Ball of Fire
PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
A group of professors have lived together, isolated for years in an urban residence, compiling an encyclopedia of all human knowledge. The youngest, Professor Bertram Potts (Cooper), is a scholar of philology who is researching modern American slang. They are accustomed to working in relative seclusion at a leisurely pace with a prim housekeeper named Miss Bragg keeping tabs on them, but their impatient financial backer suddenly demands that they finish their work soon.
Venturing out to do some independent research, Bertram becomes interested in the slang vocabulary of saucy [nightclub] performer “Sugarpuss” O’Shea (Stanwyck). She is reluctant to assist him in his research until she needs a place to hide from the police, who want to question her about her boyfriend, mob boss Joe Lilac (Andrews). Sugarpuss takes refuge in the house where the professors live and work, despite Bertram’s objections.
The professors soon become enamored of her insouciance, and she unexpectedly begins to become quite fond of them. She teaches them to conga and demonstrates to Bertram the meaning of the phrase “yum yum” (kisses). She becomes attracted to Bertram, who reciprocates with a vengeance by proposing marriage to her. She accepts, but before they can do anything, she is taken away by Lilac’s henchmen. Lilac also wants to marry her, but only so she cannot testify against him.
The professors eventually outwit Lilac and his henchmen and rescue Sugarpuss. She decides she is not good enough for Bertram, but his forceful application of “yum yum” convinces her to change her mind.
As much as I detest remakes, I have to admit that back in the Golden Age of Hollywood, they were able to remake a film and not make it suck. For instance, Ball of Fire was released in 1941 and 7 years later, it was remade into one of my all time favorite films A Song Is Born.
The plot is the exact same as the other film, only instead of creating an anthology of music, the professors are making one of the English language. By chance, a garbage man comes in and inadvertently introduces them to a new world slang that they didn’t know about, which is a problem since they were nearly finished…or so they thought.
The youngest of the professors, Professor Potts, is sent out to gather the pulse of the current language. In his excursion, he stops in at a nightclub and is entranced with a beautiful lounge singer, who just happens to be the girlfriend of a dangerous mob boss who is wanted for murder.
As a way to lay low, she accepts Potts’ offer to join a round table discussion, but he had no idea she would be staying the night. While in the home of these professors, against her better judgement, she falls for Professor Potts, and vie versa, which doesn’t sit well with her mob boss boyfriend, who returns to take what’s his.
One of the things I noticed about this film, is that it had a strong Snow White type of dynamic, what with the professors being such social outcasts and the singer being such a…woman.
I hate to compare films, but I just didn’t find this as interesting as A Song Is Born, but, it is important to keep in mind that I am a musician and avid Louis Armstrong fan, not to mention the fact I saw that one first, so I may be a little biased.
That point aside, this one just didn’t grab my attention. It was rather bland, and yet I hear so many people say it is the superior of the two. I guess I’ll have to watch it again to really be able to make a concrete decision.
Ball of Fire is one of those films that you would expect to see on a classic movie channel at some random point during the week. That, I think, is when it is best watched. I’m not going to say you shouldn’t go out and rent it, but it may end up not being what you expect. This film has its moments, but nothing special.
3 out of 5 stars