Notes

The Projection Booth watches Ball of Fire (1941)

Our friends at The Projection Booth kick off a month of watching screwball comedies with Ball Of Fire (1941)! Listen here.

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  1. I adore this movie – so much so that I devote a few Chapter 8 paragraphs to it in my this-close-to-being-published INTERROGATING MEMORY book:

    “These old horror films, plus Three Stooges shorts, were a prelude to the black-and-white detective films I was about to start watching. First, though, I present a memory interrogation conundrum. In 1941, Howard Hawks – who directed The Big Sleep five years later – directed a comedy starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck called Ball of Fire. I am convinced I watched this movie in the den of our house on Sue Ellen Drive. In this oneiric black-and-white gem, inspired by Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cooper plays one of seven professors about to complete a new encyclopedia; the vast library in which they work made a strong impression on me. Stanwyck’s night club singer hides with the professors from a gangster, played by Dana Andrews, and his sidekick, played by Dan Duryea. Just as Stanwyck ranks 1st among film noir actresses, Duryea ranks 4th and Andrews ranks 13th among film noir actors. Just ahead of Andrews is Elisha Cook, Jr., who plays a waiter. Billy Wilder – director of Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, Sunset Boulevard and Ace in the Hole – co-wrote the screenplay with Charles Brackett, who also penned screenplays for The Lost Weekend and Sunset Boulevard. Gregg Toland, whose cinematography on that year’s Citizen Kane profoundly influenced the look of film noir, was director of photography. Ball of Fire was thus made by a Who’s Who of film noir royalty, making it as influential on my own fandom as anything else I read, saw or did.

    “When I first saw it, however, remains a mystery. All five times it appears in the Philadelphia area television listings between January 1, 1974 and March 1, 1977, it aired on a New York City station: Channel 11, WPIX. But…we could not watch WPIX in suburban Philadelphia until we signed up for our first cable television package in 1981 or 1982. Ball of Fire did air on Channel 29 at 2 pm on Sunday, April 10, 1977 – after we moved from Sue Ellen Drive – so I may simply be confused when and where I first watched it.”

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