Ball of Fire (Hawks, 1941)

I’m at the disadvantage of having seen the remake of Ball of Fire, a mediocre and extremely odd musical/comedy entitled A Song is Born (1948), prior to this screening and without the knowledge it was even a remake. Ball of Fire, which bases it’s professor protagonists as the writers of a comprehensive encyclopedia, is substantially better than the Jazz based carbon copy, due in large part to the casting. Cooper and Stanwyk, while decidedly one note throughout, provide ample spark in their scenes together. Along with Hawks and the stars, add in Gregg Toland’s images and Wilder’s script and Ball of Fire is a who’s who of Hollywood legends. But the result is surprisingly unrewarding, both in terms of screwball genre traits (the film doesn’t go anywhere near the innuendo of Lubitsch or Sturges) and in successful comedy bits. Only the hilarious ending, which gives it’s old coot hero’s a chance to actively shine in the plot, feels edgier than it’s remake, which is disappointing considering the talent involved.

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