Or: Eliza Drumboogie, the Seven Dwarfs, and One Very Tall Cornball. (Or something like that.) There are more than enough sparks here to compensate for the occasional sputtering, and more than enough Stanwyck--root, zoot, cute, and, you know, also solid--to compensate for Cooper's comparatively flat feet and stilted delivery. Fully conjugated fun, kids.
Petit chef-d'oeuvre d'humour et de sourires, souvent ignoré ou méconnu par la cinéphilie française, qui nous vaut un merveilleux spectacle de divertissement où la fraîcheur du sujet égale la qualité de la réalisation. Howard Hawks a encore sévi pour notre plus grand plaisir, alliant avec subtilité quelques séquences fort émouvantes avec de nombreuses plages d'humour délirantes au possible. www.cinefiches.com
Billy WIlder's script is da bomb (90s slang). Written while he was in Germany and adapted for U.S. audiences, the wordsmithing and 40s slang is a howl -- to hear the debate on "corny" sent me to the moon. The story benefits from this all-star crew of character actors, including Clarence the angel and a guy who was in D.W. Griffith's Intolerance. Stanwyck is the glue, the bon vivant who falls hard for the bumpkin.
Really, 3.5. What you see is what you get. I love Stanwyck but Ball of Fire almost gets a full four stars for Mr. cool Gene Krupa and the eternal Roy Eldridge. This is the kind of movie I watch when I get tired of stuff like L'immortelle. I also like it because it is a perfect example of the classic Hollywood period. Just straight ahead 180 rule and standard three point lighting. Just wind it up and let it go.
So many great character actors in this one! At the end I was hoping Robert Osborne would come on and give us some more information about the film. Like "Howard Hawks recalled that for the scene in which Bertram reveals his feelings about Sugarpuss in the darkened bungalow, cinematographer Gregg Toland coated Barbara Stanwyck's face with black grease paint so that her eyes would stand out."
Corny Hollywood at its finest, straight off the cob. Ball of Fire was so hilarious and charming, I never wanted it to end. Every character is more delightful than the last, and Barbara Stanwyck is at her best. The highlight is the (as expected) clever screenplay by the legendary Billy Wilder, which will have you laughing out loud throughout.