In this atypical Hawksian broad comedy, a group of nebbish roommate-intellectuals—led by young man of the group Bertram Potts (the perfectly-cast Gary Cooper)—are working on a new dictionary that aims to incorporate the language of the day, which they have next to no experience with. Enlisting the nightclub singer Sugarpuss O’Shea (Barbara Stanwyck in one of her finest roles), Bertram and the dictionarians learn the latest lingo in fits and starts, while Sugarpuss hides from her power-crazy mob-boss boyfriend Joe Lilac. From a winning script (loosely based on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves) by long-time collaborators Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett and produced by golden-touch Samuel Goldwyn, Ball of Fire is the rare box-office smash that’s only grown in stature as the years wear on.
Ball of Fire came out five days before Pearl Harbor. You can imagine Americans listening to its flood of slang and knowing exactly what they were fighting for. — Charles Taylor, The Village Voice