July 10, 2015

Ball of Fire

When Barbara Stanwyck takes the stage--playing a nightclub singer named "Sugarpuss" who sings "The Drum Boogie"--there's nowhere else I'd rather be. In Ball of Fire, which was directed by Howard Hawks, she's as unabashedly seductive and funny as she was in The Lady Eve, although Ball of Fire isn't quite as brilliantly conceived. It is, however, a perfectly charming comedy, in which the beleaguered Sugarpuss takes it on the lam and takes up digs with a bunch of confirmed-bachelor-professors working on an encyclopedia. The youngest of the bunch, Professor Potts, is played by Gary Cooper, and he's currently doing an involved study of contemporary slang; he meets Stanwyck as a potential field study, never suspecting to fall in love with her. Cooper perfectly plays the charmingly awkward and bumbling brainiac type, just as Henry Fonda did in Lady Eve. Stanwyck has him eating out of her hand soon enough, charming the other seven old men too, for whom she is somehow both beloved niece and sympathetic seductress. "That is the kind of woman that makes whole civilizations topple," snarls the persnickety housekeeper Miss Bragg. But what a topple.

With Dana Andrews, Richard Haydn, Oskar Homolka, Henry Travers, S.Z. Sakall, Tully Marshall, Leonard Kinskey, Aubrey Mather, Dan Duryea, Ralph Peters, Kathleen Howard, Allen Jenkins, and Mary Field. 

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