Ball of Fire

Director: Howard Hawks
Year Released: 1941
Rating: 2.0

Highbrow culture meets lowbrow culture: a group of cartoon-like professors (modeled after the Seven Dwarves) led by Gary Cooper get entangled with a gangster (Dana Andrews) and his moll (Barbara Stanwyck) while doing research on modern slang (of which Stanwyck is a certified expert). While, once again, Cooper being cast as a genius requires extraordinary suspension of disbelief (also see: The Fountainhead), the two real issues I have with this involve (a.) the dialogue (it's hard to be critical of a movie so very old, but everyone speaks either highbrow language or lowbrow language, rarely - if ever - meeting in the middle) and (b.) the Stanwyck character's unexpected 'change of heart' that has her falling into the arms of Cooper. While I'd argue that Ninotchka, which Wilder wrote before this, as well as Bringing Up Baby, which Hawks directed before this, both hold their own today as timeless treats, this is very much grounded in the vernacular - and mores - of its time.