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Ball of Fire

(1941 b 111')

En: 7 Ed: 7

Eight professors take in a hiding gangster's moll to work on slang; the youngest decides to marry her, but so does the gangster.

In New York eight professors work on an encyclopedia while housekeeper Miss Bragg (Kathleen Howard) reprimands them. Larsen (Charles Lane) asks them how much longer they need, and Bertram Potts (Gary Cooper) persuades heiress Miss Totten (Mary Field) to give them more time. A garbage man (Allen Jenkins) asks about Cleopatra and uses slang. Potts goes out to research slang and writes down new phrases. In a nightclub Sugarpuss O'Shea (Barbara Stanwyck) sings "Drum Boogie." Gangsters Duke Pastrami (Dan Duryea) and Asthma Anderson (Ralph Peters) tell Sugarpuss she has to hide out. Potts asks her to help him and leaves his card. Sugarpuss goes to Potts to hide from police and asks where she sleeps. Joe Lilac (Dana Andrews) tells the D. A. nothing about the murder.

Potts works on slang with Sugarpuss and four others. She sees her photo in the newspaper and buys the bunch. Sugarpuss teaches the professors a new dance, and Miss Bragg threatens to leave. Potts stops the music. Duke brings her a large diamond ring from Joe, and she agrees to marry him. Potts asks Sugarpuss to leave, saying he suppresses temptation. She tells Potts she likes him and kisses him. Potts runs out to put water on his neck but comes back to her. Potts takes Sugarpuss breakfast in bed with an engagement ring. Sugarpuss gets a call from Joe to come to be wed; she calls him daddy, and Potts talks to him about marriage. Joe asks Potts to bring Sugarpuss to him. The seven professors wish Potts well, but Miss Bragg sees the news photo and calls Sugarpuss a gangster's moll. Sugarpuss knocks out Miss Bragg and goes in a car with the eight. Professor Gurkakoff (Oscar Homolka) drives off the road.

Sugarpuss calls Joe and asks for delay. At a bachelor party widower Professor Oddly (Richard Haydn) advises Potts on marriage. They sing "Genevieve" while Sugarpuss goes to bed. Potts looks for Oddly but goes into her bungalow, saying he is in love. In the dark she kisses Potts. Joe with three men tells Potts he is her daddy and hits him. Miss Bragg arrives and tells Potts there is a warrant for Sugarpuss. Potts tells her that Joe is there and feels used.

Potts tells the others they must work harder and forget Sugarpuss. Oddly gives Potts the ring from Sugarpuss that Joe gave her. Larsen and Miss Totten bring newspapers and tell them all to leave. Duke and Asthma come in with guns. Sugarpuss refuses to wed Joe and says she loves Potts. Joe threatens to have Potts killed by Duke. Potts realizes she was refusing Joe. The professors cleverly manage to get the guns away from Duke and Asthma. They tickle Duke to find out where Sugarpuss is and go in the garbage truck. They interrupt Joe's wedding and get his gun. Potts boxes Joe, and police arrest Joe's entire gang. In the final scene Potts kisses Sugarpuss to persuade her.

This farce plays on innocent attitudes about sex as the intellectuals are contrasted to the burlesque dancer. Linguists will find many examples of current slang.

Copyright © 2002 by Sanderson Beck

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