Ball of Fire


1h 51m 1942
Ball of Fire

Brief Synopsis

A group of professors takes in a nightclub singer hiding from the law to protect her gangster boyfriend.

Film Details

Also Known As
Blonde Blitzkrieg, From A to Z, The Professor and the Burlesque Queen
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 9, 1942
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Samuel Goldwyn Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 51m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10,032ft (12 reels)

Synopsis

At the Daniel S. Totten Foundation in New York, Bertram Potts, a somber, dedicated linguistics professor, oversees the writing of an encyclopedia, on which he and his eight uniquely qualified colleagues have been toiling for nine years. When their financial backer, Miss Totten, drops by the foundation and threatens to withdraw her support, Bertram is prodded by the others to flirt with her. Charmed by Bertram's flattery, Miss Totten changes her mind, agreeing to back the encyclopedia to its completion. Soon after, a garbage man appears in the foundation's library and asks the professors for help on some radio quiz show questions. Intrigued by the garbage man's picturesque slang, Bertram declares that his section on slang is already outdated and requires further research. Bertram then takes to the streets, where he eavesdrops on a series of conversations and invites several people to participate in a slang symposium. When he invites sexy nightclub performer Sugarpuss O'Shea to attend, Sugarpuss abruptly dismisses him. Unknown to Bertram, Sugarpuss is being sought by the district attorney in connection with a murder that her gangster boyfriend, Joe Lilac, is suspected of committing, and she and Joe's henchmen, Asthma Anderson and Duke Pastrami, flee the club one step ahead of a subpoena. With no safe place to hide, Sugarpuss decides to take Bertram up on his invitation and shows up at the foundation later that night. Although pleased to see the still scantily clad Sugarpuss, Bertram, whom Sugarpuss calls "Pottsie," refuses to allow her to stay the night, but is overruled by his sex-starved colleagues. At the district attorney's office, meanwhile, Joe is confronted about a monogrammed bathrobe found in the murdered man's suitcase, which the district attorney suspects once belonged to Joe and was given to him by Sugarpuss. Concerned that Sugarpuss might be compelled to testify against Joe, his lawyer advises him to marry her. Three days later, Sugarpuss, who has been helping Bertram dissect a long list of slang expressions as well as teaching the other professors the conga, is visited by Asthma and Pastrami. The thugs present her with a pricey diamond engagement ring from Joe, and eager to become the wealthy Mrs. Lilac, Sugarpuss accepts the ring and agrees to stay at the foundation until she can safely meet Joe. Just then, however, Miss Bragg, the professors' prim housekeeper, demands that Sugarpuss leave, as she has become too much of a disruption. When Bertram asks Sugarpuss to go, admitting that her feminine ways have distracted him from his work, Sugarpuss declares that she is "just plain wacky" for him and kisses him. Bertram is so taken with Sugarpuss' kisses that he decides to propose to her, and the next morning, he gives her a small diamond engagement ring. Bertram's ardor saddens and confuses Sugarpuss, but before she can respond, Joe telephones from New Jersey. As Joe has identified himself as "Daddy," Bertram assumes he is Sugarpuss' father and asks him for permission to marry. Joe, seeing an opportunity to get Sugarpuss past the police's dragnet, goes along with the misconception and requests that the wedding be performed in New Jersey. Before the wedding party departs, however, Miss Bragg, having seen Sugarpuss' photo in the newspaper, threatens to call the police on her. After Sugarpuss slugs Miss Bragg and locks her in a closet, Bertram and the other unsuspecting professors excitedly depart for New Jersey. On the way, Professor Gurkakoff, who is driving, crashes into a signpost, disabling the car. The wedding party is forced to spend the night at an auto court, but when Sugarpuss calls Joe with the news, he insists on picking her up that night. While she waits in her bungalow, Professor Oddly, a widowed botanist, tells Bertram about his genteel honeymoon, then retires for the night. Perturbed by Oddly's remarks, Bertram seeks him out for clarification, but accidentally ends up in Sugarpuss' darkened bungalow. Believing that he is speaking to Oddly, Bertram describes his deeply felt passion for Sugarpuss, and moved by his words, she reveals herself and kisses him. At that moment, however, Joe and his gang arrive and expose Sugarpuss' deception. Finding lipstick on Bertram's face, Joe then pummels the hapless professor. After directing Miss Bragg, who escaped from the closet, and the police away from the auto court, Bertram confronts Sugarpuss. She tearfully apologizes, but Bertram returns to New York, angry and humiliated. Later, at the foundation, Oddly reveals that Sugarpuss gave him a ring to deliver to Bertram, not his, but Joe's. Bertram is buoyed by the professors' deduction that the singer is in love with him, and is unshaken when a scandalized Miss Totten arrives to announce their termination. Asthma and Pastrami then appear and, while holding the professors and Miss Totten at gunpoint, tell Sugarpuss over the phone that they are going to open fire unless she marries Joe. To protect the professors, Sugarpuss proceeds with the ceremony, which is being conducted in New Jersey by an addled-brain justice of the peace. Sugarpuss' fate appears sealed until the professors cause a heavy portrait to fall on Pastrami and then take Asthma by surprise. With help from the garbage man, the professors tickle Pastrami into revealing Sugarpuss' location and race to New Jersey, arriving seconds before she is officially wed. After Bertram beats up Joe and delivers the gangsters to the police, he convinces Sugarpuss she is worthy of him by giving her a passionate, "yum-yum" kiss.

Cast

Gary Cooper

Prof. Bertram Potts

Barbara Stanwyck

Sugarpuss O'Shea

Oscar Homolka

Prof. Gurkakoff

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

Charles Lane

Larsen

Charles Arnt

McNeary

Elisha Cook

Waiter

Alan Rhein

"Horseface"

Eddie Foster

Pinstripe

Aldrich Bowker

Justice of the peace [P. Mulqueen]

Addison Richards

District Attorney

Pat West

Bum

Kenneth Howell

College boy

Tommy Ryan

Newsboy

Tim Ryan

Motorcop

Will Lee

"Benny, the Creep"

Gene Krupa

Otto Hoffman

Stage door man

Pat Flaherty

Deputy

George Sherwood

Deputy

Eddy Chandler

Policeman

Lee Phelps

Policeman in station

Johnnie Morris

Justice of the peace's clerk

Edward Clark

Proprietor of motor inn

Ken Christy

Policeman at motor inn

Dick Rush

Policeman at motor inn

Ed Mundy

Spieler

Geraldine Fisette

Hula dancer

Oscar Chalkee Williams

Irish policeman

Del Lawrence

Irish gardener

June Horne

Nursemaid in park

Ethelreda Leopold

Nursemaid in park

Walter Shumway

Garbage man

George Barton

Garbage man

Merrilee Lannon

Girl in subway

Doria Caron

Girl in subway

Helen Seamon

College girl

Catherine Henderson

College girl

Jack Perry

Fighting bum

Lorraine Miller

Girl in café

Mildred Morris

Chorus girl

Francis Sayles

Taxi driver

Gerald Pierce

Delivery boy

Chet De Vito

Toll keeper

Photo Collections

Ball of Fire - Movie Poster
Here is the American half-sheet movie poster for Ball of Fire (1942), starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. Half-sheets measured 22x28 inches.

Film Details

Also Known As
Blonde Blitzkrieg, From A to Z, The Professor and the Burlesque Queen
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 9, 1942
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Samuel Goldwyn Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 51m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10,032ft (12 reels)

Award Nominations

Best Actress

1941
Barbara Stanwyck

Best Music Original Dramatic Score

1942

Best Sound

1941

Best Writing, Screenplay

1942

Articles

The Essentials - Ball of Fire


SYNOPSIS

When Prof. Bertram Potts decides he needs some first-hand research for an encyclopedia on slang he's co-writing with seven scholars, he takes to the streets where he recruits various characters for further research, inviting them to the professors' residence. One of his subjects, stripper Sugarpuss O'Shea (Barbara Stanwyck), takes him up on his offer when her gangster boyfriend, Joe Lilac (Dana Andrews), decides to force her into marriage so she can't testify against him. Moving in with the academics, Sugarpuss soon charms the older men and wins Potts' love but it's only a matter of time until Lilac and his henchmen track her down.

Director: Howard Hawks
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn
Screenplay: Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder
Based on the story "From A to Z" by Thomas Monroe and Wilder Cinematography: Gregg Toland
Editing: Daniel Mandell
Art Direction: Perry Ferguson
Music: Alfred Newman
Cast: Gary Cooper (Prof. Bertram Potts), Barbara Stanwyck (Sugarpuss O'Shea), Oskar Homolka (Prof. Gurkakoff), 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), Charles Lane (Larson), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Waiter), Gene Krupa (Himself).
BW-111m.

Why BALL OF FIRE Is Essential

Historians have called Ball of Fire the last great screwball comedy released before World War II. Technically, the film only previewed before the U.S. entry into the war, not having its official premiere until January 1942, but it was still the last appearance of this brand of Hollywood comedy before the U.S. was plunged into battle against the Axis.

Although less frenetic than Howard Hawks' other comedies, most notably Bringing Up Baby (1938) and His Girl Friday (1940), Ball of Fire fits well into the director's canon in its depiction of one of his most prominent themes, the way characters in conflict can change each other for the better.

Ball of Fire was the film that introduced writer-director Billy Wilder to Barbara Stanwyck. Impressed with her work, he would later offer her the role of Phyllis Dietrichson in the classic film noir Double Indemnity (1944).

Ball of Fire was the last time Wilder received credit for a screenplay that he did not direct himself. He had been increasingly unhappy with the way some directors were treating his work, and moved into the director's chair with his next film, The Major and the Minor (1942), starring Ginger Rogers.

by Frank Miller
The Essentials - Ball Of Fire

The Essentials - Ball of Fire

SYNOPSIS When Prof. Bertram Potts decides he needs some first-hand research for an encyclopedia on slang he's co-writing with seven scholars, he takes to the streets where he recruits various characters for further research, inviting them to the professors' residence. One of his subjects, stripper Sugarpuss O'Shea (Barbara Stanwyck), takes him up on his offer when her gangster boyfriend, Joe Lilac (Dana Andrews), decides to force her into marriage so she can't testify against him. Moving in with the academics, Sugarpuss soon charms the older men and wins Potts' love but it's only a matter of time until Lilac and his henchmen track her down. Director: Howard Hawks Producer: Samuel Goldwyn Screenplay: Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder Based on the story "From A to Z" by Thomas Monroe and Wilder Cinematography: Gregg Toland Editing: Daniel Mandell Art Direction: Perry Ferguson Music: Alfred Newman Cast: Gary Cooper (Prof. Bertram Potts), Barbara Stanwyck (Sugarpuss O'Shea), Oskar Homolka (Prof. Gurkakoff), 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), Charles Lane (Larson), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Waiter), Gene Krupa (Himself). BW-111m. Why BALL OF FIRE Is Essential Historians have called Ball of Fire the last great screwball comedy released before World War II. Technically, the film only previewed before the U.S. entry into the war, not having its official premiere until January 1942, but it was still the last appearance of this brand of Hollywood comedy before the U.S. was plunged into battle against the Axis. Although less frenetic than Howard Hawks' other comedies, most notably Bringing Up Baby (1938) and His Girl Friday (1940), Ball of Fire fits well into the director's canon in its depiction of one of his most prominent themes, the way characters in conflict can change each other for the better. Ball of Fire was the film that introduced writer-director Billy Wilder to Barbara Stanwyck. Impressed with her work, he would later offer her the role of Phyllis Dietrichson in the classic film noir Double Indemnity (1944). Ball of Fire was the last time Wilder received credit for a screenplay that he did not direct himself. He had been increasingly unhappy with the way some directors were treating his work, and moved into the director's chair with his next film, The Major and the Minor (1942), starring Ginger Rogers. by Frank Miller

Pop Culture 101 - Ball of Fire


The fairy tale "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was used as the inspiration for Sugarpuss and the seven professors who become her pupils.

Stanwyck joined Fred MacMurray for a radio version of the film broadcast on Lux Radio Theatre in 1942.

In 1948, Goldwyn produced a musical remake with Hawks directing under the title A Song Is Born. Danny Kaye took over the Gary Cooper role, with Virginia Mayo as Sugarpuss. Mary Field, who played Kaye's fiancée, was the only member of the original cast to return for the re-make. The film had problems from the start. Kaye was temporarily separated from his wife and seeing a psychiatrist twice a day which left him, according to Hawks, "as funny as a crutch." Mayo was hampered by the fact that Goldwyn forced her to view the original repeatedly and play her role exactly as Stanwyck had. A Song Is Born got some of the worst reviews of Goldwyn's career.

A 1951 television version of Ball of Fire was shown as part of the Hallmark Playhouse starring Franchot Tone and Wendy Barrie.

by Frank Miller

Pop Culture 101 - Ball of Fire

The fairy tale "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was used as the inspiration for Sugarpuss and the seven professors who become her pupils. Stanwyck joined Fred MacMurray for a radio version of the film broadcast on Lux Radio Theatre in 1942. In 1948, Goldwyn produced a musical remake with Hawks directing under the title A Song Is Born. Danny Kaye took over the Gary Cooper role, with Virginia Mayo as Sugarpuss. Mary Field, who played Kaye's fiancée, was the only member of the original cast to return for the re-make. The film had problems from the start. Kaye was temporarily separated from his wife and seeing a psychiatrist twice a day which left him, according to Hawks, "as funny as a crutch." Mayo was hampered by the fact that Goldwyn forced her to view the original repeatedly and play her role exactly as Stanwyck had. A Song Is Born got some of the worst reviews of Goldwyn's career. A 1951 television version of Ball of Fire was shown as part of the Hallmark Playhouse starring Franchot Tone and Wendy Barrie. by Frank Miller

Trivia - Ball of Fire - Trivia & Fun Facts About BALL OF FIRE


Ball of Fire was the 25th highest-grossing film of 1942, taking in $2.2 million at the box office.

With the success of Ball of Fire and Sergeant York (1941), Gary Cooper ranked seventh at the box office for 1941.

Among actors announced for the cast who did not end up in Ball of Fire were Phil Silvers and Miss America 1941 Rosemary La Planche.

Had Carole Lombard agreed to star in Ball of Fire it might have saved her life. The film's New York premiere, attended by its stars, coincided with the bond tour during which Lombard's plane crashed, killing all on board.

To help audience members connect the seven elderly professors with the seven dwarfs from Walt Disney's movie, the publicity department posed a portrait of the seven actors seated in front of a poster for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with each in the same position as the dwarf he represented: S.Z. Sakall - Dopey; Leonid Kinskey - Sneezy; Richard Haydn - Bashful; Henry Travers - Sleepy; Aubrey Mather - Happy; Tully Marshall - Grumpy; and Oskar Homolka - Doc.

During the shootout with the police, Dan Duryea licks his thumb and rubs it on his gun sight before shooting, saying, "I saw this in a movie." The movie in question was Sergeant York, in which Gary Cooper's Alvin York uses the same trick.

When Howard Hawks was later asked about the slower pace of Ball of Fire compared to his earlier comedies such as His Girl Friday (1940), he said, "Well, it was about pedantic people. When you've got professors saying lines, they can't speak 'em like crime reporters. So we naturally slowed up - couldn't do anything about it. Also, it was a little bit further from truth and a little more allegorical. It actually was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - with the striptease dancer as Snow White. It didn't have the same reality as the other comedies and we couldn't make it go with the same speed." (from Who the Devil Made It: Conversations With Legendary Film Directors by Peter Bogdanovich.

Director Howard Hawks had a habit of taking credit for other people's ideas. When Leonid Kinskey suggested the professors should sing the old college hymn "Gaudeamus Igitur," Hawks presented it to the company as his own idea. In later years, he would claim that he had suggested to Brackett and Wilder that the film was really a variation on the story of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

The lines Cooper speaks to Stanwyck at the end of Ball of Fire, beginning with "Look how this ring emcompasseth thy finger," are from Shakespeare's Richard III.

After a week's engagement in Los Angeles in late 1941 to qualify for the Academy Awards®, Ball of Fire opened at the Radio City Music Hall in New York.

When Goldwyn had first bought the story from Wilder, he had promised him a $2,500 bonus if the film were ever made. Once Ball of Fire became a hit, Wilder called Goldwyn to ask for the bonus. At first Goldwyn denied having promised him the money. After all, there was nothing about it in Wilder's contract. As Wilder got more and more angry with Goldwyn, the producer finally relented and told him he could come by and pick up his check...for $1,500. Although Wilder and Goldwyn became friends in later years, they never worked together again.

FAMOUS QUOTES FROM BALL OF FIRE (1941)

"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 new very little - as we shall see..." -Opening title to Ball of Fire

"You see, the word 'puss' means face, as for instance 'sourpuss.'...'Sugarpuss' implies a certain sweetness in her appearance." -- Gary Cooper, as Bertram Potts, explains to his fellow professors the nickname given Barbara Stanwyck, as Sugarpuss O'Shea

"Well, I got thinking it over, and pooh, I said to myself, who am I to give science the brush?" -- Stanwyck, as Sugarpuss O'Shea, explaining her reasons for helping Cooper, as Bertram Potts

"That is the kind of woman that makes whole civilizations topple," -- Kathleen Howard, as Miss Bragg, describing Stanwyck, as Sugarpuss

"Do you know what this means -- 'I'll get you on the Ameche?''
"No." "'Course you don't. An Ameche is the telephone, on account of he invented it."
"Oh, no, he didn't."
"Like, you know, in the movies." -- Stanwyck, teaching Cooper, as Potts, about slang

"Make no mistake, I shall regret the absence of your keen mind; unfortunately, it is inseparable from an extremely disturbing body." -- Cooper, trying to give Stanwyck the kiss off

"I'm gonna show you what yum-yum is. Here's yum. Here's the other yum. And here's yum-yum." -- Stanwyck, teaching Cooper how to kiss

"Would you 'yum' me just once more?" -Cooper

"People like that just -- Well, you see, dust piles up on their hearts, and it took you to blow it away." -- Cooper, explaining Stanwyck's effect on the professors

"You've given us all a fine course in the theory and practice of being a sucker." -- Cooper, feeling betrayed by Stanwyck

"He can get drunk on buttermilk, blushes up to his ears and doesn't even know how to kiss, the jerk....He looks like a giraffe, and I love him." - Stanwyck, about Cooper

"I feel like yodeling." -- Cooper, when he realizes that Stanwyck loves him

"I think it is known as an upstick." -- Richard Haydn, as Professor Oddly

Compiled by Frank Miller

Trivia - Ball of Fire - Trivia & Fun Facts About BALL OF FIRE

Ball of Fire was the 25th highest-grossing film of 1942, taking in $2.2 million at the box office. With the success of Ball of Fire and Sergeant York (1941), Gary Cooper ranked seventh at the box office for 1941. Among actors announced for the cast who did not end up in Ball of Fire were Phil Silvers and Miss America 1941 Rosemary La Planche. Had Carole Lombard agreed to star in Ball of Fire it might have saved her life. The film's New York premiere, attended by its stars, coincided with the bond tour during which Lombard's plane crashed, killing all on board. To help audience members connect the seven elderly professors with the seven dwarfs from Walt Disney's movie, the publicity department posed a portrait of the seven actors seated in front of a poster for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with each in the same position as the dwarf he represented: S.Z. Sakall - Dopey; Leonid Kinskey - Sneezy; Richard Haydn - Bashful; Henry Travers - Sleepy; Aubrey Mather - Happy; Tully Marshall - Grumpy; and Oskar Homolka - Doc. During the shootout with the police, Dan Duryea licks his thumb and rubs it on his gun sight before shooting, saying, "I saw this in a movie." The movie in question was Sergeant York, in which Gary Cooper's Alvin York uses the same trick. When Howard Hawks was later asked about the slower pace of Ball of Fire compared to his earlier comedies such as His Girl Friday (1940), he said, "Well, it was about pedantic people. When you've got professors saying lines, they can't speak 'em like crime reporters. So we naturally slowed up - couldn't do anything about it. Also, it was a little bit further from truth and a little more allegorical. It actually was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - with the striptease dancer as Snow White. It didn't have the same reality as the other comedies and we couldn't make it go with the same speed." (from Who the Devil Made It: Conversations With Legendary Film Directors by Peter Bogdanovich. Director Howard Hawks had a habit of taking credit for other people's ideas. When Leonid Kinskey suggested the professors should sing the old college hymn "Gaudeamus Igitur," Hawks presented it to the company as his own idea. In later years, he would claim that he had suggested to Brackett and Wilder that the film was really a variation on the story of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." The lines Cooper speaks to Stanwyck at the end of Ball of Fire, beginning with "Look how this ring emcompasseth thy finger," are from Shakespeare's Richard III. After a week's engagement in Los Angeles in late 1941 to qualify for the Academy Awards®, Ball of Fire opened at the Radio City Music Hall in New York. When Goldwyn had first bought the story from Wilder, he had promised him a $2,500 bonus if the film were ever made. Once Ball of Fire became a hit, Wilder called Goldwyn to ask for the bonus. At first Goldwyn denied having promised him the money. After all, there was nothing about it in Wilder's contract. As Wilder got more and more angry with Goldwyn, the producer finally relented and told him he could come by and pick up his check...for $1,500. Although Wilder and Goldwyn became friends in later years, they never worked together again. FAMOUS QUOTES FROM BALL OF FIRE (1941) "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 new very little - as we shall see..." -Opening title to Ball of Fire "You see, the word 'puss' means face, as for instance 'sourpuss.'...'Sugarpuss' implies a certain sweetness in her appearance." -- Gary Cooper, as Bertram Potts, explains to his fellow professors the nickname given Barbara Stanwyck, as Sugarpuss O'Shea "Well, I got thinking it over, and pooh, I said to myself, who am I to give science the brush?" -- Stanwyck, as Sugarpuss O'Shea, explaining her reasons for helping Cooper, as Bertram Potts "That is the kind of woman that makes whole civilizations topple," -- Kathleen Howard, as Miss Bragg, describing Stanwyck, as Sugarpuss "Do you know what this means -- 'I'll get you on the Ameche?'' "No." "'Course you don't. An Ameche is the telephone, on account of he invented it." "Oh, no, he didn't." "Like, you know, in the movies." -- Stanwyck, teaching Cooper, as Potts, about slang "Make no mistake, I shall regret the absence of your keen mind; unfortunately, it is inseparable from an extremely disturbing body." -- Cooper, trying to give Stanwyck the kiss off "I'm gonna show you what yum-yum is. Here's yum. Here's the other yum. And here's yum-yum." -- Stanwyck, teaching Cooper how to kiss "Would you 'yum' me just once more?" -Cooper "People like that just -- Well, you see, dust piles up on their hearts, and it took you to blow it away." -- Cooper, explaining Stanwyck's effect on the professors "You've given us all a fine course in the theory and practice of being a sucker." -- Cooper, feeling betrayed by Stanwyck "He can get drunk on buttermilk, blushes up to his ears and doesn't even know how to kiss, the jerk....He looks like a giraffe, and I love him." - Stanwyck, about Cooper "I feel like yodeling." -- Cooper, when he realizes that Stanwyck loves him "I think it is known as an upstick." -- Richard Haydn, as Professor Oddly Compiled by Frank Miller

The Big Idea - Ball of Fire


Ball of Fire was a product of independent producer Samuel Goldwyn's bruised ego. Goldwyn had Gary Cooper under contract but was embarrassed that all of the star's best films had been made on loan-out to other studios. To save face, he decided to hire one of Hollywood's hottest screenwriting teams, Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett.

Wilder and Brackett were under contract to Paramount Pictures, which had a strict policy against loaning out writers. But Paramount executives were also desperate to borrow Cooper to star in their film version of Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), so Goldwyn held out on lending them Cooper's services until he could get the writers he wanted. Paramount was so eager to work with Cooper they agreed to loan Goldwyn Bob Hope as well.

Wilder was anxious to take more control of his scripts by moving into directing. He only agreed to work with Goldwyn because of the high fee he was offered -- $7,500 for the story and $79,800 for the screenplay - and the promise that he could observe every day of the shoot. In later years, Wilder would say that all he really learned from Hawks was how to say "Action," "Cut" and "Print it." He also would say the only real dividend he got out of doing the picture was the chance to meet Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, both of whom would star in his films when he became a director.

Wilder didn't like any of the stories in Goldwyn's files, so he drew his plot from a story he had written in Germany, "From A to Z," about the romance between a linguistics professor and a stripper. When he arrived in the states he had Americanized it with the help of Thomas Monroe.

To pick up authentic slang for the film script, Wilder and Brackett visited the drugstore across the street from Hollywood High School, a burlesque house and the Hollywood Park racetrack.

When he couldn't come up with the perfect director on his own, Goldwyn asked Cooper to name the director he would most like to work with. Cooper asked for Howard Hawks, with whom he was then working on Sergeant York (1941). This was a problem for Goldwyn, who had not worked with Hawks since firing him from Come and Get It in 1936, but he also wanted the best director for his star.

Hawks' agent, Charles Feldman, put off Goldwyn's offers until Sergeant York went into previews. The film was so well-received, that he was able to get Goldwyn to pay Hawks $100,000 for the film. It helped that Hawks already was entertaining a generous offer from Warner Bros. to direct Orson Welles in a screen version of The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942). The film would be made without Hawks or Welles.

The first actress announced for the role of Sugarpuss O'Shea was Virginia Gilmore, who had been under contract to Goldwyn for two years without making a film.

Hawks insisted on offering the female lead to Ginger Rogers, but the actress, who had just won an Oscar® for her dramatic performance in Kitty Foyle (1940) felt the role of a stripper was beneath her. Carole Lombard didn't care for the script, and Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn refused to lend Goldwyn Jean Arthur. He then tested Betty Field, who had just starred in Of Mice and Men (1939) and Lucille Ball.

Cooper suggested they consider Barbara Stanwyck, with whom he had most recently co-starred in Meet John Doe (1941). As soon as he mentioned her, Hawks and Goldwyn realized she was the perfect choice.

Before settling on Ball of Fire, Goldwyn considered calling the film From A to Z (the title of Wilder's original story), Blonde Blitzkrieg and The Professor and the Burlesque Queen.

by Frank Miller

The Big Idea - Ball of Fire

Ball of Fire was a product of independent producer Samuel Goldwyn's bruised ego. Goldwyn had Gary Cooper under contract but was embarrassed that all of the star's best films had been made on loan-out to other studios. To save face, he decided to hire one of Hollywood's hottest screenwriting teams, Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett. Wilder and Brackett were under contract to Paramount Pictures, which had a strict policy against loaning out writers. But Paramount executives were also desperate to borrow Cooper to star in their film version of Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), so Goldwyn held out on lending them Cooper's services until he could get the writers he wanted. Paramount was so eager to work with Cooper they agreed to loan Goldwyn Bob Hope as well. Wilder was anxious to take more control of his scripts by moving into directing. He only agreed to work with Goldwyn because of the high fee he was offered -- $7,500 for the story and $79,800 for the screenplay - and the promise that he could observe every day of the shoot. In later years, Wilder would say that all he really learned from Hawks was how to say "Action," "Cut" and "Print it." He also would say the only real dividend he got out of doing the picture was the chance to meet Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, both of whom would star in his films when he became a director. Wilder didn't like any of the stories in Goldwyn's files, so he drew his plot from a story he had written in Germany, "From A to Z," about the romance between a linguistics professor and a stripper. When he arrived in the states he had Americanized it with the help of Thomas Monroe. To pick up authentic slang for the film script, Wilder and Brackett visited the drugstore across the street from Hollywood High School, a burlesque house and the Hollywood Park racetrack. When he couldn't come up with the perfect director on his own, Goldwyn asked Cooper to name the director he would most like to work with. Cooper asked for Howard Hawks, with whom he was then working on Sergeant York (1941). This was a problem for Goldwyn, who had not worked with Hawks since firing him from Come and Get It in 1936, but he also wanted the best director for his star. Hawks' agent, Charles Feldman, put off Goldwyn's offers until Sergeant York went into previews. The film was so well-received, that he was able to get Goldwyn to pay Hawks $100,000 for the film. It helped that Hawks already was entertaining a generous offer from Warner Bros. to direct Orson Welles in a screen version of The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942). The film would be made without Hawks or Welles. The first actress announced for the role of Sugarpuss O'Shea was Virginia Gilmore, who had been under contract to Goldwyn for two years without making a film. Hawks insisted on offering the female lead to Ginger Rogers, but the actress, who had just won an Oscar® for her dramatic performance in Kitty Foyle (1940) felt the role of a stripper was beneath her. Carole Lombard didn't care for the script, and Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn refused to lend Goldwyn Jean Arthur. He then tested Betty Field, who had just starred in Of Mice and Men (1939) and Lucille Ball. Cooper suggested they consider Barbara Stanwyck, with whom he had most recently co-starred in Meet John Doe (1941). As soon as he mentioned her, Hawks and Goldwyn realized she was the perfect choice. Before settling on Ball of Fire, Goldwyn considered calling the film From A to Z (the title of Wilder's original story), Blonde Blitzkrieg and The Professor and the Burlesque Queen. by Frank Miller

Behind the Camera - Ball of Fire


Filming on Ball of Fire began on August 6, 1941.

After filming Gene Krupa's "Drum Boogie" in the nightclub sequence of the film, Hawks saw the drummer playing around by using a pair of matches as drum sticks. That gave him the idea to add a reprise called "Match Boogie." It only took him two hours to film it.

To make sure that only Barbara Stanwyck's eyes would be seen in a bedroom scene with Gary Cooper, cinematographer Gregg Toland had her wear blackface.

Location footage in New York, including shots of Yankee Stadium during the World Series, were done by a second-unit crew.

Tommy Dorsey's lead singer, Martha Tilton, dubbed Barbara Stanwyck's performance of "Drum Boogie." Stanwyck would sing for herself in another stripper role in Lady of Burlesque (1943).

While shooting a fight scene with Kathleen Howard, who played the housekeeper, Barbara Stanwyck accidentally connected with a punch and broke her jaw.

When re-writes put Ball of Fire nine days behind schedule, Goldwyn accommodated by expanding the original schedule from 48 to 58 days. With further delays, however, Cooper, Stanwyck and Hawks picked up the pace so they would be free to join Ernest Hemingway on a hunting trip to Sun Valley.

Production on Ball of Fire ended on October 16, 1941, one day ahead of the revised schedule. The final cost was $1,152, 538. Cooper's salary was $150,000, Stanwyck's $68,333.

Wanting to capitalize on the success of Sergeant York (1941), Goldwyn drove the post-production team to get a preview print ready by the start of November.

At the time, the Hollywood trade papers agreed not to review previews held outside the immediate Los Angeles vicinity. Goldwyn made the mistake of booking an early preview in Glendale, a suburb of the city, and a reviewer from Variety showed up. When Goldwyn tried to cancel the preview, it almost led to a riot. Finally, he moved the preview and the audience to Pasadena, where it was out of range of the trade papers.

by Frank Miller

Behind the Camera - Ball of Fire

Filming on Ball of Fire began on August 6, 1941. After filming Gene Krupa's "Drum Boogie" in the nightclub sequence of the film, Hawks saw the drummer playing around by using a pair of matches as drum sticks. That gave him the idea to add a reprise called "Match Boogie." It only took him two hours to film it. To make sure that only Barbara Stanwyck's eyes would be seen in a bedroom scene with Gary Cooper, cinematographer Gregg Toland had her wear blackface. Location footage in New York, including shots of Yankee Stadium during the World Series, were done by a second-unit crew. Tommy Dorsey's lead singer, Martha Tilton, dubbed Barbara Stanwyck's performance of "Drum Boogie." Stanwyck would sing for herself in another stripper role in Lady of Burlesque (1943). While shooting a fight scene with Kathleen Howard, who played the housekeeper, Barbara Stanwyck accidentally connected with a punch and broke her jaw. When re-writes put Ball of Fire nine days behind schedule, Goldwyn accommodated by expanding the original schedule from 48 to 58 days. With further delays, however, Cooper, Stanwyck and Hawks picked up the pace so they would be free to join Ernest Hemingway on a hunting trip to Sun Valley. Production on Ball of Fire ended on October 16, 1941, one day ahead of the revised schedule. The final cost was $1,152, 538. Cooper's salary was $150,000, Stanwyck's $68,333. Wanting to capitalize on the success of Sergeant York (1941), Goldwyn drove the post-production team to get a preview print ready by the start of November. At the time, the Hollywood trade papers agreed not to review previews held outside the immediate Los Angeles vicinity. Goldwyn made the mistake of booking an early preview in Glendale, a suburb of the city, and a reviewer from Variety showed up. When Goldwyn tried to cancel the preview, it almost led to a riot. Finally, he moved the preview and the audience to Pasadena, where it was out of range of the trade papers. by Frank Miller

Ball of Fire


Opposites distract in the 1941 romantic comedy Ball of Fire from screwball king Howard Hawks. Blessed with one of the screen's most perfect meldings of talent on both sides of the camera, Ball of Fire has developed a devoted following through the years, as much for its unique modernization of the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as for its historical position as the last of the Golden Age screwball comedies. If any one person can be singled out for the film's success, it's the independent producer, who made Ball of Fire into a classic almost in spite of himself.

Ego was at the root of the film's success. In the early '40s, Samuel Goldwyn was embarrassed by the fact that although he had Gary Cooper under personal contract, the star had scored his biggest critical and box-office successes on loan to other studios. Although the arrangement had made Goldwyn a lot of money, he was driven to find the perfect vehicle for Cooper. To that end, he approached Paramount Pictures about borrowing their top writing team, Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett. Paramount had a policy against loaning out writers, but they also wanted something from Goldwyn -- Cooper. They were planning a film version of Ernest Hemingway's modern classic For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) and knew he was the only choice for the male lead.

Wilder wasn't too excited about the deal at first. He was eager to start his directing career and didn't want to undertake any assignments as just a writer, but when he saw how much Goldwyn was offering for the script -- over $80,000 -- he agreed on condition that he be allowed to observe the film's director at work. He and Brackett rejected all of the story ideas Goldwyn had in development for Cooper, suggesting instead a story Wilder had started eight years earlier, while still living in his native Germany. "From A to Z" was the tale of a professor who hires a burlesque queen to teach him slang. On his arrival in the U.S., Wilder had Americanized the story with the help of writer Thomas Monroe and sold it to MGM. Goldwyn liked the idea of Cooper as a shy romantic lead, so he put them to work on the screenplay, which sent Wilder and Brackett to various places around Los Angeles -- the drugstore across from Hollywood High School, a burlesque house, a pool room and a racetrack -- to research slang. They also had great fun shaping the characters of Cooper's academic colleagues around the seven dwarfs as presented in the Disney classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

With no director under contract he felt right for the property, Goldwyn accepted Cooper's suggestion that the man currently directing him in Sergeant York (1941), Howard Hawks, was the only logical choice, even though Goldwyn had never liked working with him. The producer questioned Hawks' character because of his heavy drinking and serious gambling problem. He'd also fired him from Come and Get It (1936), which had marked the last time the two men had spoken. Hawks' agent wisely fielded Goldwyn's calls until the day of Sergeant York's successful preview, at which time they negotiated a $100,000 fee for the director.

Finding a leading lady proved a much more challenging task. Although all who read Wilder and Brackett's script thought it was a gem, Goldwyn struck out with his first choice for the role, Ginger Rogers. Having just won an Oscar® for her dramatic turn in Kitty Foyle (1940), she decided the role of a stripper was beneath her. Jean Arthur was the second choice, but Goldwyn couldn't negotiate a loan from Columbia Pictures. After testing Betty Field and Lucille Ball for the role, he sent a script to Carole Lombard, but she didn't like the role either. Refusing the film would ultimately cost her more than a hit. Had she taken the film and attended its premiere, she would have been unavailable for the war bond tour on which she lost her life in a plane crash.

Finally, Cooper suggested one of his favorite leading ladies, Barbara Stanwyck, with whom he had just starred in Meet John Doe (1941). Goldwyn had fond memories of working with her on Stella Dallas (1937), another film role she won after numerous other actresses proved unavailable, and quickly agreed to the deal. It turned out to be a great break for the actress, whose starring performances in Ball of Fire, Meet John Doe and The Lady Eve (also 1941) made her one of the year's top box office stars and a leading contender for the Oscar® (she was nominated for Ball of Fire but lost to Joan Fontaine in Suspicion). She also benefited greatly from Gregg Toland's cinematography. His use of deep focus made this one of her most beautiful performances. The chance to meet Wilder proved another career plus. Watching her work on Ball of Fire inspired him to offer her the role of the cold-hearted killer in Double Indemnity (1944).

Hawks was not particularly thrilled by Toland's work. He rarely had time for deep focus, nor did he think it contributed much to a picture. But he did call on the cameraman to help him capture the romance of the scene in which Cooper admits he loves Stanwyck. Hawks wanted just her eyes to show in the scene, played in a darkened bedroom, and Toland told him the way to do it was by having Stanwyck perform the scene in blackface. The star was a little surprised at the suggestion, but was too professional to refuse, resulting in a great scene.

Ball of Fire wrapped one day ahead of schedule at a final cost of $1.15 million. It premiered on December 24, 1941, in time to qualify for that year's Oscars®, and ended up becoming one of Goldwyn's biggest hits, generating over $1 million in profits. Later critics, though charmed by the film's romantic comedy, would complain that it runs a little slow (at 111 minutes) and is less anarchic than Hawks' other classic comedies like Bringing Up Baby (1938, ironically a box-office flop because of its anarchic character) and His Girl Friday (1940). Yet it also perfectly captures one of his key themes, the way conflicting characters can change each other for the better. The story of the stripper who brings pizzazz to a stuffy academic, who in turn helps her find a sense of inner peace, would be revived for a 1942 radio version starring Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray and a 1951 television adaptation with Wendy Barrie and Franchot Tone. It also inspired a 1948 musical remake, A Song Is Born, produced by Goldwyn and directed by Hawks, with Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo in the leads.

Producer: Samuel Goldwyn
Director: Howard Hawks
Screenplay: Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder
Based on the story "From A to Z" by Thomas Monroe and Billy Wilder
Cinematography: Gregg Toland
Art Direction: Perry Ferguson
Music: Alfred Newman
Cast: Gary Cooper (Prof. Bertram Potts), Barbara Stanwyck (Sugarpuss O'Shea), Oskar Homolka (Prof. Gurkakoff), 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), Charles Lane (Larson), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Waiter), Gene Krupa (Himself).
BW-112m. Closed captioning.

by Frank Miller

Ball of Fire

Opposites distract in the 1941 romantic comedy Ball of Fire from screwball king Howard Hawks. Blessed with one of the screen's most perfect meldings of talent on both sides of the camera, Ball of Fire has developed a devoted following through the years, as much for its unique modernization of the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as for its historical position as the last of the Golden Age screwball comedies. If any one person can be singled out for the film's success, it's the independent producer, who made Ball of Fire into a classic almost in spite of himself. Ego was at the root of the film's success. In the early '40s, Samuel Goldwyn was embarrassed by the fact that although he had Gary Cooper under personal contract, the star had scored his biggest critical and box-office successes on loan to other studios. Although the arrangement had made Goldwyn a lot of money, he was driven to find the perfect vehicle for Cooper. To that end, he approached Paramount Pictures about borrowing their top writing team, Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett. Paramount had a policy against loaning out writers, but they also wanted something from Goldwyn -- Cooper. They were planning a film version of Ernest Hemingway's modern classic For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) and knew he was the only choice for the male lead. Wilder wasn't too excited about the deal at first. He was eager to start his directing career and didn't want to undertake any assignments as just a writer, but when he saw how much Goldwyn was offering for the script -- over $80,000 -- he agreed on condition that he be allowed to observe the film's director at work. He and Brackett rejected all of the story ideas Goldwyn had in development for Cooper, suggesting instead a story Wilder had started eight years earlier, while still living in his native Germany. "From A to Z" was the tale of a professor who hires a burlesque queen to teach him slang. On his arrival in the U.S., Wilder had Americanized the story with the help of writer Thomas Monroe and sold it to MGM. Goldwyn liked the idea of Cooper as a shy romantic lead, so he put them to work on the screenplay, which sent Wilder and Brackett to various places around Los Angeles -- the drugstore across from Hollywood High School, a burlesque house, a pool room and a racetrack -- to research slang. They also had great fun shaping the characters of Cooper's academic colleagues around the seven dwarfs as presented in the Disney classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). With no director under contract he felt right for the property, Goldwyn accepted Cooper's suggestion that the man currently directing him in Sergeant York (1941), Howard Hawks, was the only logical choice, even though Goldwyn had never liked working with him. The producer questioned Hawks' character because of his heavy drinking and serious gambling problem. He'd also fired him from Come and Get It (1936), which had marked the last time the two men had spoken. Hawks' agent wisely fielded Goldwyn's calls until the day of Sergeant York's successful preview, at which time they negotiated a $100,000 fee for the director. Finding a leading lady proved a much more challenging task. Although all who read Wilder and Brackett's script thought it was a gem, Goldwyn struck out with his first choice for the role, Ginger Rogers. Having just won an Oscar® for her dramatic turn in Kitty Foyle (1940), she decided the role of a stripper was beneath her. Jean Arthur was the second choice, but Goldwyn couldn't negotiate a loan from Columbia Pictures. After testing Betty Field and Lucille Ball for the role, he sent a script to Carole Lombard, but she didn't like the role either. Refusing the film would ultimately cost her more than a hit. Had she taken the film and attended its premiere, she would have been unavailable for the war bond tour on which she lost her life in a plane crash. Finally, Cooper suggested one of his favorite leading ladies, Barbara Stanwyck, with whom he had just starred in Meet John Doe (1941). Goldwyn had fond memories of working with her on Stella Dallas (1937), another film role she won after numerous other actresses proved unavailable, and quickly agreed to the deal. It turned out to be a great break for the actress, whose starring performances in Ball of Fire, Meet John Doe and The Lady Eve (also 1941) made her one of the year's top box office stars and a leading contender for the Oscar® (she was nominated for Ball of Fire but lost to Joan Fontaine in Suspicion). She also benefited greatly from Gregg Toland's cinematography. His use of deep focus made this one of her most beautiful performances. The chance to meet Wilder proved another career plus. Watching her work on Ball of Fire inspired him to offer her the role of the cold-hearted killer in Double Indemnity (1944). Hawks was not particularly thrilled by Toland's work. He rarely had time for deep focus, nor did he think it contributed much to a picture. But he did call on the cameraman to help him capture the romance of the scene in which Cooper admits he loves Stanwyck. Hawks wanted just her eyes to show in the scene, played in a darkened bedroom, and Toland told him the way to do it was by having Stanwyck perform the scene in blackface. The star was a little surprised at the suggestion, but was too professional to refuse, resulting in a great scene. Ball of Fire wrapped one day ahead of schedule at a final cost of $1.15 million. It premiered on December 24, 1941, in time to qualify for that year's Oscars®, and ended up becoming one of Goldwyn's biggest hits, generating over $1 million in profits. Later critics, though charmed by the film's romantic comedy, would complain that it runs a little slow (at 111 minutes) and is less anarchic than Hawks' other classic comedies like Bringing Up Baby (1938, ironically a box-office flop because of its anarchic character) and His Girl Friday (1940). Yet it also perfectly captures one of his key themes, the way conflicting characters can change each other for the better. The story of the stripper who brings pizzazz to a stuffy academic, who in turn helps her find a sense of inner peace, would be revived for a 1942 radio version starring Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray and a 1951 television adaptation with Wendy Barrie and Franchot Tone. It also inspired a 1948 musical remake, A Song Is Born, produced by Goldwyn and directed by Hawks, with Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo in the leads. Producer: Samuel Goldwyn Director: Howard Hawks Screenplay: Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder Based on the story "From A to Z" by Thomas Monroe and Billy Wilder Cinematography: Gregg Toland Art Direction: Perry Ferguson Music: Alfred Newman Cast: Gary Cooper (Prof. Bertram Potts), Barbara Stanwyck (Sugarpuss O'Shea), Oskar Homolka (Prof. Gurkakoff), 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), Charles Lane (Larson), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Waiter), Gene Krupa (Himself). BW-112m. Closed captioning. by Frank Miller

Critics' Corner - Ball of Fire


Ball of Fire won Oscar® nominations for Best Actress (Barbara Stanwyck), Best Original Screenplay, Best Score and Best Sound. Stanwyck lost to Joan Fontaine in Suspicion.

The film is listed as number 92 on the American Film Institute's poll of 100 Funniest Movies.

THE CRITICS' CORNER - BALL OF FIRE (1941)

"According to legend, Samuel Goldwyn has made some beautiful lapsi linguae in his time and has done things with the King's English that stand as a monument to his name. Maybe. But still Mr. Goldwyn can't be too touchy on that score, for now he has produced a picture which deliberately kicks the language around in a manner so colorful and lively that you can almost sense his tongue stuck in his cheek. Ball of Fire is the title of this wholly ingratiating lark, and so pleasant is its spoofing of the professorial pose, so comprehensive is its handling of the modern vernacular, and so altogether winning are Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck in it that it had the customers jumping with enjoyment at the Music Hall yesterday." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times.

"The romantic collision of Sugarpuss O'Shea, a burlesque dancer (Barbara Stanwyck), and Bertram Potts, a fuddy-duddy professor (Gary Cooper), is played as if it were terribly bright, but it's rather shrill and tiresome....The professor's colleagues have corny cute names and carry on like people left over from a stock-company Viennese operetta." -- Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies.

"Marvelous performance from Stanwyck, all snap, crackle and pop as the brassy nightclub entertainer..." -- Tom Milne, Time Out.

"A simple gag is hardly enough on which to string 110 minutes of film. And that's all - one funny situation - that Samuel Goldwyn's director and writers have to support Ball of Fire. It's sufficient, however, to provide quite a few chuckles." - Variety Movie Guide.

"There's a veritable corps de comedy in the character actors here; one look at the cast list will convince anyone that scene-stealing would have been rampant without the firm Hawks hand." -- TV Guide.

"Rather overstretched but fitfully amusing romp inspired by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." - Halliwell's Film & Video Guide.

"Delightful" - Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide.

"...hilarious, essential comedy..." - www.classicfilmguide.com/

"...This film is a blast, for several reasons, including the colorful supporting characters and warmth of personality. But the foremost is the fun it has with language. Every line of dialogue was written with the utmost care, suiting the character who speaks it and radiant in its own right...Because the film features so much forties slang, however, it is fairly dated; though the strength of its characters overcome this, those unfamiliar with past times may be put off by the rapid fire dialogue. Their loss." - At-A-Glance Film Reviews, www.rinkworks.com/movies/

"...Hawks' consistently funny romantic comedy that owes more than a little debt to Pygmalion...Opposites have rarely attracted more sweetly than here, with the leads drumming up plenty of chemistry, while it's equally fascinating to watch Cooper, an actor who cultivated his tough screen persona in action movies, playing totally against type." - Channel 4 Film, www.channel4.com/film/

Compiled by Frank Miller & Jeff Stafford

Critics' Corner - Ball of Fire

Ball of Fire won Oscar® nominations for Best Actress (Barbara Stanwyck), Best Original Screenplay, Best Score and Best Sound. Stanwyck lost to Joan Fontaine in Suspicion. The film is listed as number 92 on the American Film Institute's poll of 100 Funniest Movies. THE CRITICS' CORNER - BALL OF FIRE (1941) "According to legend, Samuel Goldwyn has made some beautiful lapsi linguae in his time and has done things with the King's English that stand as a monument to his name. Maybe. But still Mr. Goldwyn can't be too touchy on that score, for now he has produced a picture which deliberately kicks the language around in a manner so colorful and lively that you can almost sense his tongue stuck in his cheek. Ball of Fire is the title of this wholly ingratiating lark, and so pleasant is its spoofing of the professorial pose, so comprehensive is its handling of the modern vernacular, and so altogether winning are Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck in it that it had the customers jumping with enjoyment at the Music Hall yesterday." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times. "The romantic collision of Sugarpuss O'Shea, a burlesque dancer (Barbara Stanwyck), and Bertram Potts, a fuddy-duddy professor (Gary Cooper), is played as if it were terribly bright, but it's rather shrill and tiresome....The professor's colleagues have corny cute names and carry on like people left over from a stock-company Viennese operetta." -- Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies. "Marvelous performance from Stanwyck, all snap, crackle and pop as the brassy nightclub entertainer..." -- Tom Milne, Time Out. "A simple gag is hardly enough on which to string 110 minutes of film. And that's all - one funny situation - that Samuel Goldwyn's director and writers have to support Ball of Fire. It's sufficient, however, to provide quite a few chuckles." - Variety Movie Guide. "There's a veritable corps de comedy in the character actors here; one look at the cast list will convince anyone that scene-stealing would have been rampant without the firm Hawks hand." -- TV Guide. "Rather overstretched but fitfully amusing romp inspired by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." - Halliwell's Film & Video Guide. "Delightful" - Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide. "...hilarious, essential comedy..." - www.classicfilmguide.com/ "...This film is a blast, for several reasons, including the colorful supporting characters and warmth of personality. But the foremost is the fun it has with language. Every line of dialogue was written with the utmost care, suiting the character who speaks it and radiant in its own right...Because the film features so much forties slang, however, it is fairly dated; though the strength of its characters overcome this, those unfamiliar with past times may be put off by the rapid fire dialogue. Their loss." - At-A-Glance Film Reviews, www.rinkworks.com/movies/ "...Hawks' consistently funny romantic comedy that owes more than a little debt to Pygmalion...Opposites have rarely attracted more sweetly than here, with the leads drumming up plenty of chemistry, while it's equally fascinating to watch Cooper, an actor who cultivated his tough screen persona in action movies, playing totally against type." - Channel 4 Film, www.channel4.com/film/ Compiled by Frank Miller & Jeff Stafford

Quotes

Do you know what this means -- "I'll get you on the Ameche"?
- Sugarpuss O'Shea
No.
- Professor Bertram Potts
'Course you don't. An Ameche is the telephone, on account of he invented it.
- Sugarpuss O'Shea
Oh, no, he didn't.
- Professor Bertram Potts
Like, you know, in the movies.
- Sugarpuss O'Shea
Well, I see what you mean. Very interesting. Make no mistake, I shall regret the absence of your keen mind; unfortunately, it is inseparable from an extremely disturbing body.
- Professor Bertram Potts

Trivia

Billy Wilder had already written the story in Germany, then brought it to the USA when he emigrated and sold it to MGM.

Notes

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.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States November 1972

Released in United States on Video August 31, 1988

Released in United States Winter January 9, 1942

Released in United States Winter January 9, 1942

Released in United States on Video August 31, 1988

Released in United States November 1972 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (The Billy Wilder Marathon) November 9-19, 1972.)