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Ball of Fire

Ball of Fire(1942)

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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. The onscreen credits conclude with the following written statement: "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 fiddled while Rome was burning. But there was one thing about which they knew very little-as you shall see..." In a modern interview, Wilder recalled that he wrote the first draft of "From A to Z" in German, sometime before he came to Hollywood, and that Monroe then helped "Americanize it." Slang expressions featured in the script include "shove in your clutch," "patch my pantywaist," "hottoytoy," "squirrel fever," "corn right off the cob" and "sucker for succotash."
       Hollywood Reporter news items add the following information about the production: Wilder and co-writer Charles Brackett researched their script by visiting a drugstore opposite Hollywood High School, a pool room, a burlesque house and Hollywood Park racetrack. In January 1941, producer Samuel Goldwyn announced that Virginia Gilmore, who had been under contract to him for two years but had yet to be cast in one of his pictures, would appear as Gary Cooper's co-star. In April 1941, however, Carole Lombard was announced as the probable female lead. Warner Bros. contract player Phil Silvers also was announced for a role, but he did not appear in the final film. Rosemary La Planche, Miss America of 1941, reportedly was signed for a role, but her appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. Although the picture did not have its official premiere until January 1942, it was eligible for 1941 Academy Award consideration, and is listed in most modern sources as a 1941 picture. Ball of Fire received four Academy Award nominations: Best Actress (Barbara Stanwyck), Best Original Story (Wilder and Monroe); Best Scoring of a Dramatic Picture (Alfred Newman) and Best Sound Recording (Thomas Moulton).
       Modern sources add the following information about the production: Then-aspiring director Wilder spent two months observing veteran director Howard Hawks on the set of the film. Hawks recalled in a modern interview that for the scene in which "Bertram" reveals his feelings about "Sugarpuss" in the darkened bungalow, cinematographer Gregg Toland coated Stanwyck's face with black grease paint so that her eyes would stand out. Considered by some modern critics as the last "Golden Age" screwball comedy, Ball of Fire ranked among the top twenty grossers for 1942. Modern sources credit Julia Heron as a second set decorator and Bill Stephenson as dance director. [Hollywood Reporter news items, however, credit Nick Castle as dance director.] Stanwyck co-starred with Fred MacMurray in a Lux Radio Theatre version of the story on June 1, 1942, and on August 16, 1951, the Hallmark Playhouse broadcast a version, starring Franchot Tone and Wendy Barrie. In 1948, Goldwyn produced and Hawks directed a musical remake of the story, titled A Song Is Born . Mary Field reprised her role as "Miss Totten" in the remake.