Matinee Monday: Ball of Fire


Ball of Fire (1942) is one film I dearly love. “How do I love thee; let me count the ways…”

1 – Believe it or not, it is a retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, only with Snow White being a gangster’s moll needing a place to hide out, and the Seven Dwarves being eight professors living cloistered lives writing an encyclopedia.

2 – This movie has “Cuddles” Sakall as one of the featured support players. His presence just lights up the screen.

“Cuddles” Sakall

3 – Great example of 30’s and 40’s slang and patter. The plot is about seven professors cloistered away from the world, writing an encyclopedia. Cooper’s character is the language expert of the team, and realizes that an entire decade has gone by. In that time, slang has changed from the 20’s “23-Skiddoo” to something he knows nothing about. The result is that he needs to go out in the world to hear the new slang, “the language of the people,” and as a result, accidentally brings Stanwyck’s version of Snow White into their dormitory. “Dish,” “mouse,” and “hoi toi toi” are but a few of the tidbits and delights that intrigue him.

4 – This movie showcases Gary Cooper at his klutzy best. Cooper’s ungainly gait was due to an adolescent accident and operation, but seemed to add to his charm. From 1936 to 1943, the roles that he undertook, Mr. Deeds, Professor Potts, Sgt. York, and others, helped to cast Cooper as an American folk hero on the screen.

5 – Great character names: Duke Pastrami, Joe Lilac, “Sugarpuss” O’Shea, and Prof. Bertram Potts, Prof. Oddly, and “Asthma” Anderson. The great Billy Wilder wrote the screenplay for Ball of Fire, and these names are picturesque.

6 – Prof. Potts meets Sugarpuss O’Shea in a scene featuring one of the best drummers of all time, Gene Krupa. In this scene, Krupa is featured on drums and matchsticks (!), doing “Drum Boogie”. The waiter, by the way, is Elijah Cook, Jr., at the beginning of his career.

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