Thursday, April 06, 2006

Ball of Fire (1941)

Oh, Barbara! Barbara Stanwyck plays a brassy mob moll named Sugarpuss O'Shea in this knockout comedy, but her name might as well be Walking Lust. I don't know if I've seen her look as gorgeous as she does here, and director Howard Hawks makes sure she's photographed to ensure maximum desirability at every turn of the plot. This is important, as acceptance of the plot and her character hinges on whether or not she's desirable in spite of the less-than-savory manipulations she's pulling. (This could describe most of Stanwyck's best roles, really.) The sharp writing is an asset, of course, as is the gregarious ensemble cast. (Gary Cooper is the exception: he's perfectly believable as a stuffed-shirt type, being that his performance here is stiff and bland like old oatmeal.) There's a hilarious climax, too, where our intrepid professors get to save the day by finally finding real-world applications for all the knowledge they've accrued. (Two words: tickle torture. Awesome.) Really, though, this is Barbara Stanwyck's movie, and everyone else hangs around and waits to react to her. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Grade: B+


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