Ball of Fire (1941)

26 Apr
Ball of Fire (1941)

Nine terrific performers here, and you’re looking at that gam, aren’t you?

Man. Ball of Fire. I’ve looked for information and come up dry, but why has this never been adapted for the stage? Am I going to have to do this myself?

It’s on TCM at 4:15 tomorrow morning. That same glorious public domain situation that put It’s A Wonderful Life on 400 times a year for a while there did the same to Ball of Fire on the PBS of my childhood. Or that’s how I remember it, anyway. I have as little memory of my first time seeing this as I do my first Wizard of Oz.

And while, yes, I am perennially distracted by Barbara Stanwyck, this little beauty is a Cook’s tour of the pasty old character actors I love (and not so old: I was shocked when I first found out that Richard Haydn (Prof. Oddly) was only in his mid-30s at the time, playing a character who was pretty much unchanged when he did it on that episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show). I remember getting a weird look from a middle-school friend as we listened to some early George Carlin we had unearthed – I believe it was the “Wonderful WINO radio” bit – when Oscar Homolka was name-checked and I had to explain defensively why laughed and then why I even knew who the hell that was. It’s been a tough life; really.


My parents, though they can never remember the names, are character actor face repositories. It therefore became my job in the household to remember the names. Phone call:

Mom: “What’s that actor’s name, he’s in this movie, on the phone, and he has a hat on. It’s black and white.”

Me: “…”

Mom: “I think he was in State Fair. He’s the one people used to say your Grandpa looked like.”

Me: “That’s Dana Andrews. Is he talking to Gary Cooper?”

Take that, Trebek. Cf. David Foster Wallace’s “Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley” or that section of Twain’s Autobiography about the bowling green. It’s always more rewarding to play on a non-standard field you know than on a flat, even plain.


My wife is a lover of all things Grimm, tales of Snow White in particular, and while she’s never asked, this is by far my favorite adaptation of that tale. I have a soft spot for the A Song is Born Danny Kaye/Virginia Mayo remake, too, but I know it’s inferior, I know. Nostalgia isn’t about qualitative proof; it’s about what was on TV at grandma’s that one time.

2 Responses to “Ball of Fire (1941)”

  1. David J. Loehr April 26, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

    Mother of Pearl, I’ve been threatening to adapt that forever. (This surprises you not at all.)

    In a way, it’s also an ancestor to Big Bang Theory–beautiful woman taken in by scientists & academics. But it’s so much more…

    • baldmanwithacowlick April 26, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

      Not at all. Musical, natch. Though there’s surely a modern online-resource-site take that could easily be done. One attractive guy and seven schmoes…but keeping truer to that original script is more appealing to me. Sometimes I think Billy Wilder’s earlier stuff is his best, The Apartment notwithstanding.

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