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

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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:

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

Genres:

Comedy | Romance

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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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 »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The roles of the seven professors (besides Gary Cooper) were inspired by Disney's Seven Dwarfs. There is even a photograph showing the actors sitting in front of a Disney poster, each one in front of his corresponding dwarf: S.Z. Sakall - Dopey; Leonid Kinskey - Sneezy; Richard Haydn - Bashful; Henry Travers - Sleepy; Aubrey Mather - Happy; Tully Marshall - Grumpy, and Oskar Homolka - Doc. See more »

Goofs

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

Quotes

Sugarpuss O'Shea: [about Potts] Yes, I love him. I love those hick shirts he wears with the boiled cuffs and the way he always has his vest buttoned wrong. Looks like a giraffe, and I love him. I love him because he's the kind of a guy that gets drunk on a glass of buttermilk, and I love the way he blushes right up over his ears. Love him because he doesn't know how to kiss, the jerk!
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

Featured in Barbara Stanwyck: Fire and Desire (1991) See more »

Soundtracks

Bridal Chorus (Here Comes the Bride)
(1850) (uncredited)
from "Lohengrin"
Written by Richard Wagner
In the score as the professors go to New Jersey for the wedding
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
"Oh, Potsie"
19 August 2006 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

1941 may very well have been Gary Cooper's career year. His film performances that year are among his best, the Oscar winning Sergeant York, Frank Capra's classic Meet John Doe, and this sparking comedy Ball of Fire. However it was Barbara Stanwyck who snagged an Oscar nomination for this film with her portrayal of sassy nightclub singer Sugarpuss O'Shea. Stanwyck lost however to Joan Fontaine in Suspicion.

A whole lot of talent went into the making of this film besides the two leads. Howard Hawks worked from a script by Billy Wilder and his writing partner, Charles Brackett. And Hawks put together a superb list of supporting players including seven of our finest character actors to be Cooper's professorial colleagues, Henry Travers, Leonid Kinskey, Aubrey Mather, Oscar Homolka, S.Z. Sakall, Tully Marshall and making his film debut, Richard Haydn.

These eight cloistered academicians are working off a grant to create some kind of ultimate encyclopedia. Cooper's specialty is the English language. A garbageman played by Allen Jenkins awakens him to a whole generation of new slang terms he hasn't heard. Cooper ventures out into the world and meets a variety of people and hears a whole batch of new expressions. His wanderings take him to a nightclub where he hears Stanwyck singing with Gene Krupa's band.

Stanwyck's just filled with all the new hep jive talk, but she's also ducking a grand jury subpoena to testify against her boy friend, gangster Dana Andrews. She decides a good place to hide might just be the house where all these professors are quartered.

It's quite a mismatch, scholarly and shy Cooper and brazen Stanwyck, In fact Hawks modeled Cooper's Bertram Potts on the character Cary Grant played in Bringing Up Baby which Hawks also directed. Cooper was as successful as Grant in breaking his stereotype though he never quite got the physical comedy down the way Cary did.

Still Ball of Fire is a great big ball of amusement. I'm surprised there hasn't been a remake of this recently. Danny Kaye did a remake called A Song Is Born later in the decade with Kaye being a music professor instead. But I can see the possibilities of a remake here with this group of academicians putting together a Wikipedia like encyclopedia or even an ultimate search engine for the internet like Google.


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