper play a person who is awkward, intellegent, and romantic. Dan Duryea adds a touch of dry comic relief as a gangster thug.

Amusing to see six grown men behave in manners akin to an adolescent the minute Sugarpuss O'Shea walks into their lives. The scenes where Professor Potts goes on the street to learn of some street slang to add to his and associates encyclopedia is a masterstroke in editing. The moment near the end where Potts tells the gangster boyfriend of Sugarpuss to "Put up your dukes" is a hirilous moment in the film. His Girl Friday(1940) is still the best screwball comedy Howard Hawks ever did but Ball of Fire(1941) is a close second.

Ball of Fire(1941) comprises of some fine cinematography by Gregg Toland whose creative eye lended a hand to the monumental camera work of Citizen Kane released during the same year. Early in the nightclub scene is an uncredited cameo by Elisha Cook Jr. Most of the time an excellent film is marked by excellent direction and Ball of Fire(1941) is no exception. Lighthearted and sentlementle romantic comedy that belongs to an era when films were done a certain way.


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