BALL OF FIRE (1941) 

Barbara Stanwyck
Gary Cooper
Oskar Homolka
Henry Travers
S.Z. Sakall
Tully Marshall
Leonid Kinskey
Richard Haydn
Aubrey Mather
Dana Andrews
Kathleen Howard

Howard Hawks



Time: 111 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Romance/Comedy/Crime

Academy Award nominations for Best Actress (Stanwyck), Score, Original Screenplay and Sound.

SYNOPSIS: A group of professors takes in a night club singer hiding from the law to protect her gangster boyfriend. Not only does she find respect, protection and friendship, but love to boot, which forces her to run from her ex-boyfriend as well.

BOTTOM LINE: This is one of those screwball comedies from the late 30's/early 40s that has a real doozy of a plot, yet it works like a charm thanks to the immense talent of Stanwyck and Cooper. Both play opposites of their usual type – she's a gullible floozy and he's a priggish English professor – which only enhances the comedy of the situations. They are innately too smart for this picture, but that just adds depth and weight to their characters.

Stanwyck is electric as Sugarpuss O'Shea, a simple entertainer who finds herself in between a rock and a hard place. Using the professors' home as a safe haven is her boyfriend's idea, however, it turns out to be her salvation. The road to true love is never easy and Professor Potts (Cooper) learns that lesson the hard way. A simple excursion to learn the latest slang (for the encyclopedia the men are writing) lands him in the arms of the most unexpected woman and on an adventure that forces him to experience life off the page. It's a rare thing to watch Cooper playing an uptight chump, yet he pulls it off with grace, humor and quiet strength.

Due to the dialogue, which is filled with the vernacular of the day, the film is exceedingly clever, funny and witty, especially when the professors and the "regular Joes" get together. Many of the best character actors of the era are part of the ensemble and they make the most of their time onscreen. Stanwyck and Cooper are evenly matched and make you believe this unlikely pairing will actually last. Classy, sweet, romantic fun.

"Make no mistake, I shall regret the absence of your keen mind; unfortunately, it is inseparable from an extremely disturbing body."

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