7.8/10
9,649
93 user 47 critic

Ball of Fire (1941)

Approved | | Comedy, Romance | 9 January 1942 (USA)
A group of professors working on a new encyclopedia encounter a mouthy nightclub singer who is wanted by the police to help bring down her mob boss lover.

Director:

Howard Hawks

Writers:

Charles Brackett (screen play), Billy Wilder (screen play) | 2 more credits »
Reviews

On Disc

at Amazon

Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 1 win. See more awards »

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

The Lady Eve (1941)
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A trio of classy card sharks targets the socially awkward heir to brewery millions for his money, until one of them falls in love with him.

Director: Preston Sturges
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn
Meet John Doe (1941)
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A man needing money agrees to impersonate a nonexistent person who said he'd be committing suicide as a protest, and a political movement begins.

Director: Frank Capra
Stars: Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward Arnold
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

A flamboyant Broadway impresario who has fallen on hard times tries to get his former lover, now a Hollywood diva, to return and resurrect his failing career.

Director: Howard Hawks
Stars: John Barrymore, Carole Lombard, Walter Connolly
Sergeant York (1941)
Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

A marksman is drafted in World War I and ends up becoming one of the most celebrated war heroes.

Director: Howard Hawks
Stars: Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie
Comedy | Music | Musical
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

With her gangster boyfriend under investigation by the police, a nightclub singer hides out in a musical research institution staffed by bachelor professors - one of whom begins to fall for her.

Director: Howard Hawks
Stars: Danny Kaye, Virginia Mayo, Benny Goodman
Adventure | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

At a remote South American trading port, the manager of an air freight company is forced to risk his pilots' lives in order to win an important contract.

Director: Howard Hawks
Stars: Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Rita Hayworth
Midnight (1939)
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A chorus girl stranded in Paris is set up by a millionaire to break up his wife's affair with another man, while being romantically pursued by a cab driver.

Director: Mitchell Leisen
Stars: Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A shoplifter and her prosecutor fall in love, creating tensions for his career and family.

Director: Mitchell Leisen
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, Beulah Bondi
Comedy | Romance | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

After marrying an American lieutenant with whom he was assigned to work in post-war Germany, a French captain attempts to find a way to accompany her back to the States under the terms of the War Bride Act.

Director: Howard Hawks
Stars: Cary Grant, Ann Sheridan, Marion Marshall
Comedy | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A chemist finds his personal and professional life turned upside down when one of his chimpanzees finds the fountain of youth.

Director: Howard Hawks
Stars: Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Marilyn Monroe
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A woman disguises herself as a child to save on a train fare and is taken in charge by an army man who doesn't notice the truth.

Director: Billy Wilder
Stars: Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland, Rita Johnson
Ninotchka (1939)
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A stern Russian woman sent to Paris on official business finds herself attracted to a man who represents everything she is supposed to detest.

Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Stars: Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Gary Cooper ... Prof. Bertram Potts
Barbara Stanwyck ... Sugarpuss O'Shea
Oskar Homolka ... Prof. Gurkakoff (as Oscar Homolka)
Henry Travers ... Prof. Jerome
S.Z. Sakall ... Prof. Magenbruch
Tully Marshall ... Prof. Robinson
Leonid Kinskey ... Prof. Quintana
Richard Haydn ... Prof. Oddly
Aubrey Mather ... Prof. Peagram
Allen Jenkins ... Garbage Man
Dana Andrews ... Joe Lilac
Dan Duryea ... Duke Pastrami
Ralph Peters ... Asthma Anderson
Kathleen Howard ... Miss Bragg
Mary Field ... Miss Totten
Edit

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:

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

Genres:

Comedy | Romance

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

9 January 1942 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Professor and the Burlesque Queen See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Phil Silvers was announced for a role, but he did not appear in the final film. See more »

Goofs

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

Quotes

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...
[...]
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: Once upon a time - in 1941 to be exact - there lived in a great, tall forest - called New York - eight men who were writing an encyclopedia.

They were so wise they knew everything: the depth of the oceans, and what makes a glowworm glow, and what tune Nero fiddles while Rome was burning.

But there was one thing about which they knew very little - as you will see . . . See more »

Connections

References A Family Affair (1937) See more »

Soundtracks

Gaudeamus Igitur
(uncredited)
Traditional
Sung by the professors
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
how ball of fire compare to other screwball comedies:
3 February 2006 | by Okonh0wpSee all my reviews

Ball of Fire was directed and written by three of the best at their genre. Howard Hawks was a notable director of screwball comedies and the team of Wilder and Brackett wrote a number of comedies including Ernst Lubitsch's funniest film Ninotchka (1939). Wilder would also later become once of cinematic history's greatest comedic and dramatic directors with The Apartment and Some Like it Hot.

In Hollywood Genres, Howard Schatz writes, "The Screwball comedy dominated Depression-era screen comedy and provided that period's most significant and engaging social commentary" (151). Schatz suggests that screwball comedies were not just escapist fare for Depression-era audiences but they remedied their shattered dreams that their poverty and discrepancies in wealth couldn't be overcome. One important element for this remedy to work was that there had to be a love story that crossed class boundaries, usually with the woman as poor but more socially apt and the man as the opposite.

In Ball of Fire, Gary Cooper isn't so much rich as he is distinguished in the world of academia. He is a lexicologist in charge of an encyclopedia project with eight other professors, each in charge of a different field of knowledge. The fact that the other professors are twice his age highlights just how smart he is in his field. Barbara Stanwyck, an excellent comic foil, is a nightclub singer whose boyfriend is a gangster on the run from the police. She comes into contact with Cooper through his work. He is doing a section for his encyclopedia on slang and enlists her to help him and needing to hide from the cops, she accepts. This set-up is very interesting because while Gary Cooper is not rich, he's an expert on the language of the rich in a sense. In turn, Stanwyck's character, Sugarpuss O'Shea, is lower-class only through his standards. In terms of actual material wealth, O'Shea is richer than Cooper because her boyfriend has stolen large amounts of money while he has worked nine years into his uncompleted encyclopedia. Also, Sugarpuss O'Shea has absolutely no academic credentials, but suddenly becomes of use to him as an expert on slang through her lower-class background. Many twists on the traditional form of the screwball comedy are thrown into the story adding enough complexity to the relationship that it becomes unclear who really has the upper-hand. Moreso, the language theme presents wealth as an illusion which validates the main message of screwball comedies as well.


6 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 93 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Trending Movies With Prime Video

Enjoy a night in with these popular movies available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed