Friday, January 27, 2012

Ball of Fire (1941)



“You’re the one I’m just plain wacky about”

            Ball of Fire is probably one of the most adorable films I have ever seen.  All the adorableness comes from Gary Cooper and a group of older gentleman actors. Now I am sure you must be thinking “Gary Cooper adorable?” Usually he is the quiet, stoic, handsome man in his films but let me tell you he is so cute and so sweet you will feel just like Barbara Stanwyck in the film and fall completely in love with him.
            For the past nine years Bertram Potts (Cooper) has lived a very strict academic life. He and seven other professors have been working on an encyclopedia. Each professor has a specialty with Potts’s being grammar. They all go to bed at nine and are taken care of by a maid/live in nurse who does all the house work. One day the garbage man comes in looking for answers to a quiz game he can get some money from. The garbage man speaks modern slang which none of the academicians understands. Potts feels like he should known this slang if he is an expert in grammar so he decides to go out and write down as much slang as he can.
            One of the places Potts visits is a nightclub. Singing at the club that night is Sugarpuss O’Shea (Stanwyck). He wants to speak to her about the slang she used in the song but she tells him no, she really has no interest in him but he gives her his card anyway. Sugarpuss has a big issue at that moment: her boyfriend Joe Lilac (Dana Andrews) is wanted in connection of a murder and they want to question her. Two of Joe’s goons are sent to get her out of town. She looks down at the card and decides the best place where no one will look for her is at the professors’ home.
            When Potts arrives home the other professors are waiting for him. He tells them he is confused about all the slang he has picked up he cannot understand how odd words stand for a correct term. In the middle of the conversation the doorbell rings. Potts answers it and Sugarpuss is standing in the doorway. She tells him that she does want to be a part of his research. He says she is too early but the other professors are more than willing to give up their rooms for her.
            The men love having Sugarpuss around. She teaches them dancing and keeps them on their toes. The only person who does not like her is the maid she says that Sugarpuss is a wicked girl and she will not stand for her anymore. Potts is sent to get rid of her but since she is wanted she cannot leave so she tells him that she is madly in love with him and kisses him! Needless to say Potts lets her stay.
            Joe sends two men over to Sugarpuss. He sends along a ring as part of a proposal so that Sugarpuss will not have to testify against him. Unfortunately on the same day Potts proposes to her as well. Sugarpuss feels terrible because she knows that she cannot marry him. Joe calls her saying that he is her “daddy.” Thinking that Joe is really her father Potts talks to him. Joe gets him to ride down to New Jersey where he is hiding out so Sugarpuss can get out of New York.
            While on the way to Jersey Sugarpuss really sees how much Potts loves her and refuses to marry Joe.
            There is an obstacle than we all know that Cooper and Stanwyck get together in the end.
            I do not even know where to begin on describing how cute Gary Cooper was. He was adorable but also incredibly sexy at the same time! The character was so sweet and innocent which made the film so much fun to watch. His best scene is at the end when he goes to fight to Joe for Sugarpuss. He fights like one of those boxers with their one fist far away from them and bouncing back and forth. I was cracking up. Barbara Stanwyck is her usual wise cracking tough girl self. Even though Stanwyck played a tough girl all the time it never got old with her because she was so good and so convincing… maybe it is her real New York accent that makes her tough girl work so well over and over. Sugarpuss is one of Howard Hawks’s most beautiful fast talking tough girls, without Stanwyck as the character Sugarpuss would have seemed annoying and cheap. Stanwyck was wonderful playing comedic roles she was nominated for an Academy Award for this film which just proves how talented she was. Dana Andrews was great as the bad guy. I am so used to seeing him as the good guy but he was totally believable as a gangster he had the perfect look and attitude.
            The seven other professors were so sweet. They were modeled on the Seven Dwarfs, they all had their little quirks being too smart for their own good but completely innocent. All the professors were in love with Sugarpuss they looked at her as if they were little boys in love but also as a daughter.
            Ball of Fire was written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder with the story written by Wilder. The pair’s fast paced dialogue combined with Howard Hawks’s fast paced direction is perfection. Gregg Toland the famous cinematographer of Citizen Kane did the cinematography for this film. There were some scenes where I thought the cinematography was familiar with the deep focus and once I realized it was Toland’s work I knew why the few scenes were familiar.
            Edith Head designed Barbara Stanwyck’s costumes. I liked all of her costumes in this film. The one costume I like was when Sugarpuss tells Potts that she loves him so he would let her stay in the house. It is very 1940s with the limited material and belt along with a chain at the belt as an accent.
            Even though I think Ball of Fire is one of the most adorable films I have ever seen I had a bit of a hard time sitting through it. It took three sittings for me to finish it. At times all the cuteness and sweetness and all the 1940s slang (especially that) gets way too much. This is not too many people will enjoy unless they are fans of 1930s-early 1940s Screwball Comedy. Besides some slow moments and the slang I enjoyed Ball of Fire