"Ball Of Fire" Is Released
Ball of Fire (also known as The Professor and the Burlesque Queen) is a 1941 comedy film about a group of professors laboring for years to write an encyclopedia and their encounter with a nightclub performer who provides her own unique knowledge.
The film stars Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, with a supporting cast that includes Oskar Homolka, Henry Travers, Richard Haydn, Dana Andrews, Dan Duryea and Elisha Cook Jr.
In 1948, the plot was resurrected as a musical film, A Song Is Born, starring Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo.
Ball of Fire is a delightful retelling (by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett) of the "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" legend -- though strictly for grownups. Gary Cooper is the youngest of eight bookish professors authoring an encyclopedia. They find a perfect "research associate" in the curvaceous form of stripteaser Barbara Stanwyck, who (chastely) hides on the professors' domicile to escape her gangster boyfriend (Dana Andrews). As Stanwyck interprets various slang expression, she and the professors grow quite fond of one another; she brings out their sentimental sides, while they revive her essential decency. Naturally, Cooper is the one most smitten, though he hides his true feelings until the inevitable clinch. When gangster Andrews and his torpedo Dan Duryea show up to claim Stanwyck (Andrews wants to marry her so she can't testify against him), the professors save the day and it is Cooper who ends up with the beautiful Stanwyck. For the record, two of the "ancient" professors are Richard Haydn and O.Z. Whitehead, still in their mid-thirties (the others are S.Z. Sakall, Tully Marshall, Oscar Homolka, Leonid Kinskey and Aubrey Mather). Producer Sam Goldwyn later remade Ball of Fire as a Danny Kaye musical, A Song is Born (1948). ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide