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A splendidly funny twist on the story of Snow White, Ball of Fire boasts a pair of perfect leads in Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

Hoping to update his chapter on modern slang, encyclopedia writer Professor Bertram Potts (Gary Cooper) ventures into a chic nightclub. Inside, he meets the snarky burlesque performer "Sugarpuss" O'Shea (Barbara Stanwyck). Fascinated by her command of popular jargon, Potts invites her to stay with him. But, unknown to Potts, she is the fiancée of a mobster (Dana Andrews) and wanted by the police. In the ensuing mayhem, Potts must stay on his toes or be swallowed up by bigger fish.

Cast & Crew

Gary Cooper
Prof. Bertram Potts
Barbara Stanwyck
Katherine 'Sugarpuss' O'Shea
Oscar Homolka
Prof. Gurkakoff (Mathematics)
Dan Duryea
Duke Pastrami
S.Z. Sakall
Prof. Magenbruch
Richard Haydn
Prof. Oddly (Botany)
Henry Travers
Prof. Jerome (History)
Tully Marshall
Prof. Robinson (Law)
Gene Krupa
Orchestra leader
Billy Wilder
Screenwriter
Billy Wilder
Writer (Story)
Thomas Monroe
Writer (Story)
Alfred Newman
Original Music
Henry Tucker
Original Music
Daniel Toland
Cinematographer
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News & Interviews for Ball of Fire

Critic Reviews for Ball of Fire

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (28)

Audience Reviews for Ball of Fire

  • Jan 23, 2021
    When I think of my favorite Barbara Stanwyck performances I list Ball of Fire near the top (with Double Indemnity, Clash By Night and The Lady Eve). Funny, smart and sexy Stanwyck dominates despite the great supporting cast and not a bad co-lead in Gary Cooper. Excellent screwball comedy.
    Aldo G Super Reviewer
  • Aug 21, 2017
    What a fun movie this is. Gary Cooper and seven other intellectuals are living together in a giant house and are hard at work creating an encyclopedia, a project which has taken them years, when it becomes apparent to Cooper that his knowledge of slang is out of date. He takes to the streets of New York, pen and paper in hand, eventually going to a nightclub. Enter Barbara Stanwyck, all a-glitter and performing "Drum Boogie" with Gene Krupa and his orchestra. Well, Marsha Tilton provided the voiceover, but Stanwyck and the orchestra are captivating, including a reprise using a matchbox and matches for drums, huddled around a table. Unbeknownst to Cooper, Stanwyck needs to hide from the police because of her involvement with a gangster (Dana Andrews), and ends up coming to his house. The casting and acting in this movie is wonderful, from top to bottom. Sparks begin to fly between Cooper and Stanwyck, at first because she's manipulating him into letting her stay, but eventually as his simple considerate nature begins to soften her cynical edges. The seven other professors make a charming group, and include Richard Haydn as Oddley and Henry Travers as Jerome, the latter of whom you'll easily recognize as Clarence from 'It's a Wonderful Life'. Things get complicated with the gangster decides to marry Stanwyck in order to invoke spousal privilege in investigations against him, but I won't spoil it further. There are so many nice little touches in the dialogue of this film: the slang they use (amped up because of Cooper's "research"), the innuendo, and the nerdy references. There is the sweetness of Cooper quoting Richard III when giving Stanwyck a ring: "Look, how this ring encompasseth finger; Even so thy breast encloseth my poor heart. Wear both of them, for both of them are thine." There are fantastic moments, such as when as when the professors sing a couple of rounds of "Sweet Genevieve" while sitting around a table, as well as the look on Stanwyck's face in the scene where Cooper's realized he's being used and walks out in a dignified way, and she finishes his sentence, that she's a tramp. Then of course there's the chemistry between Stanwyck and Cooper. As Cooper tries to send her away he says "Make no mistake, I shall regret the absence of your keen mind. Unfortunately it is inseparable from an extremely disturbing body." Stanwyck replies by saying "I'm going to show you what yum-yum is. Here's yum. (big kiss) Here's the other yum. (big kiss)..." Both play their parts perfectly, and while the whole thing is improbable and predictable, the story-telling from Howard Hawks is taut, and it's a lovely romantic comedy. What a year 1941 was for Stanwyck, between this Oscar-nominated performance and 'The Lady Eve'. Great stuff!
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 16, 2012
    A grammarian who is toiling away at an encyclopedia meets a nightclub singer who teaches him slang. In the Hollywood's mind, making a film often involved merely pairing the two right movie stars, actors who would look good together and whose respective markets would overlap. To a large extent, that's even true now (e.g. You've Got Mail and Runaway Bride are re-hashes of couples that worked well in the past). It's like multimillion-dollar match.com. I suspect that's the thinking that went into Ball of Fire. The story is trite and cliche. It's re-telling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs [sic] -- how cliched can you get? But Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck are delightful, rapping their dialogue in a staccato that often makes classics classic. Overall, it's a fun diversion and easy to predict, but there's a lot to like about Ball of Fire.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Jun 22, 2011
    With Howard Hawks directing a screenplay co-written by Billy Wilder, how can you go wrong? <i>Ball of Fire</i> offers one answer: hopelessly dated material. Gary Cooper is well cast as stiff, puritanical linguist who is one among eight experts in other areas of science & literature sequestered in a house together for nine years writing a new encyclopedia because the benefactor felt slighted he didn't get a mention in Britannica for inventing the the electric toaster. Yes, only in a Hawks or Frank Capra movie will you find this scenario! Into their sheltered lives storms Sugarpuss O'Shea (no, I did not make that up) upon the pretense of helping Cooper with his study of slang but who is really there to circumvent police interrogation at the request of her gangster boyfriend. What struck me most during this movie is how much times have changed since 1941, staggeringly so. Most of the slang expressions introduced here have long since been extinct, the electric guitarist plays scratch rhythms in a big swing band, there is one brief shot of a non-white actor during the whole 2 hours in New York, Cooper proposes to a woman he's known for a week because "it's the next logical step" after having declared his love the evening before, and the sight of a woman's bare leg completely disrupts the scholarly function of the entire house. (Well, that last one might still apply depending upon whom the leg is attached.) I've seen & love many old movies but occasionally catch one that seems better left in the time capsule. Barbara Stanwyck is indisputably terrific as the titular pyrotechnic display Sugarpuss, providing a consistent spark as she commandeers this collection of blubbering elderly bachelors. Fans will love watching her in this.
    Doctor S Super Reviewer

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