Most romantic films #12: Ball of Fire (1941)

This romantic comedy, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper, is one of the best of the black-and-white genre on the early 40s.

Directed by Howard Hawkes and written in part by Billy Wilder (see Ninotchka, last week!), this is the story of a group of guys writing a new encyclopedia, whose neatly, geeky world is overturned by nightclub singer-dancer Sugarpuss O’Shea (Stanwyck) who hides out with them to evade a “suppeeeny” from the DA about her boyfriend Joe Lilac (Dana Andrews, before he became leading man/hero material).

Comedy ensues…

The supporting cast of delightful geeks, played by familiar character actors, adds to the comedy. Cooper is not his typical “leading man” powerhouse: instead, he plays a shy, genius-level, goofy guy. I don’t think Cooper ever got credit for his acting skills. I am also a huge fan of Stanwyck: she mostly starred in B-movies and then TV, but she was a really skilled performer, one whose technique was gained the hard way, over time and through many, many jobs.  

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2 thoughts on “Most romantic films #12: Ball of Fire (1941)

  1. DorianTB says:

    Elyse, while I very much enjoyed your review of BALL OF FIRE, I’d like to respectfully point out that while Barbara Stanwyck started her career in “B” movies like so many other actors, she soon became an in-demand “A” actress. Long before younger audiences first discovered Stanwyck on TV’s THE BIG VALLEY and THE THORN BIRDS, she was nominated for 4 Best Actress Oscars during her long career, including nominations for STELLA DALLAS; SORRY, WRONG NUMBER; DOUBLE INDEMNITY; and of course the delightful comedy you covered here, BALL OF FIRE. Sure, Stanwyck started out in the “B’s,” but there was so much more to her! Thanks for providing me with the opportunity to put in my two cents! 🙂

  2. ELYSE SNOW says:

    I agree: Stanwyck was an A-quality actress, but despite nominations and a ton of awards (4 Oscar noms + lifetime achievement earned, three earned Emmys + 2 noms, and 2 Golden Globes earned + 3 noms, among others) , the bulk of her film work was in what would be considered B-films. She never earned the kind of Hollywood royalty status of Ingrid Bergman or Claudette Colbert, for example. And she made the smart movie across the tracks into TV early, gaining great parts like Victoria Barkley.

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