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Ball of Fire

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Critics' Reviews

AMG Review
Bruce Eder
This broad, farcical burlesque on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs features Barbara Stanwyck (in a part originally considered for Ginger Rogers) as a stripper who hides out with a group of professors when she's being chased by gangsters. The professors are compiling a dictionary, and she helps them with slang and other matters. Gary Cooper as a dorky professor is something of a stretch, but the entire movie specializes in absurdity. This slapstick comedy was co-written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, based on a story that Wilder had co-written much earlier, in Germany. Producer Samuel Goldwyn wanted Wilder to do the screenplay, a request that set off a fascinating sequence of events. Wilder and his writing partner Charles Brackett were under contract to Paramount Pictures, and when he requested to borrow them, the studio replied that they didn't loan out writers, only actors and occasionally directors. Samuel Goldwyn, however, had Gary Cooper under contract, and Paramount had been trying to come up with a leading man for its planned adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's book For Whom The Bell Tolls; Cooper seemed perfect for the role. A deal was worked out by which Goldwyn got the services of Wilder and Brackett, and Paramount got Gary Cooper. Ball of Fire, directed by Howard Hawks, turned out to be a huge box-office and critical hit, garnering three Oscar nominations, including one for Wilder. A year later, he began his Hollywood directorial career, in which he would gain fame for such witty comedies as Some Like It Hot. Hawks was only at the midpoint of a directorial career that ran from 1926 to 1970. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
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