Friday, 24 May 2013

Ball of Fire

BALL OF FIRE (BLACK AND WHITE, 1941)

Director
Howard Hawks

Cast
Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Dana Andrews, Oscar Homolka, Henry Travers, Tully Marshall, Lenoid Kinskey, Richard Haydn, Aubrey Mather, Allen Jenkins, Dan Duryea and Mary Field

Ages
7 and up


Plot
A group of nine lexicographers are working on a new encyclopedia. Their leader, Bertram Potts (Cooper), meets a garbage man (Jenkins) and Bertram feels that his own article on slang has no resemblance to the language used by the commoners such as the garbage man.  In fact, Bertram finds that his article is 20 years outdated. When Bertram goes off to find more users of slang, he ends up falling for a nightclub singer, Sugarpuss O’Shea (Stanwyck). Sugarpuss is actually the girlfriend of a gangster, Joe Lilac (Andrews), who is suspected for murder. Can he and his friends help Sugarpuss get out of the gangster plot?

Still of Gary Cooper in Ball of Fire
Why it’s good
Because it just is. The film is similar to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs but it is no worse than that 1935 Disney film.  In my view, Sugarpuss is Snow White, and the lexicographers are the dwarfs. The gangster is the evil queen (that goes a little too far, I guess). 

To the audience of that period, this film might’ve been a better option compared to Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  That’s because it’s realistic. By that time, people have realized that evil queens and princesses like the ones in Snow White cannot be found in the real world (maybe only in the child’s imagination). Then, America still had gangsters (Al Capone was still alive) and singers like Katharine ‘Sugarpuss’ O’Shea weren’t uncommon.

The whole movie owes its comedy to the screenwriter – Billy Wilder. Billy Wilder would later reformulate this plot to write the script for Some Like It Hot. Billy Wilder was genius and created fun scenes – a shoe-changing scene which could have happened in Cinderella, a dance scene involving eight of the lexicographers and a scene of a housemaid locked in a closet.

Trivia
Even though they play two of the "old men" lexicographers, Leonid Kinskey (Prof. Quintana) and Richard Haydn (Prof. Oddly) were both under 40 years old when they made this movie.

Parent’s guide
A bit of the Roaring 20s fashion which features revealing clothes.

If you like this…
Cooper and Stanwyck’s other 1941 comedy, "Meet John Doe", about a man who acts as a non-existent person.      

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