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Ball of Fire

Classics and Westerns movie

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The professor and the showgirl

  • Apr 17, 2011
Barbara Stanwyck struts her stuff and steals the show in Ball of Fire. Born Ruby Stevens in Brooklyn, she was right at home in the role of sexy New York nightclub performer Sugarpuss O'Shea. Unaware that she's trying to evade her gangster boyfriend (Dana Andrews), a coalition of straight laced academics enlists her aid in compiling an dictionary of slang. Try as he might, Professor Bertram Potts (Gary Cooper at his longest and leanest) cannot resist her charms; considering that this was made in 1940, Stanwyck was HOT. Those legs!! (Betty Grable had nothing on her.) She also brings a much needed breath of fresh air into the house. When the gangsters track her down and abduct her to (where else?) New Jersey, this stodgy group of bachelors takes them on.

Based on a short story by Billy Wilder, and directed by Howard Hawks, this "screwball comedy" holds up more than 70 years after its initial screening. The entire premise is somewhat dated, but the witty dialog and the farcical portrayals of the professors and hoods, with their ridiculous names (Duke Pastrami? Larsen the Lawyer?), are just as funny today. My favorite scene takes place in the nightclub where Sugarpuss, spectacularly accompanied by Gene Krupa and his orchestra, sings "Drum Boogie." My second favorite involves the interior and exterior of a moving garbage truck.

 Never mind that Stanwyck's singing voice was dubbed, it doesn't show. Never mind that Sugarpuss and Bertram have absolutely nothing in common. This entire film is delightfully, engagingly absurd.
The professor and the showgirl The professor and the showgirl The professor and the showgirl

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April 17, 2011
Better legs than Grable? This I gotta see. Thanks for the review!
About the reviewer
Linda ()
Ranked #2
After 21 years as a school psychologist, I now work part-time at two local historical museums, giving tours and teaching special programs. This leaves me more time to enjoy my little grandchildren, and … more
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About this movie


Offering a screwball twist on the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, this delightful comedy has grown dated since its release in 1941, but that only adds to its everlasting charm. Written by the ace screenwriting team of Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett and directed by Howard Hawks, the movie presents a breezy case of opposites attracting when nightclub singer "Sugarpuss" O'Shea (Barbara Stanwyck) is recruited to teach jazzy slang to a group of culturally isolated professors. Gary Cooper plays Bertram Potts, the straight-laced scholar who's compiling slang for a new encyclopedia, and his equally stodgy colleagues are fascinated when Sugarpuss and "Pottsie" seem to be warming up for romance. Complications ensue when the savvy singer must distance herself from her mobster fiancé (Dana Andrews), andBall of Firetakes a wacky turn when the klutzy intellectuals take on the mobster's henchmen. It's all a bit quaint by today's standards, but the movie's got a wealth of witty dialogue and sassy appeal, with Stanwyck leading the way in a role that's equal parts tough exterior and soft-hearted vulnerability. As a bonus, she performs a pair of rousing nightclub numbers (including a lively rendition of "Drum Boogie") with hopped-up drummer Gene Krupa and his orchestra.Ball of Firewas remade in 1948 as the Danny Kaye musicalA Song is Born. This one's a real treat for fans of vintage Hollywood comedies. Don't miss it!--Jeff Shannon
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Genre: Classics, Western
DVD Release Date: May 22, 2007
Runtime: 111 minutes
Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
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