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Ball of Fire [Import USA Zone 1]
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Sexy, wisecracking nightclub singer Sugarpuss O'Shea is a hot tomato who needs to be kept on ice: mobster boyfriend Joe Lilac is suspected of murder and Sugarpuss' testimony could put him away. Naive Professor Bertram Potts meets Miss O'Shea while researching an article on slang and in true romantic comedy fashion the two worlds collide. When Miss O'Shea hides out with Potts and his fellow professors, everyone learns something new: the professors how to cha-cha and Potts the meaning of "yum-yum"! --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
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Le film compte moins de gags brillants que L'impossible Monsieur Bébé ou Chérie, je me sens rajeunir, a des dialogues moins percutants que La Dame du Vendredi mais on passe un très agréable moment. A noter, une des premières apparitions de Dana Andrews, dans le rôle du caïd déterminé à reprendre sa belle des griffes élimées de nos érudits.
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The film is made wonderful by a number of things: Wilder's clever script, Hawks typically deft direction, a solid performance by Gary Cooper, but most of all by a scintillating job by the overwhelmingly alluring Barbara Stanwyck and a stellar collection of veteran character actors playing the seven dwarves. All the latter are great, but special mention has to be made of Richard Haydn (who excells even beside the others, with his extraordinary overpronounciation of everyday words), Oskar Homolka, and S.Z. Sakall. There are few more delightful collections of character actors in any Hollywood comedy. I personally prefer Barbara Stanwyck to any other actress in Hollywood history. She possessed an emotional immediacy that no other actress could approximate, and while her skills were perhaps a tad below those of someone like Katherine Hepburn, the latter never managed to match her fire and passion. And she is so sexy! I grew up watching Stanwyck on THE BIG VALLEY, so when I first started seeing her great roles from the thirties, forties, and fifties, I was absolutely stunned at how sexy she could be. She was attractive, yes, but sexier than she was attractive. And she was never sexier than she was here, with the exception of her role the same year in THE LADY EVE.
Another reason to see this film is the appearance of Gene Krupa in the early nightclub sequence. Krupa had, of course, been with Benny Goodman throughout the thirties, so this was very early in his career as leader of his own band.
Upon discovering that his knowledge of slang is outdated, Potts bravely ventures forth into the real world, where he discovers flashy (literally, as the dress she is first seen in is sequined and purposely lit so as to momentarily "blind" Potts when she shows up at his house in it) nightclub singer Katherine "Sugar Puss" O'Shea (Barbara Stanwyck). He is taken in by O'Shea's gusty performance of "Drum Boogie", (accompanied by a famous drummer of the times, Gene Krupa, who reminds me onstage a bit of "The Who" drummer Keith Moon), and her lively banter, and asks her to help him with his slang research. She takes him up on his invitation very abruptly by showing up at his home that same night, claiming to be arriving to help, when in fact she's trying to hide. The resulting storyline is predictable, fast-paced, extremely well-written, thoroughly dated, and filled with 1940's slang...in other words, to anyone who is a fan of this genre...completely captivating and charming.
With this in mind, and taken as a movie of the times, it's a comedic gem. Gary Cooper (my all-time personal favorite actor) is absolutely sexy here, believe it or not, and Barbara Stanwyck is perfect as the title's sassy little "Ball Of Fire", with her brash, streetwise exterior but ultimately soft heart, climbing onto a stack of books to reach the 6'4" Potts so she can show him the meaning of "yum-yum". Also, the above-mentioned dress she first wears, which is featured in most of the ads for the film is amazing; it's something Bob Mackie might have designed for Cher, and she looks gorgeous in it. The outstanding supporting parts are interesting, clever, and except for the gangster parts, individually well-fleshed. Veteran character actors such as Oskar Homolka (the servant in "Mr. Sardonicus") and Henry Travers (the angel in "It's Wonderful Life") help lend charm to the story. Dana Andrews ("Laura") and Dan Duryea ("The Little Foxes"), are effective, if somewhat wasted, in small parts as typical sterotypical 1940's mobsters.
You'd have to enjoy these kind of old screwball, dated comedies of the '40's to love this one...and I do.
Side note: the roles of the seven professors (excluding Cooper's) were inspired by Disney's dwarfs from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs".