7.8/10
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91 user 45 critic

Ball of Fire (1941)

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:

The New Year's red-hot comedy! 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 working titles of this film were "From A to Z" (which also was the title of Billy Wilder and Thomas Monroe's screen story), "Blonde Blitzkrieg" and "The Professor and the Burlesque Queen." See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Professor Bertram Potts: Is that coming from next door?
Miss Bragg: It's coming from this door.
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 »


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

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User Reviews

Old Fashion Comedy
16 November 2001 | by eibon09See 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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