Ball of Fire

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“I love him because he’s the kind of guy who gets drunk on a glass of buttermilk, and I love the way he blushes right up over his ears. I love him because he doesn’t know how to kiss, the jerk!”

What’s it about?  Ball of Fire is an opposites attract story involving a worldly-wise nightclub singer, played by Barbara Stanwyck, and an ivory-tower linguistics professor, played by Gary Cooper. Both start out using each other for their own ends but inevitably fall in love. He needs her to complete research on slang terms, and she needs him for cover while she hides out from the police who are hoping to elicit testimony from her against her gangster boyfriend.

What I like about it. On account of because–Barbara Stanwyck. Seriously though, fanboyism aside, she’s great in it. The list of folks involved in the film reads like a who’s who of golden age Hollywood. The film was directed by Howard Hawks and written by Billy Wilder.  It stars Stanwyck and Gary Cooper, and includes S.Z. Sakall and Dana Andrews in the supporting cast. Can’t miss, right? It doesn’t, though there are a couple of near misses. Cooper is a bit stiff and doesn’t have the best chemistry with Stanwyck, and the film loses its way a bit toward the end (tickling scene, anybody?), but it comes in well above average overall thanks to snappy dialogue and great performances from Stanwyck and the supporting cast. It’s not that Cooper is terrible; he’s not, I just can’t help wondering how much better the it might have been with Cary Grant in it. Still, this one’s going on my list of Chicken Soup for the Soul movies.

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